The “Oklahoma City Butcher”

Three native American women were found mutilated and dismembered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, between 1976 and 1986. Investigators have positively them identified as Cathy Lynn Shakelford, Arley Bell Killian, and Marcia Tina Sanders. Investigators believe that the same person murdered the women. The killer was given the name “The Oklahoma City Butcher.” Their murders remain unsolved.

The Victims

Cathy Shakelford

On April 1, 1976, the first victim was found. Three utility workers who were exploring an abandoned house on N.E. 6th, while on a work break, discovered her dismembered body. It was reported that they found a severed thigh and severed head, which was located in a large popcorn bucket. The workers stated that her head had been so beaten that it almost didn’t look like a human head. The murderer had cut a very large smile into her face. Police were immediately called. In canvassing the property, they discovered her torso, but nothing beyond that. Forensic Sculptor, Betty Pat Gatliff, rendered a facial reconstruction of the victim, which was a young, native American woman with curly hair. 

Approximately 17 years later, Andra Medina contacted Sargent Norma Adams of the Oklahoma City Missing Persons Unit. She had explained that her cousin had been missing for years. Her aunt (the victim’s mother) had already reported her missing years prior, and the family had never stopped looking for her. Adams was reminded of a jane doe from 1976 whose picture had been hanging in the police station for years. After an extensive attempt to positively identify the victim, police sent the tooth to the University of California in 1993. They were able to compare the victim’s DNA with that of her older sister. DNA technicians positively identified Cathy Lynn Shakelford as the 17-year-old reported runaway who was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation.

A piece of the victim in a bag (above) Detectives at the crime scene (right).
Arley Killian

Three years later, neighbor children found what the police believe is the second victim. The children were playing basketball in an alley off of N.E. 10th in Oklahoma City, just a few blocks from where Cathy Shakelford had been found. The discovery was made at approximately 7:00 p.m. on April 19, 1979, when the children witnessed one of their dog’s, running in the street with a human head in its mouth. Police and search dogs located more of the victim which had been scattered across the extended downtown neighborhood. What police found even more disturbing was that each body part contained no blood, and each had been meticulously washed. Some parts were wrapped in bags or newspapers. The medical examiner determined she had only been dead for a few weeks. One week later, thru fingerprints, investigators positively identified the victim as Arley Bell Killian, a 21-year-old, native American woman. Although she was homeless, Arley had seen her family only hours before her murder. Despite being identified, the killer continued to scatter parts of Arley’s body for weeks following her initial discovery.

Marcia Sanders

Seven years after the discovery of Arley Killian, another female victim was discovered less than a mile from the neighborhood where Arley had been discovered. On March 6, 1986, Albert Archie, 62, had been walking his dog in his backyard when he discovered the upper torso, lower left leg and additional small pieces in the tall grass that bordered the alleyway behind his house on N.E. 1st Street. The killer had crudely dismembered and washed the victim. Police searched the neighborhood and found nothing more. One week later, just around the corner from the scene, a human head was found burning in a trash can on the street. After canvassing the area, no witnesses were located. Investigators were able to identify the victim fairly quickly due to her unique tattoos, which had been listed in police notations of neighborhood homeless persons. The medical examined positively identified the victim as Marcia Tina Sanders, 22, a homeless, native American woman that police had earlier suspected (unconfirmed) as a sex worker. Police had learned that nobody had seen her the day before her remains had been discovered.

The Ongoing Investigation

Homicide and missing persons investigators have spent over 40 years investigating the gruesome deaths of Cathy Shakelford, Arley Killian, and Marcia Sanders. They have not only looked at each individual case but have questioned what would cause the lapse of time between each murder. At one time, the infamous serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, had confessed to the killings, but investigators determined that it would have been impossible for him to commit the murders. Over the years, police have questioned several persons of interest, but police have ruled them out as the perpetrator. The murder investigations of Cathy Shakelford, Arley Killian, and Marcia Sanders remain open.

Investigators have asked that if you have any information regarding the deaths of Cathy Shakelford, Arley Killian, or Marcia Sanders, please contact the Oklahoma City Crime Stoppers at (405) 235-7300 or at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *