Audit finds 125 guns missing from Claremore museum

Wednesday, June 14th 2006, 10:29 am

By: News On 6

More than one hundred weapons missing from a Claremore gun museum.

Authorities say mismanagement by the museum director may have allowed the guns to be stolen.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin uncovered the details of special state audit.

The State of Oklahoma began investigating the JM Davis Museum when two of its guns were found at crime scenes, one in another state.

Now a special state audit is complete, accusing the director of offenses ranging from misuse of state money to failing to account for all the guns.

It's a piece of Oklahoma history, but now more than a hundred pieces from inside it - some potentially deadly - are missing.

Rogers County District Attorney Gene Haynes says, "It appears that proper inventories weren't done to make sure that they were safe."

The investigation began last year when the son of a museum employee was caught entering the building in the middle of the night and arrested for burglary.

That combined with the discovery of two musuem guns in the wrong hands caught the eye of authorities who confiscated records and launched a special state audit.

Of the more than 13,400 weapons in the collection, 125 have disappeared.

The audit found donated guns were not properly recorded or clearly described.

Often index "tags were attached to the wrong firearm" and "a current inventory of all firearms was not maintained."

But it's not just guns missing from the museum. Auditors found cash donation deposits often coming up short and state money used for mis-documented purchases and travel expenses.

Instead of the required two signatures, they found "numerous checks written from petty cash that had only one signature" - either museum director Duane Kyler, or account clerk Linda Slatton, accused burglar Michael Slatton's mother.

"We really don't have anything specific to tie him to any particular gun... obviously he would be a suspect," says Haynes.

But he says Slatton likely didn't have the access needed to take so many guns over time.

Someone else did, but authorities don't know whom.

The district attorney says it's too early to tell if any criminal charges will be filed in this case, but it's clear something's been going on inside that building, possibly for many years, that's only now coming to light.

Haynes suspects an employee or volunteer but no one person in particular.

He says, "Because it's just too hard to identify who may have been responsible over such a long period of time."

The DA still needs to review the audit report, then make a decision on any charges.

The museum director isn't talking tonight, but a commission member told me they are concerned about the missing guns. He said at this point no one at the museum is being fired.

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