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Police chase new lead in teen’s disappearance
Clue gives hope for solving case of teen mom
By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Search and rescue workers swarmed across a rural area east of Summit Thursday, turning up clues that might help solve the mystery of a missing Muskogee girl.
Jamie Michelle McChurin, 16 at the time of her disappearance, has been missing more than eight years.
Bryan Farmer, the Muskogee Police Department investigator, led the canine search and rescue team to an empty farm pond southwest of Davis Field Road and South 40th Street West, where authorities found a rifle and what appeared to be an ammunition clip.
Authorities were careful not to speculate about their discovery, but they appeared confident their discovery was significant.
“We have an area of interest we are going to look at closely,” Farmer said about two hours into the search. “An old gun has been found, and the medical examiner is on the way.”
Authorities would not confirm whether a body — or body parts — had been found, but investigators from the State Medical Examiner’s Office, Muskogee County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices arrived within an hour after the rifle was found. Sheriff’s deputies set up an outpost to guard the site overnight Thursday. Excavation was scheduled to begin early today.
McChurin, who would have turned 25 on Nov. 21, had just completed her shift at Tastee Freez, which used to be across the street from Muskogee Regional Medical Center, and had taken a cab to a friend’s house. She was last seen near the corner of F and Elmira streets on March 18, 1997.
McChurin’s case wasn’t like most of the teenagers reported missing in Muskogee. She didn’t have any reason to run away: She was working at her first job, had just received her first paycheck, and was talking about getting a car.
McChurin also has a daughter, LaCressa, who was 14 months old when McChurin disappeared. The girl, now 9 years old, lives with McChurin’s mother, Vickie Williams.
Police say they have received and followed up on hundreds of tips during the past eight years, most of them leading to dead ends until now.
Farmer, who only recently inherited the case, said cadaver dogs were used to search the same area twice a couple of years ago. Those searches, he said, while not as productive as Thursday’s search, did produce a couple of hits by the dogs.
Investigators’ efforts to follow up past searches were hindered because the pond around which the search took place was full of water, a problem eliminated after the pond was drained.
“I have a really good feeling about this place,” Farmer said before the dogs began searching the area Thursday.