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Oklahoma Execution Scheduled For Tuesday

Updated:
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ The brutal rape and strangulation murders of two young women in central Oklahoma less than three months apart in 1987 left local residents shocked and investigators searching for clues that would lead them to the killer.

For 10 years, former Norman police detective Allan Dupuis ran through scenarios in his head that might help him solve the Feb. 25, 1987, murder of 28-year-old Jo Talley Cooper.

``We were always trying to look for a new angle on it,'' said Dupuis, 51, who retired from the Norman department in 2002. ``For many years, I'd just park in the neighborhood and see if there was something I missed. You're always looking for something, like the house is going to talk to you. Obviously, it's not, but you're just hoping for something.''

A final chapter in Cooper's murder will be written Tuesday when Frank Duane Welch, 46, is scheduled to die by lethal injection inside the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Welch, who was serving time in prison for a kidnapping charge in 1997, was linked by DNA to the killings of Cooper and Grady County resident Debra Stevens, whose nude body was discovered in her family's home outside Tuttle less than three months after Cooper's death.

Both cases had remained unsolved for nearly a decade, in part because of the random nature of the crimes.

A former employee of a local cable television company, investigators believe Welch wore the company uniform and posed as a worker to gain access to the women's homes.

``There was just no connection we could find until DNA,'' Dupuis said.

While frustrating for detectives, the wait for justice seemed even slower and more painful for Cooper's family.

``That 10-year period was a dark, dark time. All we had was hope,'' said Jeb Anderson, Cooper's younger brother, who lives in Franklin, Tenn. ``But I always knew in my heart, and I think I can speak for my mother and my siblings, we always knew he would be caught.

``DNA caught up with him and science caught up with him.''

Cooper, a native of Okolona, Miss., moved to Norman in 1980 to pursue a master's degree in communications. While living in Oklahoma, she met and married Tracy Cooper and the couple had an infant son, Travis, who was in a room down the hallway from where his mother was killed.

Travis, now 21, lives in Madison, Wis., with his father. In a letter to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month, Travis urged the board to deny clemency for Welch and talked of the pain of growing up without his mother.

``It would be different if my mother would have died of natural causes,'' he wrote. ``It would be different if it was God's will, but the truth is that an evil man named Frank Welch took her life.

``And the unspeakable things he did to her, my mother, is what fills me with anger, the pain, and the loneliness that I feel to this day.''

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