Pastor’s Murder Alarms Town
Police in a small Oklahoma farming community are warning local religious leaders to secure their churches after a pastor was brutally stabbed while awaiting parishioners in her church.
Caddo County District Attorney Bret Burns called a private meeting Wednesday where he and law enforcement officers told more than 30 local pastors to "be safety-conscious with their staff and their surroundings."
"We had a brutal murder, and it happened in a church," Burns said in a telephone interview after the meeting.
Burns would not say whether police had evidence that the killer was targeting churches or pastors.
No arrests have been made.
Police on Sunday found the mutilated body of Carol Daniels, 61, in Christ Holy Sanctified Church in Anadarko.
Daniels, a pastor with the Fort Worth-based Pentecostal-holiness church, had traveled 60 miles each week from her home in Oklahoma City to conduct services in the rural community of 6,600 people where farmers grow peanuts, wheat and cotton.
The town bills itself as the "Indian Capital of the Nation." More than half of the population identified themselves in the last U.S. Census as Native American, from tribes including Apache, Comanche and Delaware.
The once-vibrant congregation at the white, wooden church in the dilapidated downtown had dwindled, and the church building had fallen into disrepair, said Craig Brown of Los Angeles, first vice president of the national church executive board.
Daniels, who joined the national church in 1972 as an administrator, volunteered to rebuild the congregation, he said.
The marquee outside the church listed worship times, Daniels' name and position as pastor, and a simple message: "God loves you."
About a half-mile from the church is a neighborhood that Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, describes as "a pretty high-crime area" troubled by drugs, including crack cocaine. The town's last homicide occurred about a month ago, and police made an arrest, she said.
Daniels was last seen at 10 a.m. Sunday outside the church, said Jessica Brown, who is not related to Craig Brown.
A retired church bishop and his wife arrived at the church shortly before noon that day, Craig Brown said.
The couple saw Daniels' car parked at the church, but when they were unable to get into the building, they became alarmed and went to the police, he said.
The police entered the church, found Daniels' body and discouraged the couple from looking because of the condition of her body, Craig Brown said.
"They said it was just very, very bad, as she'd been stabbed so many times," he said. "We're all baffled. I don't know who would want to do that to her or to anybody."
Craig Brown said he saw Daniels 10 days ago at a church conference, where they sat together at several meetings. He said she teased him about being from "wealthy" churches in California.
"She had a quiet demeanor. She wasn't flashy," Brown said. "But she was very witty and very business-like."
The state medical examiner's report says Daniels died from "multiple sharp force injuries," Jessica Brown said. "We don't have a motive yet. It's pretty much a wide open case."
Authorities are offering a reward for information in the case.
Burns, a prosecutor for 17 years, described the scene as "horrific."
"I've never seen any other like it," he said. "It's a tragedy that a lady comes to town to preach and help people and she winds up dead."