The Tulsa World, Saturday, May 27, 1978

Death Intrudes on Town's Summer Day

By DOUG HICKS
Of the World Staff

CADDO--This sleepy little Bryan County town, population 815, is the kind of place you’d expect so see Huckleberry Finn strolling down a dirt road with a fishin’ pole.

On Court Street, Elm trees shade white picket fences in need of some paint.

Friday was an average kind of morning.

Over at the First Baptist Church, the Rev. Bud Jenkins looked in on 40 kids attending a day care school. Down the road apiece his two sons, Walta, 13, and Steven, 15, were earning some summertime money by mowing a lawn.

In the middle of the block, the small camper trailer of Earnest and Christene Slack stood idle. They had planned to take it to Lake Texoma for the Memorial Day weekend but authorities had warned that two prison escapees might be in the recreation area.

“We chose not to go because of the scare,” Mrs. Slack said.

Instead, they were away at work – she at a Bryan County clinic, he at a trailer manufacturer.

And then it began. The speeding blue pickup truck skidded sideways into Slack’s drive. A Highway Patrol cruiser overshot the drive, slid to a stop and began wheeling wildly backwards.

Bullets were flying.

“It scared us half to death,” said Walta. “We ran into the house (where the lawn was being mowed) and locked the doors.”

Lori Nave, 18, heard the gunfire, glanced out the window of her home and was horrified at what she saw. Her niece, LaVonna Haverstein, 4, and the teen-ager’s brothers and sisters, Wade, 5, Kevin, 9, and Sheila, 15, were playing only yards from the now-bullet-riddled pickup truck. Lori
ran from the house and tugged at the hands of the two youngest children while shouting at the others to run with her back to the house.

At the First Baptist Church, a block from the shooting scene, Pastor Jenkins was preparing to leave by car when he heard the gunshots.

“It sounded like a little war – bang, bang, bang, bang,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins moved the day care children, ranging in age from infancy to 5-year-old, to a more remote part of the church’s education building.

“I was afraid of ricocheting bullet,” the minister explained. “It could have hit any of them.”

And then, knowing his sons were mowing a lawn near the shooting scene, Jenkins stood guard outside the church with a shotgun and a pistol brought to him by his wife.

“I knew they were down there. . .but I couldn’t leave the kids.”

It was over almost as quickly as it began. By most accounts it lasted only two or three minutes at most.

Two prison escapees were dead. So was a Highway Patrolman. Another trooper was wounded.

At a roadblock a few miles away two other troopers were dead.

Christene and Earnest Slack left their jobs in Durant and returned to their old frame home on Court Street where bullets had hit their boat, the house and spare tire on their camper.

Mrs. Slack gave thanks above that here 14-year-old daughter, Norma, had not been in the home. Norma happened to have a baby-sitting job on Friday.

Ernest Slack, watching a tow truck pull the blue pickup truck from his drive as authorities opened the area more than four hours after the shooting, glanced down and said:

“I am sad for the troopers. This is awful. What can I say? I’m very
sad.”

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