Anadarko slaying victim’s family say officials kept them in dark

| September 5, 2009

ANADARKO — Three days after his mother was found dead inside her church, Alvin Daniels III told a national current affairs show host his family learned about the horrors his mother endured as information leaked out and details unfolded in the news.

Investigators were not sharing information with the family.

Alvin Daniels said the only details he had on his mother’s death came from The Oklahoman: The Rev. Carol Daniels had suffered what the state medical examiner’s office described as "multiple sharp force injuries.” The Oklahoman had to file an open records request to obtain the information.

Meanwhile, relatives of the 61-year-old pastor waited for answers and people in Anadarko wondered whether their families were in danger.

Local and state agencies told The Oklahoman that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation had asked them to withhold documents that fall under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

"Our main goal is to solve this case promptly,” OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said. "And if we have to hold back information to do that, then so be it.”

On the medical report
On Aug. 25, two days after Anadarko police found Daniels’ body, the medical examiner’s office told The Oklahoman that the OSBI had asked that the cause and manner of the pastor’s death, which fell under the state’s open records laws, not be released because of the investigation.

"We are concerned that the investigative agency says this will jeopardize the case,” medical examiner spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard said after an initial request was made Aug. 25. "And so, under the circumstances, we are going to not release information right now.”

But Ballard did release the information later that day. The medical examiner determined Daniels was a homicide victim who died as a result of "multiple sharp force injuries.”

Brown said state investigators did not want the words "multiple sharp force injury” or "homicide” released, but the agency did not ask another agency to not comply with the Open Records Act.

"I think my guys just didn’t understand that those were public records,” she said. "They don’t deal with this every day.”

Police open records
Under the Open Records Act, law enforcement agencies are required to make initial incident reports available. A telephone request made Aug. 27 for the homicide incident report was denied.

A police spokeswoman said the department was told by the district attorney and the OSBI not to release the document because it was part of an ongoing investigation.

However, District Attorney Bret Burns told The Oklahoman he gave police no such advice.

Asked whether the OSBI sought to suppress the incident report, Brown responded on Aug. 28: "Is it a completed document? My case agent said he hasn’t even seen the incident report, so I think it’s not done yet, quite frankly.”

On the same day the request to the police department was made, Anadarko City Manager Robert Williamson told The Oklahoman that the incident report had been completed and he saw no reason it could not be released.

After an official typed request was faxed to the department, police Capt. Dwain Miller denied The Oklahoman’s request and said police would not be releasing the document because it was "part of the investigation.” Miller refused to cite any statutory exemption as requested.

When Police Chief David Edwards returned from vacation the next week, he said it was his department’s position, on the advice of the city attorney, that there was an exception in state open records laws when cases are "under investigation.”

Edwards could not cite where the exemption was stated in the law. A call to City Attorney Tom Zynda was not returned.

On Tuesday, OSBI Inspector Steve Neuman, who was filling in for Brown, released the Anadarko police incident report from his office.

Other than the names of the officers who responded to the scene and the fact that Daniels’ body was found in a face-down position, the report contained little information that authorities had not already released.

In another effort to get details in Daniels’ death The Oklahoman requested Anadarko police radio logs for the time period after the pastor’s body was discovered. The radio logs fall under the state’s open records laws.

The police department fulfilled the request Thursday afternoon, the same day it was made.

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Category: Church Security

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