Oklahoma 911 Dispatcher Honored For Her Part In High-Profile Murder Arrest

Monday, October 14th 2013, 11:14 pm

When it comes to catching criminals, seconds count. This week, a Green Country dispatcher is being honored for quickly helping lead police to a suspected killer in a high-profile beating of an elderly Tulsa couple.

Donna Rutherford is this year's state dispatcher of the year.

It's an award she says she is humbled by, and it's a hard one to accept, knowing what brought her to it.

"You take the good, you take the bad and you have so many more good than you do bad in this job," Rutherford said.

She has a way with people, a way of keeping them calm, all while staying calm herself.

"You just take it moment-by-moment. You can't get ahead of yourself, just listen for every bit of the details, ask good questions," she said.

Rutherford has been a 911 dispatcher in Tulsa County going on nine years. In that time she's saved countless lives.

"I wouldn't even start to guess, I've taken thousands and thousands of calls," Rutherford said.

But there's one call specifically that stands out from all the rest.

3/15/2012 Related Story: Tulsa Police Find Car Taken In Brutal Home Invasion

"I want to cry every time," she said.

Bob and Nancy Strait both died last year after they were brutally attacked inside their Tulsa home.

Less than 24 hours after the attack, Rutherford got the call, while the need to catch the suspect was immediate.

"A gentleman called in and he was following the couple's stolen vehicle and he gave us turn-by-turn information, it could have not been better directions. He was attentive to detail," Rutherford said. "It enabled police officers to catch the suspects."

The man on the other end of the line was Harold French.

"I could not hug him and thank him enough," Rutherford said.

French was awarded last year by the Tulsa Police Department.

7/10/2012 Related Story: Tulsa Police Honor Citizens For Courageous Acts

And now Rutherford is being recognized as Oklahoma's Telecommunicator of the Year by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), for the way she handled that call, getting the crucial information that steered police to their suspect.

"We go, 'Yes! We got 'em!' 'Another one bites the dust,' at times," Rutherford said.

Tyrone Woodfork was arrested and has been charged with the murder of Nancy Strait.

Rutherford actually got to meet Harold French, who spotted Woodfork and called 911.

"Many times we have no closure for our calls whatsoever, but this was the one time I was privileged to get the closure," Rutherford said.

As for the award, Rutherford said there are many others who deserve the same recognition.

"I'm humbled. There are so many more that deserve this more than I do. Our hard-working other call takers and other dispatchers here all deserve awards," she said.

Shift supervisor Chris Young, agreed. There is a room full of dispatchers who also deserve credit for the hard work they do, but Young said it just happens to be Rutherford's turn right now.

"Donna's amazing. She is the person you want on the other end of the phone when you have a crisis situation. She's calm and cool and collected. She never misses a beat, she rarely ever gets flustered about anything, so if you ever have an emergency, she's your girl for sure," said Young.


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