Writer/director John Russell directs actress Nicole Fancher during the filming of the “Candles” movie trailer near Locust Grove, Okla. Fancher played the double for Megan Ellis, who is playing the lead character Patricia Evans. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Director names alleged Girl Scouts killer in movie

The cover art for the “Candles” movie, which is about the Girl Scout murders near Locust Grove, Okla., in 1977. COURTESY PHOTO Karl Lee Myers OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
The cover art for the “Candles” movie, which is about the Girl Scout murders near Locust Grove, Okla., in 1977. COURTESY PHOTO
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
12/15/2011 07:28 AM
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – The writer and director of the upcoming movie “Candles” said that convicted murderer Karl Lee Myers is the killer of the three Girl Scouts who were raped and murdered at Camp Scott in 1977.

John Russell said that Myers confessed to him about the murders of Lori Lee Farmer, 8; Michelle Guse, 9; and Denise Milner, 10, who were found dead June 13, 1977, at the camp near Locust Grove, Okla.

Gene Leroy Hart, a Cherokee man from the Locust Grove area, was charged with killing the girls but was acquitted of the crimes in 1979. He died in prison of an apparent heart attack three months later while serving an unrelated sentence.

Russell said Myers confessed to him about the murders while each served time in the Ottawa County Jail in 1979.

“He confessed three times to six murders in the northeast Oklahoma area. He also confessed once to the Camp Scott murders,” Russell said.

The movie “Candles” is about the Girl Scout murders, and in it Russell said he would name Myers as the murderer. He said he also plans to name local and state officials from that time period who he believes were complicit in covering Myers’ involvement with the murders.

Myers is currently serving a first-degree murder conviction on death row in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. In 1998, he was convicted of murder in Rogers County and sentenced to death. Myers has also been convicted of burglary in 1969 and for assault with intent to commit rape in 1979.

Russell said he has attempted to give his information to authorities regarding Myers’ alleged confession of the Girl Scout murders, but has not been successful. He added that he felt making a film was his only avenue of getting out the information.

A Tulsa media outlet recently interviewed a family member of one of the murdered Girl Scouts. The family member preferred to remain anonymous, but said she didn’t disagree with the movie being made, but wished someone with more credibility was making it.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation officials said John Russell is someone the bureau has communicated with regarding the Camp Scott murders. But with regards to his credibility, they said they get “many, many tips on cases, many of which are not credible.”

“But we will not say which are credible and which are not credible tips, sources,” Jessica Brown, OSBI public information officer, said.

Russell does have a criminal record, which consists of passing bogus checks, embezzlement and defrauding an innkeeper.

Russell said he isn’t proud of his past, but added that if it were not for his background he would not have the knowledge he does about the Camp Scott murders.

The OSBI would also not comment about the possibility of Myers being a suspect.

“Legally, all I can say is that the murders at Camp Scott are still under investigation,” Brown said.
The Cherokee Phoenix requested an interview with Myers through the Oklahoma Department of Corrections but was denied.

Russell said that he’s been told that Myers’ health was failing and that he probably wouldn’t see an execution date.

“If he dies, then we won’t be able to get his confession of the three Girl Scouts or any of the numerous others that he has killed in the past. Then it’s just my word that he confessed. His death protects the reputation of the OSBI and the state of Oklahoma from future prosecution of those involved,” Russell said.

He said his movie would still be filmed but that he would just have to be more creative in filming without a Myers interview. “I have to use my creative abilities instead of using an interview, and I fully expected to be denied the interview with Myers.”

Russell said Cherokee actor Wes Studi has sent a letter of intent to play the part of Gray Hawk, a medicine man.

