A man arrested in the death of a 3-year-old Tahlequah boy has died, according to the Cherokee County District Attorney's Office.
Assistant DA Jack Thorp said Buford Ellison died in the Tahlequah City Hospital. Ellison was arrested, along with his common law wife, Jeri Sanders, after 3-year-old Dakota Sanders was found dead at the boarding house where the couple lived.
An affidavit showed Sanders said Dakota would cry and scream as she tried to put him to bed, causing extreme stress for her and for Ellison, who had cancer. Sanders told police she gave the boy to Ellison to try to get him to sleep. She said when she returned to the room, she found Dakota lifeless, wedged face-first in a recliner under Ellison's arm and body, according to police.
Police said, instead of immediately calling 911, Sanders took Dakota to a babysitter at the rooming house. The neighbor thought he was asleep, but a couple of hours later, saw he was unresponsive and had a manager call 911.
Investigators said the boy showed signs of being strangled or suffocated. It was a case that brought veteran officers to tears.
Ellison had cancer. He was initially booked into the Cherokee County jail, then taken to the Tahlequah City Hospital, Thorp said. From there, he was transferred to St. John in Tulsa, before coming back to the jail, where hospice care was set up for him. His health never improved and he died in the Tahlequah hospital Tuesday morning.
Charges had yet to be filed against Ellison or Sanders when Ellison died. Thorp said he is still working with Tahlequah authorities on the investigation.