Gary McIninch was watching the fireworks show with his family on his boat at Lake Eufaula July 4, 2013 when another boater slammed into them.
Gary was thrown overboard and killed. The driver of the other boat left the scene but turned himself in four days later. That man goes on trial this spring.
Gary's widow, Linda said she only wanted one thing of her husband's, the wedding ring she'd put on his finger.
But after months of asking the Medical Examiner's Office for the ring, she was shocked when they finally told her it had been destroyed.
For the past month, Linda and News On 6 have tried to get answers about why and how it was destroyed, but our requests have been denied.
Gary and Linda got a second chance at love later in life. They'd been together for two years—and only married for four months when he was killed.
When the accident happened, Gary threw his body over his granddaughters - saving their lives but costing his own.
"That's the last memory I have of my husband, seeing the fireworks, and then, he's gone," Linda said.
She said she called the ME's office a couple of months later – every month - letting them know she wanted her husband's wedding ring back when they were done with it.
The autopsy records show that the ME's office had Gary's personal effects that included clothes, keys, a pocket knife and a white metal ring - a ring specially made for him.
"We went online and bought gold until we got enough gold to make the ring he wanted, and we went down to a shop in Yukon and had them make it personally for him," Linda said.
She said after calling for more than a year, the ME's office told her to get a letter from the district attorney allowing the ME to release Gary's ring.
The DA sent the letter on December 2nd, 2014, requesting Gary's belongings be released to Linda, but she never heard back.
So in January of this year Linda called again; that's when they told her Gary's ring had been destroyed four months earlier.
"What do you do at that point? What can you do? What rights do I have? The ring's gone. The ring's gone," she said.
Documents dated August 25th, 2014 - 13 days before the ring was destroyed - show Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lieutenant Brian Hale check marked and underlined the section that says, “items no longer needed as evidence, return to decedent's next of kin.”
So, why did someone at the ME's office later write on that same document, “evidence destroyed September 8th, 2014 at 10:45 a.m. by Investigator Dale Gross.”
Lori: "What do you think happened to that ring?"
Linda: "I think somebody took that ring way back when and they've given me the runaround for over a year because they didn't want to tell me. I think they thought I would eventually give up and forget about it. I'm not forgetting about it, that's my husband's wedding ring."
We sent a public records request to the ME's office. They sent us the autopsy and said if we wanted more we'd have to get a court order.
I emailed all nine members of the ME's board of directors and not a single board member responded.
Oklahoma Office Of The Chief Medical Examiner
I was going to attend the board's February meeting, but they canceled it. Then, I was told to get on the next agenda, Linda and I both asked, but we were denied.
I called the investigator who destroyed the ring and he said he could get fired if he talked.
Finally, I called the chief medical examiner and every board member, including the OSBI, and got nothing.
Linda realizes Gary's ring is gone but she wants to keep this from happening to others.
She said suing would cost her more than the ring is worth, and said it was always about the sentimental value to her, not the money.
For now, her family is honoring her husband's memory and bracing for the upcoming trial.
She believes someone will eventually answer for what happened to her husband's ring.
"They're gonna get it one way or another, whether they go to jail or God gets ‘em in the end, somehow, someway, they're going to get it, because they took something from somebody else that was not theirs," Linda said.
The attorney general's and governor's office both said there's nothing they can do.
The ME's office answers to the board of directors, and when I finally heard back from two board members, they said they're not over the day to day operations.
I asked them to put the topic on the agenda and order the medical examiner to answer the questions, but haven't heard back.
Tuesday, the ME's office called Linda and offered her their sympathies, said it was an unfortunate incident, told her they had changed their policies and offered her money.
She told them it had nothing to do with money. She said all she wants is answers, but they still refused to give any.