jami-custer@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560


About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/29/2016 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – For the first time, one of the 18 treaties negotiated and signed during the Gold Rush between the United States and the American Indian nations in California, but secretly unratified by the U.S. Senate in 1852, went on display to the public on Sept. 22. The Treaty of Temecula, also known as Treaty K, was unveiled in the presence of the descendants of three of the Native nations affected by the Senate’s failure to ratify the agreement. Jeff Grubbe, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians chairman; Mark Macarro, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians chairman; Sabrina Nakhjavanpour, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians treasurer; and Melonie Calderon, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Business Committee member watched as the treaty went on display. Treaty K is just one of the 18 treaties that was submitted to the U.S. Senate on June 1, 1852, by President Millard Fillmore. Unbeknownst to the Native nations’ signatories, the Senate rejected the treaties and ordered them to be held in secrecy for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, left undefended by U.S. Armed Forces, Native nations across California were overrun by white settlers and American Indians were subjected to violence at the hands of state and local militias. Considered illegal aliens on their own lands without state or federal legal recourse, it led to their ethnic cleansing. The American Indian population in California plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000 between 1846 and 1870. The 1880 census records 16,277 American Indians in California – a 90 percent decline in their population since the onset of the Gold Rush. Grubbe read to the group quoting a Nov. 22, 1852, letter by California Indian Affairs Superintendent Edward F. Beale to U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Luke Lea: “The wretched remnant which escapes starvation on the one hand, and the relentless whites on the other, only do so to rot and die of a loathsome disease, the penalty of Indian association with frontier civilization…I have seen it, and seeing all this, I cannot help them. I know they starve; I know they perish by hundreds; I know that they are fading away with startling rapidity; but I cannot help them…They are not dangerous…It is a crying sin that our government, so wealthy and so powerful, should shut its eyes to the miserable fate of these rightful owners of the soil.” Macarro noted that Sept. 23 is American Indian Day in California. “It also happens to be the day on which the Pechanga Nation people were evicted in 1852. Seeing this treaty on display is both horrific as it shines daylight on the cheat and fraud that accompanied the sale of our land. But California Indian nations had treaties with the United States, and this is validation,” he said. Nakhjavanpour said there is much Native people have to do as a whole but they remain despite deplorable actions past and present. “What happened during the Gold Rush is different to what we see happening today at Standing Rock with oil,” she said. “But there are similarities in the quest for commodities near American Indian nation land. We have to keep fighting.” On loan from the National Archives and Records Administration through January 2017, including the anniversary date of the treaty on Jan. 5, Treaty K will be on display in the museum’s award-winning exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations,” which opened on Sept. 21, 2014, and will stay open through Spring 2020. The full text of the treaty is available on the Nation to Nation project website. “Consent is at the heart of the treaty relationship,” NMAI Director Kevin Gover said. “That is what this exhibition is all about. And it is not just about the past. It is about the present and future, too. Just imagine what the world would be were decisions are made bi-laterally. When both parties agree, good things result, both can thrive. When they are made unilaterally or when agreements are not kept, bad things happen.”
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
09/28/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission on Sept. 19 moved into its new building at 17763 S. Muskogee Ave., the former site of the Tribal Council House that was torn down in 2015. The new 3,500-square-foot location is west of the tribe’s Emergency Medical Services building, where Election Commissioner Martha Calico said the commission had been located since 2003. Calico said before 2003 the EC was located east of the Tribal Complex in what is now the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service building. CN Management Resources razed the former Tribal Council House on July 11, 2015, after it was determined to be structurally unsound. The tribe’s legislative branch was relocated to the Tribal Complex following the July 17, 2013, discovery of several mold species in the Tribal Council House. According to CN Communications, the estimated cost of the new facility was about $250,000, which included materials and sub-contractors used for the construction. CN Facilities Administrator Jimmy Hullinger, who oversaw the new building’s construction, said its design would help the EC better serve CN citizens. “The new building is a 3,500-square-foot building, and the layout is more accessible to the public,” Hullinger said. He added that the larger lobby would be more convenient to visitors, and because the EC is the building’s only occupant, security could be easier to maintain. He also said the new facility has a vault of “concrete construction with a metal ceiling” for storing ballots and other important items. EC Director Connie Parnell said she was happy the EC would no longer share space with other departments. “We will be completely separate from everyone. This is a better move and a better location because it best serves how elections are conducted,” she said. “We have security vaults. We have offices. We have a large conference room so we can handle all of our meetings, during elections time, processing of all the election absentees, tabulating. We have the room for all of our duties to make an election run very smoothly.” In a previous Cherokee Phoenix story, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said to accommodate the growing CN workforce it was necessary to build the new EC office. “The construction is a good choice and wise investment. By moving the Election Commission office into its own free-standing building, it also allows the Nation to look at ways to utilize the space vacated by the Election Commission for other purposes, including possibly for the Marshal Service,” he said. To contact the EC, call toll free at 1-800-353-2895 or 918-452-5899 or write to PO Box 1188, Tahlequah, OK 74465.