By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6
PAWNEE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA -- Has evidence in a high profile murder case been mishandled, misplaced or even stolen?
The Pawnee County Sheriff says yes. He says the county issued gun belonging to the late Pawnee County Sheriff Dwight Woodrell has been missing since Woodrell was murdered in 2001. He also says Woodrell's personal gun was supposed to be securely stored as evidence by the Oklahoma State Bureau Of Investigation, but mysteriously got moved.
The Glock-45 was issued to Sheriff Woodrell two weeks before his murder. Where that gun has been for the past nine years and where it is right now is a mystery.
The current sheriff, Roger Price, says he's been trying solve that mystery for years. He says no one seems to care its missing and he doesn't understand why.
Price came into office three years after Sheriff Dwight Woodrell was murdered. A state audit of the office revealed missing items, including Woodrell's duty weapon. Sheriff Price began investigating, since he could be held accountable. What he found makes him believe the gun was stolen, but he says he can't get anyone to listen.
Lori Fullbright, The News On 6: "Why do you think nobody seems to care about this but you?"
Sheriff Roger Price, Pawnee County: "I don't know, I don't know."
Two deputies swear they saw Dwight Woodrell's Glock-45 in his car, under his hand, in his holster, on the night he was murdered, October 13th, 2001.
One deputy wrote it in his statement right after the murder and when asked two weeks ago, again said he was positive. The other deputy had moved away, so Sheriff Price called him and recorded the conversation and he too was confident it was the Glock he saw.
"Are you sure that was a Glock 45 in the floorboard and he said, yeah," Price said. "He said, no doubt."
Reports show two days after Woodrell's murder, the OSBI went to the wrecker yard and inventoried Woodrell's car. There was no Glock 45 found, just his personal gun, a 9mm Smith and Wesson.
"Why didn't OSBI catch that?" Price asked.
OSBI says there was nothing to catch, that the deputies were mistaken. It was dark; they were stressed; they didn't see the Glock; it was never in the car. OSBI says what they actually saw was Woodrell's personal gun, a 9mm Smith and Wesson.
Five months after the murder, the Glock was reported stolen by then Undersheriff Brian Hill who says his boss at the time, Sheriff Don Sweger, told him to do it.
Sheriff Price says the only person who knew the gun was missing at that time, is the person who took it and he believes the evidence points to Don Sweger.
Even Sweger's former undersheriff seems to agree. He is currently in jail in Kansas, but wrote in a statement Sweger is a "diligent firearms collector and would be capable of removing the firearm due to his love of firearms and items associated with historical value."
Lori Fullbright, The News On 6: "If he stole it, you think he should be prosecuted for it?
Sheriff Roger Price, Pawnee County: "Damn right."
Sweger is now Bristow's police chief. He told News On 6 anchor Lori Fullbright he can't remember how he knew to report the gun stolen, that maybe the DA or OSBI told him to do it. The DA and OSBI both say they didn't.
Sweger says he doesn't have the gun, doesn't know where it is and is shocked Hill would say such things about him. And, there's no love lost between him and Price after their bitter election campaign.
Sheriff Price says he contacted the OSBI twice for help with the missing Glock, but they weren't interested.
"Without any outside help, where do I go with it?" Price asked.
The OSBI says Price brought up his suspicions, but embezzlement of a county employee has a statute of limitations of five years and it had already been six.
Price says he has another mystery, this one involves Woodrell's personal gun, the 9mm that was in the car. The OSBI says it gave the gun and other evidence in sealed packages to Price's office in 2006, but when they opened the package, Price says the gun wasn't there.
"Now, I've got two guns I can't account for," Price said.
A letter shows Woodrell's widow has the 9mm. She told News On 6 anchor Lori Fullbright former Sheriff Don Sweger gave it to her in 2003 or 2004. The OSBI can't explain how that could happen, since their records show they had the gun until 2006.
So, the sheriff says once again, the run around and no answers.
"Sounds like everybody's trying to cover everybody's butt is what I think," Price said.
Woodrell's widow believes all this is old news and Price is only bringing it up now as a smokescreen for his own troubles. Sheriff Price has been charged with stealing a trailer and is being investigated by a grand jury.
Price says he's been looking into this case for years and feels he's run out of options, other than going public. He says his questions about the guns have ruffled a lot of feathers and believes those people are now responsible for some of his current troubles.
So, did the killers take the gun from the car that night? Was it never there? Is it in someone's closet as a keepsake? We may never know.
After News On 6 anchor Lori Fullbright's initial conversation with Sweeger, she called him back Tuesday night and Wednesday for more clarification, but he didn't return her calls.