Body Found In A Barrel In Muskogee County

Monday, August 7th 2006, 4:25 pm
By: News On 6

A Muskogee missing persons case ends in tragedy, after the body of a 19-year old girl is found just west of Haskell. A resident made the disturbing discovery on his property Sunday.

As News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin explains, even though the search for Sara Kendall Smart is over, the investigation is just beginning.

Investigators got the call Sunday evening, from a man with land near Haskell. What he told them sent sheriff's deputies rushing to this pond, about five miles west of town. "This is a first for Muskogee County." The new owners were out here trying to clean up the property when they noticed a barrel that had been floating in the middle of this pond washed ashore. Curious, they popped off the lid. They say what hit them first was the smell, then shock at what they'd found. "He thought what was in the barrel was human remains."

Investigators confirmed that much, but couldn't tell much more, whether the body was male or female and how long it had been in the barrel. "At least since January and maybe longer than that. It appears whoever was in the barrel was wearing clothes, the only thing I can say is they were wearing blue jeans, as far as the shirt, pretty discolored you can't really tell what it is."

Detectives began the search through recent missing person’s cases and one name came up, a 19-year old that disappeared, back in January and had ties to the property's previous owner. Late Monday afternoon, dental records confirmed, the person in the barrel was Sara Smart.

Authorities say Smart was last seen with her stepfather, Jerry Raney, a friend of the previous property owner, who had done some work on the land. "Calling him a suspect right now is really not what we're doing, but we definitely want to talk to him and find out what he knows about this thing going on."

Court records show Jerry Raney was convicted in a previous crime. In 1990 he was sentenced to 10 years for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He spent four years on probation. Laura Raney, who is separated from her husband, told authorities she feels she finally has Sara home.