A long week marred by tragedy and fear ended Sunday night when word came that authorities shot and killed double-murder suspect Michael D. Vance, 38, in Western Oklahoma.
It was last Sunday, October 23, when Vance allegedly drove a stolen vehicle to Ron and Kay Wilkson’s house on Covell east of Triple X, brutally killing them before stealing their vehicle. Earlier in the evening, Vance allegedly shot Luther resident Hollie A’Hearn while stealing another vehicle. Prior to that he allegedly shot at two Wellston police officers who responded to a shots fired call, where the crime spree began. A’Hearn and the Wellston officers are recovering.
The search for Vance picked up Sunday afternoon, October 30, with news of a sighting by a farmer near Hammon of the Wilkson’s car hidden in brush next to a field. Reports will fill in the details of the ensuing manhunt. But as Luther waited breathlessly for news, it became apparent through various law enforcement reports from Roger Mills County and others that the search was active and involved Vance.
Between 9 – 10 pm, Vance was stopped in another stolen vehicle and Vance allegedly shot at Dewey County Sheriff Clay Sander and took off. The sheriff, shot in the elbow and shoulder, is expected to recover. A few minutes later and following another pursuit, Vance was involved in another exchange of bullets when he was killed, according to early reports. The shootout involved a Highway Patrol trooper who was uninjured.
With the news confirmed that Vance was no longer a threat, relief swept over Luther. For seven days the town had been on high alert, with extra police presence from OCSO and even federal agents, while the massive manhunt for Vance continued.
Turns out Vance might have stayed in Western Oklahoma all week. There were reports that authorities found his camp site near Hammon, about two hours west of Luther. Hammon is on the border of Roger Mills and Custer Counties.
Last Monday, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said there were reports that Vance could have been driving back to the area, after being spotted at a Sayre truck stop where he allegedly shot someone while trying to steal another vehicle.
Restaurants and other stores in Luther reported some slower business throughout the week, and some public events were cancelled as the week progressed over concerns of safety. On Friday, school let out for the day to accommodate the funeral for the Wilksons at the school auditorium.
At the funeral, Wellston’s Trinity Baptist Church Pastor Lane Buckley comforted the crowd of more than 300 by sharing memories of the couple, the reading of Scripture and giving a challenge to enjoy life, despite the tremendous loss.
“Be big-hearted, kind and gracious and enjoy life. Because we have just one life to live,” he said. He said Ron and Kay loved their four children … but they “really really” loved their 23 grandchildren – who were the apples of their eyes, and gave them the spring in their step.
“Ron and Kay were too young to die. They had much to share. We do not understand why there was a sunset at what was the mid-day of their lives. But we know that God is in control, and that we live in a sin-scarred and sin-fallen world where people needlessly die,” said Pastor Buckley.
If we lived in a perfect world, there would be no need for law enforcement, he said.
Law enforcement put an end to the massive manhunt Sunday night.
Buckley shared Psalm 37:7 with the mourners:
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Be looking for more information Monday on Vance’s capture.