Sep. 17—Investigators spent thousands of man-hours over the course of three decades with a local homicide case that captured global attention.
It was May 7, 1988, when a fisherman below the Fort Gibson Dam in Cherokee County discovered the body of a woman. A 28-pound concrete block was tied around her waist, and the unidentified woman had been in the water for about seven days before she was discovered.
Retired Cherokee County Investigator Jack Goss said the woman's cause of death was considered drowning, and authorities didn't find signs of trauma. The woman had no identification when she was found, and she was named Daisy Doe due to a daisy tattoo on her shoulder.
Sheriff Jason Chennault said authorities had taken Daisy Doe's fingerprints after her body was discovered, but the condition of the body at that time prevented the prints from being useful.
Chennault and Oklahoma State Bureau Investigator Special Agent Vicky Lyons, now a district attorney investigator, were asked to do a presentation on Daisy Doe for a cold-case association in 2015. As they reported, the Medical Examiner's Officer discovered Doe's hands had been kept in a "cold storage" area. Employees in the latent-prints division of the OSBI were able to rehydrate the hands to obtain fresh fingerprints. Those were entered into a computer system, which matched them to her.
She was positively identified as Jeanetta Ellen Coleman, Muskogee, the common-law wife of the first Oklahoma inmate to be executed after reinstatement of the death penalty: Charles Troy Coleman. His name first appeared in criminal records in Muskogee County in 1979, nearly a decade before her death, when the couple were arrested for the murder of John and Roxie Seward. The Sewards had been gunned down execution-style when they unexpectedly interrupted a burglary at the home of family members on Feb. 9, 1979.
The Colemans were captured after getting into a chase with authorities in Muskogee County.
Ms. Coleman was from Bakersfield, Calif. Authorities were able to find her sister, who lives in California. According to Chennault, she was never reported missing.
Goss said thousands of man-hours were put into the case before Coleman was identified. Investigators believed she met James Ray Vogel and three other suspects in a Muskogee bar, had sexual intercourse with her at the dam, then tied a block to her body and threw her into the water while she was still alive.
A grand jury charged Vogel with first-degree murder, and he was arrested in 2017. Court documents identify the three men as James West, Wesley Hall and Jackie Goodson.
"Jack had the suspects identified right off the bat but he just didn't have enough to arrest them at the time," said Chennault.
District Attorney Jack Thorp, lead prosecutor at the time, said he believes two of the three men are deceased; however, the investigation is ongoing.
Along with being accused of murder, Vogel is suspected of engaging in a pattern of criminal offenses, including obstruction and perjury. Defense Attorney B.J. Baker filed a motion to dismiss the murder case due to lack of prosecution movement for Vogel.
Negotiations to dismiss the case have been pushed back for several months. The motion to dismiss the case was withdrawn in August, and Vogel is slated to appear in court on Oct. 28. District Judge Doug Kirkley is presiding over the case.
Goss continued to investigate case 12 years after his retirement. He accompanied arresting officers as they took Vogel into custody. Thorp presented Goss with a Lifetime of Service Award in 2019.
Coleman was buried in an unmarked grave in the Tahlequah City Cemetery.