Residents of the Tulsa bedroom community of Broken Arrow, Okla., were reeling Thursday following the overnight slaughter of five family members in what police are calling the worst homicide in the history of a town known for its lack of crime.
The dead included two adults, presumed to be the parents, and three children, roughly between 5 and 15 years of age. Another girl was hospitalized in serious condition with stab wounds and a 2-year-old who apparently hid during the attack was found unharmed at the scene.
“They were all stabbed,” said Police Sgt. Thomas M. Cooper. “It was a pretty gruesome scene.”
Kim LaForrest said that her fellow Broken Arrow residents have long prided themselves for living in a community that lacked big city crime. Not anymore.
“What shocks most people is that it happened in Broken Arrow — you’d expect something like this, say, in north Tulsa, but never here,” said LaForrest, a waitress at Uncle Vinny’s New York Pizza. “We live in a town with incredibly low crime rates. We want to keep that small-town feel. But this makes Broken Arrow feel like any other place.”
Two young males, ages 16 and 18, were in custody and are presumed to be the oldest children of the slain family, whose name has not been released, police said.
“It’s not a good day,” said Mayor Craig Thurmond of the town that averages less than one homicide each year. “If this were a home invasion the whole community would be worried, but we don’t think that occurred here, When any tragedy happens, you always try to figure out why. But we feel safe here.”
Officers were alerted after a 911 call that was mostly ominous silence was received at 11:32 p.m. came from a two-story, single-family home in a leafy upscale subdivision near the Indian Springs Country Club.
“There were some sounds, but it was mainly silence,” Cooper said. An officer was dispatched and arrived at the home about 11:40. When he saw the bodies, he called for extra help.
“It appears that the two suspects fled out the door sometime during our arrival,” Cooper said.
A police K-9 team “picked up a good track on the suspects,” Cooper said. Led by the dogs, officials found the teens hiding in some nearby brush.
Cooper said the pair would likely be charged with murder. He said the unharmed toddler was turned over to state workers.
Stunned neighbor Patricia Statham said she would often see the children mowing the front yard.
“But I never saw them playing,” she said. “They were a very private family. They home-schooled the children. Whenever I would drive by they would wave.”
Statham, who has lived in the neighborhood for 38 years, estimated that the slain family had been there for up to a decade.
“Outside the house, at the grocery store, the children used to hover around round their mom like chicks around a hen,” she said. “But you never know when there aren’t any other eyes in a home. I am just devastated for that entire family. That surviving child will carry this for the rest of her life.”
On Thursday, detectives wearing white booties converged on the shaded street with country-style mailboxes that sat out near the road. By mid-morning, they had erected several tarps to conceal their work from the press and other onlookers.
“The staff is shocked at the magnitude of the crime,” said Krista Flasch, a spokeswoman for the city of Broken Arrow. “We’ve just never seen anything like this. And it’s really affecting a lot of us, even though we didn’t know the family.”
Thurmond, 61, who owns a local consulting company and has served as mayor for three years, said the slaughter left him bewildered.
“We’re usually one of the safest cities in the state and one of the safest in the nation,” he said. “I was talking to the police chief about this just this morning: Going back five years, every time we’ve had a homicide here, it’s been a known assailant: We don’t have stranger homicides.”
But that doesn’t make him feel any better.
“You have one family in one house and your children apparently go off and do something like this. How do you protect against that? Why would someone want to kill their entire family?”
Thurmond, who worked in construction in Southern California, said he lived through the Night Stalker Richard Ramirez’s killing rampage in the 1980s and moved back to Oklahoma because he felt more safe there.
“In Los Angeles, you are bombarded every day in the media with senseless violence, but not Broken Arrow. We’re never in the news unless there’s a new [business] downtown or a community center opening. We just don’t get in the news.”
“I don’t see things changing,” he said. “Our community will still be around once this is figured out.”
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