Excavation Site May Yield New Clue In Tulsa Cold Case

Wednesday, June 9th 2010, 5:00 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6    

WAGONER COUNTY, OK -- A 2002 cold case has new clue. A tip led police and archaeologists to excavate a site where Latricia Fipps may have been buried eight years ago.

That's when she was reported missing and hasn't been seen since.

News On 6 Crime Reporter Lori Fullbright has covered Tricia's case since it happened and interviewed her mother a number of times. As police are digging for answers, her family has come to terms with the idea Tricia is most likely dead, but, they want her to be buried properly and in peace. If she is in a clandestine grave in Wagoner County, at least they could bring her home.

Grad students from the University of Oklahoma's archaeology department have the painstakingly slow job of removing thin layers of soil from what might be a shallow grave. A tip led officers to the location, and then ground-penetrating radar showed some type of anomaly under a concrete slab, so they've removed it and are now digging.

The archaeologists are looking for changes in the soil texture and color.

"Natural soil tends to occur in layers," said Kent Buehler, archeologist. "When you dig a hole in the ground, you jumble those layers and when you fill it back in, you put the jumbled dirt back in the hole so instead of nice layers, it's a jumbled mixture."

Tricia Fipps has been missing since November of 2002 when she was working and told her family her ex-boyfriend was going to bring her home. He says he dropped her off, but, her family says she never showed and they knew something terrible happened when she didn't pick up her adopted children from daycare.

Police say they want families to have the answers they so desperately crave.

"It's extremely important to us," said Jason White, Tulsa Police Detective.

"We don't forget about any of these cases that are unsolved, we continue to work on them. However, they go cold sometimes but there's not statute of limitations on murder."

It's a slow, delicate process, so it could take a couple of days to know if the location is Tricia's final resting place. If it is, then forensic anthropologists will try to determine how she died and even look for clues as to who killed her.

Tulsa police want to thank the Wagoner County Sheriff's office, Patricia Adams for the use of cadaver dogs, the Cherokee Nation for the radar equipment, the International Cold Case Association and the OU scientists, all who have donated their time to this project.