Innocence Lost in Small Town America

Written By Karla Vanatta

May 11, 2017 was the last day of school for students in Eufaula, Oklahoma. As the last bell rang they ran out the doors to the hope of a summer filled with fun and sunshine, laughter and innocence. Living in a town with one of the largest lakes in Oklahoma was sure to hold the possibilities of many memorable outdoor activities. One such activity for many kids is riding their bikes down the back roads of this quiet rural community.

“Hannah,” as we will call her, is one of those kids that looked forward to her fun-filled summer. Her family has lived in Eufaula for as long as she can remember. She has spent most of her life enjoying playing at the lake with friends and family. Her and her cousins spent many summer evenings chasing fireflies as the sun went down or riding their bikes back and forth to each others houses.

May 13, was the first weekend day of summer and Hannah’s family decided to go to the lake to swim to kick off summer break. Her aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend, who lived a few blocks away, walked the kids to the lake while Hannah’s Dad worked on loading the car and her mother went inside to get some laundry going. Hannah decided to ride her bike and go ahead with her aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend. When they got to the lake they realized the water was too high to swim so they came back home. Her aunt and her aunts boyfriend stopped at their house while Hannah rode ahead to go home.

Hannah’s aunt lived so close it was easy to see her house from her own front yard in the fall and winter. However, in the spring and summer a group of trees on the road would fill out and cause a blind spot in between. It was in that blind spot that Hannah’s carefree, innocent summer days would be forever gone. As she left sight of her aunt’s yard, she road her bike without a care in the world.

She heard a vehicle coming behind her so she turned around and looked and saw the face of a man staring back at her. She did not recognize the man, or the fear she immediately felt. She turned back around and began riding her bike faster. The vehicle sped up. She looked behind her again and he was almost caught up to her. He slammed on his brakes and stopped the truck right behind her. Hannah’s senses were on full alert and she knew she had to get out of there and fast. She turned her bike to cut through someone’s yard. It was at this point that she hit a metal tin horn, a pipe that ran under the driveway, and flipped her bike.

Tire marks on the dirt show where the vehicle left marks on the gravel as it sped off.
Close up photo of tire marks on the dirt showing where the vehicle left marks on the gravel as it sped off.
Dirt road where Hannah was traveling and marks from the tires of the vehicle where it sped off.

Hannah looked up to see an older, stocky built, man with dark hair, dark eyes and a dark goatee staring back at her. His eyes sent a chill down her spine and she froze as blood poured down her. The man did not get out of his vehicle, instead he spun  his tires and peeled out. Her aunt heard the squealing tires and told her boyfriend to go check on the kids. As they looked up they saw a silver or grey SUV with tinted windows and a black luggage rack on top speeding by.

Hannah crawled through the woods as fast as she could. As she got about 30 yards to her house she screamed out, “Mommy.”

Hannah’s mom heard her from inside the house and came running out. Hannah had not called her Mommy since she was a little girl and there was something in her voice that filled her mother with urgency. As she reached her daughter, her husband ran up beside her. They could see blood running down Hannah’s leg and Hannah was pale white. They picked her up and rushed her inside the house. They asked her what happened and she told them she wrecked her bike. Her mother pulled her shorts back to see where the blood was coming from. She removed her clothing and blood just started gushing out. Her parents wrapped her in towels and they put her in their car and rushed her to the hospital. She was still losing blood and lost consciousness several times. At this point her mom called 9-1-1. They met the ambulance in the parking lot of the school and Hannah was rushed to a local hospital. She ended up having to be put to sleep and have surgery to sew up several deep puncture wounds.

As she woke up from anesthesia Hannah started telling her parents a little more about what happened. She told them where she wrecked and how she crawled to the house. They took her home after a while and she fell asleep next to them. The next day she woke up and told her mom about the man that came up on her. She told her mother she was afraid he was trying to take her. She said when he saw her bleeding she must have been too broken for him so he left her there, alone and bleeding.

Hannah’s parents filed a police report, then later added what their daughter remembered. The brave young girl wrote out her statement in her own words. The family prayed the man would be found or come forward but that has yet to happen. When the report was initially made Hannah’s mom says she was told by someone at the sheriff’s office that the day before Hannah’s attempted abduction, another parent had called in that two men followed their two children back to their camp site at the lake, not far from where Hannah had been riding her bike.  For verification and clarification, I called the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Office and was told that yes, Hannah’s family did file a report but was told they could not confirm that another report had been filed the day before.

Since Hannah’s nightmare began, she has been too afraid to sleep in her own bed. She keeps waking up with nightmares of that man chasing her and staring at her with cold, dark eyes. Her family is concerned that he is still out there. They say they will never again feel free to let their children out of their sight, even for a moment, because a moment is all it took for their daughters innocence and security to be broken. They say they are so thankful the man did not take her, but they are very angry that he just left her laying there bleeding without offering any help. If he did not mean her harm, why did he not help this young girl who was pouring blood on the side of the road?

The hope is that someone reading this will remember the vehicle, a silver or grey SUV with tinted windows and a black luggage rack on top and the man with brown or black hair, eyes and goatee, driving it that first weekend day of summer break and come forward with information that will help law enforcement locate him for questioning.  Hannah’s family wants to urge other parents to be extra vigilant about not letting their kids out of their sight, even for a moment.  The sheriff also wants the public to be aware that this man is still out there somewhere.  All are praying another family does not have to live through this nightmare that does not go away.

Story by Karla Vanatta
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