By Gary Garton
Globe Staff Writer
MIAMI, Okla. - A forensic pathologist with the Vidocq Society is reviewing an autopsy report on Tina Duffell, and local investigators are looking for information about a letter that may be an important clue in her 1974 murder.
"This isn't going to be like a fresh case, where you have some dramatic development in a few days, or even weeks," Capt. Bob Ernst, with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department, said Friday. "We're reconstructing the case from the ground up, and it's going to be a long haul."
Duffell, 37, of Quapaw, was working part time as a clerk in a convenience store there in October 1974. On Oct. 17, between 11:45 a.m., when she was seen in the store, and noon, when someone noticed that she was missing, she was apparently abducted by force.
Her purse, car keys, cigarettes and an open soft-drink can were found on the store's counter. Several cans of beer and $250 in cash were missing from the store.
The next day, searchers found her body, weighted down with timber, in a mine pond northwest of Quapaw. Her throat had been cut, and she had a stab wound in her back. A shawl she had been wearing at the store was found in a brush pile south of Quapaw along State Highway 137, over two miles from where her body was found.
Local investigators, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and a Tri-State Major Case Squad were unable to identify her killer or find a motive for the murder.
Tina Duffell's husband, Richard Duffell, now of Miami, and their children, Michelle and Michael, who were 16 and 18, respectively, at the time of the murder, asked Sheriff Dennis King to reopen the case.
King agreed, and he has sought assistance by presenting the case to the Vidocq Society, a national organization of expert criminologists in all areas of investigation. The group's headquarters is in Philadelphia.
Ernst said Friday that the first member of the group he has called on, forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Goldberg, is reviewing the Oklahoma medical examiner's original autopsy report on Tina Duffell's body.
"The family wondered if it would help to exhume the body and do a new autopsy, but right now Dr. Goldberg doesn't think that would be useful," Ernst said. "He will decide definitely after looking over the report."
Locally, Ernst has been talking to witnesses from the original investigation - people who knew and worked with Duffell. Duffell, a popular figure in the community, also worked as a clerk in the Quapaw post office and had been a secretary-receptionist for an area physician.
Richard Duffell says he thinks she talked to and knew people from all walks of life in her jobs, and may have learned something about people involved in drug dealing.
She apparently never mentioned that she was afraid, but Richard Duffell told the Globe recently that shortly before her death, she wrote a letter and put it in a sealed envelope. "She gave it to the Quapaw postmaster, asking him to put it in the safe and not to open it unless something odd happened to her," he said.
She retrieved the document before her murder, however, and it was never found. She was seen showing a letter to another woman at a Quapaw football game the night before she went missing.
Richard Duffell said the woman came to his house after the murder, told him about the letter and said, "If anyone saw us reading that, I'll be the next one to be killed."
Ernst said Friday that the woman now denies knowledge of such a letter. "She says Tina showed her a letter she'd written to the school board about a problem at the school," he said.
Ernst said that for the most part, the people he has talked to about the case are cooperating.
"This case had an impact on not only Quapaw but the whole area when it happened, and over the years rumors and questions have continued to circulate about the murder," he said. "This is something folks want to see solved as much now as they did when it happened."
By Gary Garton
This Week's Circulars
NEOSHO, MO - Leona Mae Daugherty, 85, passed away Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Oakwood Cemetery. Visitation will be from 5 to 6:30p.m. Monday at Clark Funeral Home, Neosho.
JOPLIN, MO - Carolyn Clifford, 85, a retired bakery owner, passed away Wednesday, April 21. 2021. A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Arrangements are under the direction of Ozark Memorial Park Crematory, Joplin.
CHELSEA, OK - Jacqueline Leuvenia (Russell) Frazier, 90, passed away Saturday, April 17, 2021. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Old Mount Olympus Cemetery, Grove, OK. Visitation 3-5 p.m. Friday, DeLozier Funeral Service, Chelsea.
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