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Where is Sandy Rea? New detective takes the case

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Sandy Rea, before her disappearance, with ex-boyfriend Richard Parman, whom Det. Ron Wilson has interviewed.
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SHAWNEE, Okla. -- A new Shawnee detective has been assigned the Sandy Rea case.

Det. Ron Wilson is optimistic that the disappearance of Sandy Rea, a 17 year-old-girl who vanished from a Shawnee bowling alley more than 30 years ago, can still be solved.

“It’s going to be really difficult after the amount of time that’s gone by,” said Wilson, “but I think we can figure out who’s responsible, whether we find a body or get a confession.”

Wilson praised the strength of Sgt. Greg Gibson’s 23 year investigation, but said he’s steering clear of “urban legend” and is re-examining those who were closest to Sandy at the time she vanished. He has completed several interviews with Sandy’s friends and ex-boyfriends.

While he did not mention a specific suspect, Wilson did reveal a strategy to “look for the lie,” that may have already identified one.

“I think you have to go back in and look at who is closest to her and closest to the event. The people that are telling you things within two to three days after that which don’t add up, we have to find that person who’s telling two to three lies. For every lie they tell, they have to tell more to cover it up,” said Wilson.

Wilson Skeptical of Theories

Red Dirt Report reported a year ago today, in “Sex, Drugs, & Suits,” that Sandy Rea had been involved in parties during which attorneys and businessmen would trade drugs for sex, and in some cases drug and rape young girls. That knowledge was the result of several first person victim interviews who attended parties, testimony from members in law enforcement, and Sandy’s mother, Carol Wells.

Sandy Rea in 1984. (Photo provided)

None of those witnesses wanted their names to be revealed.

Wilson did not deny the existence of the so-called “suit parties,” but said he has not interviewed anyone in direct connection with them.

Carol Wells was also suspicious that her now deceased ex-husband Jim Wells may have killed Sandy over a rumored sexual assault to keep her quiet. She also pointed to an early suspect, an openly abusive ex-boyfriend Danny McLeod, whom she believed could have killed her daughter out of jealousy following their breakup.

McLeod may have been all but ruled out as a suspect. Wilson said Danny McLeod passed a polygraph in 1992. A lingering theory was that Danny killed Sandy Rea and his family buried her under the basement of their pawn shop on Main Street. According to Jim McLeod’s statement last year, they were “digging out the basement at that time….that was the time she went missing.”

The basement was reportedly filled in after Sandy disappeared. “We found a city permit for the basement and it’s dated a month before Sandy went missing. I don’t know when the basement was actually filled in, but a GPR didn’t show anything settled in the sand,” said Wilson. “At the time they focused on Danny McLeod and they should have. He was an ex-boyfriend who could have had a reason to kill her. The McLeod’s aren’t a wealthy, politically connected, crazy family that you would be afraid would come and kill you in your sleep. That’s my opinion,” said Wilson.

The Facts

What few facts there are in the case surrounding her last known moments has investigators hopeful they can simply work on the obvious.

Sandy Rea held down a job without a car and, as a popular teenage girl, had no trouble getting rides. According to a statement by Sandy’s cousin, Jerry Doyle who worked at the Shawnee Bowling Alley, Sandy was trying to get a ride to a party. “Danny McLeod is going to pick me up whether he knows it or not,” his statement read. But Doyle told Red Dirt Report last year that he thinks she made more than one phone call. He did not see her leave with anyone.

“We know she was at the bowling alley and she was going to a party. We know she was waiting for someone to pick her up. She’s not going to get a ride from a stranger, so if an attorney or someone with those parties tried to pick her up, she’s not going to go with them. Her step dad, the accusations, she’s not going to go with him. She’s waiting for someone to get her. If there wasn’t someone, she would have walked on home or walked to the party,” said Wilson.

He believes a single suspect likely picked Sandy up and never told anyone what happened. “If there was a carload of three guys, someone would have talked by now,” said Wilson. “In any investigation you have to eliminate the obvious first. The obvious is that she makes more than one call from the bowling alley. She’s waiting for a ride. Someone she knows picks her up.”

Family Endures Remaining Questions

While Wilson insists there is no reason to believe there was a cover up in the initial investigation by Charlie Phillips, some questions remain unanswered. The family maintains that Phillips, then head of the criminal investigation division, mishandled the case. Detective Voneita Stogner filled out the earliest known reports.

Sandy Rea, as she appeared in her third grade photograph. (Photo provided)

Wilson said Stogner waited until November 25, 1984 to list Sandy as a missing person to prevent her being listed as a runaway. At the time she vanished, Sandy was not 18 which meant she would have been listed as a runaway in the NCIC. Sandy’s mother reported there was no evidence her daughter ran away, leaving behind new clothes, makeup and her most recent paycheck.

Wilson said Stogner was on vacation following the initial report. She entered Sandy as a missing person in November, but her investigation report is December 12, 1984, almost 3 months after Sandy’s disappearance was reported on September 21st.

It is unclear what actions were taken to find Sandy Rea from September 21 to December 12, 1984. Greg Gibson said there was no evidence that Charlie Phillips worked the case and the file was “empty except for the original missing person report and a few handwritten notes from Stogner.”

When Red Dirt Report contacted Stogner last year, she denied that the case was hers and said it was Charlie Phillips’ case. Wilson said it was Stogner’s case and did not have any explanation as to why Red Dirt Report was told otherwise.

He produced a file with the original investigator’s report by Stogner, notes containing phone messages, and an assortment of other documents. Phillips’ name appears on a 1987 voluntary statement and a flier seeking information about Sandy’s whereabouts.

Johnny Price, who is Sandy’s cousin and head of the family’s inquires, said he believes Phillips knows what happened to her. Carol Wells told Price and Red Dirt that Phillips opened up about the case in his office one day.

Price said, “He told Carol, ‘There’s things about this case I will never be able to tell you. All I can tell you is that your daughter will never be found.’ Why would you say that unless you knew something?”

Calls to Charlie Phillips were never returned.

Price remains determined to find his cousin. Since he took over the family’s inquiries he has conducted dozens of interviews, including one suspect in prison and turned in several tips to the Shawnee Police Department. Chief Russell Frantz last year said the department has conducted hundreds of interviews and followed up on all credible leads.

“I feel that through hard work and perseverance we have shown what can take place,” said Price.

He believes that Sandy was likely killed by those closest to her as well, but did not discuss any particular suspect.

Anyone with information can contact Detective Ron Wilson at 405-273-2121.

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About the Author

Mindy Ragan Wood

Mindy Ragan Wood is a freelance writer and editor with a special interest in investigative and...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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