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/26/2016 01:00 PM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials said they are moving forward with the purchase and acquisition of the historic home of the Cherokee syllabary inventor, Sequoyah. However, as of publication, CN officials had not announced a final deal. The Oklahoma Historical Society, a state agency, owns and operates Sequoyah’s Cabin near Sallisaw. The site is a Sequoyah County tourist attraction. “Sequoyah is one of our most well-known statesmen and historical figures, and his contributions to the Cherokee Nation are immeasurable,” CN Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said in a Sept. 2 CN Communications release. “His invention of the Cherokee syllabary may be one of the single most important contributions to the advancement of the Cherokee people and Cherokee society. The Cherokee Nation is taking an important step by ensuring the preservation of Sequoyah’s homestead.” According to the release, the OHS has needed to divest itself of the property due to state budget cuts. According to a Sequoyah County Times report, it costs about $100,000 annually to maintain the cabin. “Over the past eight years, the state appropriation to the Oklahoma Historical Society has been cut by 40 percent,” OHS Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn said. “Fortunately for us and the legacy of Sequoyah, the Cherokee Nation is willing to assume ownership and keep the site open.” According to the CN release, Hoskin said it is “unfortunate that after 80 years, the state no longer has the resources to manage and maintain the property because the significance of Sequoyah’s homestead cannot be overstated.” Sequoyah was born in Tennessee around 1778. He began experimenting with an alphabet for the Cherokee language, and it was complete in the 1820s. The Cherokees were the first Indian tribe to develop a written alphabet, known as the Cherokee syllabary. Literacy rates among Cherokees soared within just a few years. Sequoyah was among the “Old Settlers” of the CN, who migrated to present-day Oklahoma and western Arkansas in approximately 1818, prior to the Trail of Tears. Built in1829, the one-room log cabin and more than 200 acres were acquired by the OHS in 1936. In 1965, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. According to the Sequoyah County times report, CN Natural Resources Director Gunter Gulager said the CN had paid $100,000 for the 171.54-acre property and that the property was expected to transfer to Cherokee Nation Business for management. However, according to a Sept. 6 email from CN Communications, the tribe was still in the process of buying the cabin and no deal had been finalized. According to the Sequoyah County Times, the state and tribe plan to work together to advertise and draw in tourists and that OHS officials said the money it makes from selling the cabin would be invested in other state-owned historic properties. “Our planned acquisition of the cabin is another example of the Cherokee Nation relieving the state of public use facilities that might otherwise be closed,” Hoskin said in the CN release. According to the release, in recent years the CN has assumed ownership of two Oklahoma welcome centers that still operate as welcome centers and now feature Cherokee merchandise, clothing and information on Cherokee attractions. The Cherokee Phoenix requested comment from CN officials regarding the cabin but did not receive a response as of publication.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/23/2016 02:00 PM
WASHINGTON – On Sept. 26, President Obama will host the 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. This will be the President’s eighth and final Tribal Nations Conference, providing tribal leaders from the 567 federally recognized tribes with the opportunity to interact directly with high-level federal government officials and members of the White House Council on Native American Affairs. Each tribe is invited to send one representative to the conference. This year’s conference will continue to build upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The conference will be streamed live at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/21/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Applications for the 2017 “Remember the Removal” bike ride are available for Cherokee Nation citizens. The application deadline is midnight Oct. 28. The three-week, 1,000-mile ride in June teaches CN citizens ages 16-24 about their culture and history as they cycle the same route their ancestors were forced to walk in 1838-39 to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The route travels through seven states testing the cyclists’ physical and mental endurance. If selected to participate, participants would be required to take part in a physical training schedule and attend history classes. The classes will be taught during the four months of training to prepare for the ride. Participants will learn about the struggles their ancestors. The selection committee, whose members will not be related to any applicant, will review the required essays and applications submitted. It will be looking for CN citizens willing to learn more about Cherokee history and their ancestry related to the Trail of Tears. Successful applicants will be expected to interact with the public and speak to the public about their experiences on the ride. “Remember the Removal” cyclists also will be photographed, videoed, interviewed during the trip. So the committee will be looking for riders who are personable, well-spoken and would make ambassadors for the CN. Applicants must not have participated in the program before, be 16 to 24 as of Jan. 1 prior to the event and be able to pass a sport physical provided by the CN during the post-selection orientation. It is recommended participants reside inside the tribe’s jurisdiction, including the contiguous counties. Participants may have a different temporary address while away at school. If a participant lives outside the jurisdiction he or she will still be required to make all mandatory trainings and history classes in Tahlequah. Applications are online at <a href="http://remembertheremoval.cherokee.org/ParticipationApplication.aspx" target="_blank">http://remembertheremoval.cherokee.org/ParticipationApplication.aspx</a> and must be submitted by Oct. 28. The application requires an essay about why the applicant wants to participate, three letters of recommendation mailed or emailed to <a href="mailto: rtr@cherokee.org">rtr@cherokee.org</a> directly from the recommending party by the application deadline. Letters of recommendation should not be from CN employees, administration officials or Tribal Councilors. Letters should be from someone the applicant has worked with academically or professionally or a person they have known for a minimum of three years. For more information, call Gloria Sly at 918-453-5154 or email <a href="mailto: gloria-sly@cherokee.org">gloria-sly@cherokee.org</a>.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham &
JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
09/21/2016 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission called a special meeting for Sept. 16 to discuss fiscal year 2017 merit increases for staff as well as the renewal of commissioner and EC attorney contracts. Also, on the agenda were items regarding the renewal of Maxim, Center for Spatial Analysis and Hart Intercivic’s contracts. All contracts were approved except for Hart Intercivic. It was tabled due to the contract not being completed through CN contracts at the time of the meeting.