The Murder of Carol Daniels
On a surprisingly mild August afternoon in 2009, Carol Daniels made a trip she had made many times before. She traveled from her home in northeast Oklahoma City to a church at which she was the pastor, in Anadarko Oklahoma. The trip would take on average just over an hour. Anadarko is a small, poorer town southwest of the Oklahoma City metro area. Miss Daniels had made this trip many times before. She would arrive at the church at close to 10 am. Often there would be no congregants to preach to. But in case they did show up, Miss Daniels was there. Before we travel down the path of uncovering what happened in those few hours on that warm Oklahoma day, it is important that we understand the dedication of Miss Daniels.
Northeast Oklahoma City and Anadarko are both poor areas, lacking in resources and jobs. Her trek from one to the other represented a level of commitment to her faith that most of us couldn’t measure up to. Many in our world measure their success in numbers, and it would have been an easy temptation for Miss Daniels to disregard her work for the church as often empty. Nevertheless, she persisted. She continued to go to that tiny wooden church in that tiny Oklahoma town, on the chance that someone would show up who needed to be ministered to.
It is unfortunate that the entirety of her life on earth and her work is going to be defined by the last few hours of her existence. It is a cruelty that the only reason many have heard of her or her work is due to the horrific and still mysterious circumstances that surround her death. Perhaps in exploring the mystery of her death, we can further explore the work she was so dedicated to. Along with answers, maybe we can find a newfound respect for the woman herself.
10am–12pm: These two hours are critically important. It is the struggle to find out exactly who and what happened within the walls of the church that has plagued local authorities and residents alike. We know Miss Daniels arrived at the church at approximately 10 am. A local convenience store, Stop-N-Fresh, had a surveillance system that was able to catch the car driven by Miss Daniels pull up to the parking lot of the Christ Holy Sanctified Church at about that time.
It was approximately 11:40 am on that same day when retired Bishop Silkey Wilson Jr. and his wife Julia came to the front door of the church in an attempt to visit the pastor. They would later tell investigators that they immediately knew something was not right as the door was locked and their knocking yielded no response. They began knocking on the windows in an attempt to get the attention of anyone inside the church—again, with no luck. Sometime in between their 11:40 am arrival and 11:51 the pair made the short walk down to the police station. This is an important detail. The police station is within visual distance of the church. You could throw a rock from the church and hit the police station with ease.
What We Know
At 12:01 pm, Officer Ashley Burrus arrives at the church and begins assessing the situation and speaking with the Wilson’s. At 12:04, Officer Burrus makes entry into the church through the side door. It is at this point she notices the now deceased Pastor Daniels on the floor near the pulpit. She radios for help, noting that Ms. Daniels is deceased and no suspect is present. Bishop Wilson would later tell local media that an unnamed officer at the scene would not allow the couple to enter the church. When asked about what had happened the unnamed officer told his wife “It didn’t look good.”
To say it didn’t look good is, without a doubt, an understatement. The details of how Mrs. Daniels was found have been fuzzy and difficult to nail down. Rumor and speculation swirled around the small town almost immediately after the murder. What is sure is that Daniels had been stabbed several times. Her throat had been slit, almost to the point of decapitation. Her clothes had been taken and her hair had been set on fire. Also, what the police referred to as a dissolving agent was used in an attempt to cover up any evidence left behind.
Her body’s placement has been the subject of speculation as well. Initial reports and rumors in town were that her body had been placed in a crucifix position behind the pulpit with her arms outspread and her feet put together. Later the investigators from the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations would make the case that this is just how her body had fallen. The nature of the murder, that profession of the woman murdered, and the lengths the perpetrators went to make the crime scene as clean of any evidence as possible, make it hard to believe her body had just fallen into that position.
Neither the dissolving agent nor the weapon used nor her clothes have ever been located. Initially, there were no witnesses and only a few spattered calls to the local police department which seemed to be of little help. Somehow, someone was able to overpower Mrs. Daniels and had the time to nearly sever her head from her body. Along with time and motive to set her hair on fire and rob her of her clothes. Later on in the investigation, a video would emerge of an unidentified subject sprinting across the street from the church with something that looked like an object in their hands. The suspect in this video was never identified, and almost no quality descriptive details could be gained from the video as the suspect is only seen from a distance and the quality of the video is not good.
That is the unsolved murder of a pastor in Oklahoma, over a decade ago, with more questions than answers. As time goes on and as the people of this small town go on with their lives, we get further and further from finding any clear motive. It is unclear if we will ever be able to fill in the gaps in what we know. Unfortunately, it seems as if the family of this murdered woman will have to continue their day to day without any answers. For now.