The Denison (Texas) Herald, Sunday, May 28, 1978

"My God! Hurry, Hurry! They're Getting Killed"

Herald Staff Writer

KENEFIC – Mrs. Donald Haggerty couldn’t believe it. “I heard the truck
brakes grinding on the gravel in front of my house and looked out.”

“My God! They’re shooting someone.”

“It’s the cops. They’re getting killed.”

The farm woman froze for a second, not believing what she saw with her own eyes in front of her quiet country brick home about two miles southeast of Kenefic.

She screamed for her grandchildren to get under the bed as she picked up the telephone on the living room table and out of breath with fear told the operator to get her the police.

“They’re killing the troopers right in front of my eyes. Hurry, Oh hurry,” she cried as she watched the two escaped convicts fire shot after shot at the patrol car directly in front of them.

While she talked to command headquarters, giving directions to her home, she watched one of the troopers get out of the patrol car, bleeding all over, and fall face upward at the rear of the vehicle. The other fell dead in a volley of buckshot in the seat.

“I hung up but couldn’t take my eyes off what was happening. It was so terrible. They just kept shooting those men,” she cried.

Frozen at the front window, Mrs. Haggerty saw the killers, Claude Eugene Dennis, 35, and Michael Lancaster, 26, walk the 20-foot distance between the two vehicles when they were certain they had won the shootout and pick up the guns from the dead troopers.

They ran back to the pickup truck, turned it around, and spun off back down the country road.

“It was then that I saw the man on the ground moving a little, Mrs. Haggerty said. Terrified, she ran back to the telephone and called for an ambulance.

“I wanted to do something, but I couldn’t – there was nothing I could do for them.

Ironically, she and her husband had talked about their plight, living in the country where the manhunt was underway, almost in a direct line between the search headquarters and the convict’s hometown – Caddo.

“Donald was going to work at his farm near Yuba and there was a lot of talk about the killers being in that area near Red River,” she explained, trying to force a smile. “He said he wouldn’t go if I didn’t want him to, but I told him I would be all right.

“I was more worried about him being out there in the field plowing so I told him to take the gun,” she continued. The Haggertys had a pistol they kept at the house. Her husband left early that morning. It was getting close to 11 a.m. and she felt much better knowing he had some protection.

“I just couldn’t believe it was happening, really happening right in front of my eyes – it was terrible, those poor men.”

Mrs. Haggerty revealed that later she realized the pickup looked familiar. It belonged to her neighbor and friend, Russell Washington. "I really appreciated them (the other troopers) getting here so quickly. I was scared to death,” she said.

She wasn’t along in watching the scene of horror unfold before her eyes. Her neighbor, Mrs. Etta Mae Renfro, 82, who lives in a modest white country home not 30 feet to the east, also viewed the tragedy.

“I remembered her being alone, a widow, and rushed outside as the troopers came.”

She might be 82, but she’s more like 60. She braved the event exceptionally well and gave a good account to the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation,” Mrs. Haggerty recalled. She would not talk to the press however. “I’ve had so much excitement – more than I can stand,” Mrs. Renfro told the Herald through the screened door. “If you don’t mind, I want to just rest and try to forget it.”

Mrs. Haggerty said Mrs. Renfro drives her little ’50 model Ford to Durant every week and takes some of her friends to the laundry. “She’s really a very special person and it’s so terrible she had to see all this.”

Another neighbor down the road west and her husband came home after it was all over and couldn’t get in. “Troopers had all the roads blocked off and we had to wait,” she said. “We were afraid to spend the night here and after the church social Thursday, we went home with friends.
She said the Washingtons were at the church event also.

Troopers had been alerted that the killers were on the loose in the area. It was the first absolute confirmation that the search area was on target in the most notorious manhunt in Oklahoma’s history.