The 1980’s was an odd time. I spent my childhood being a wild and crazy kid in Choctaw Oklahoma. I lived just a few houses down from our school and it was common, especially on football game nights, we would walk with friends down to the local plaza, hang out, and then return back to the school to watch our schools football team. For me, it was a way to hang out with friends without so much parental supervision. There were times that I didn’t get back until late at night, my parents never worried so much even though the TV’s were always reminding them to check to see where we were.
I tell you all this because today’s story happened just a couple of miles from where I went to school. In Midwest City Oklahoma, 1984. For those of you who don’t already know this, OKlahoma is a big Football state and Midwest City Schools were always a big football team. Thursday September 27th ended up being a dwery day but the football season was just heating up so many students were excited about the coming game. One of those students was Jenipher Junaell Gilbert, who went by the name of JJ to her school friends and falcity. JJ was a cute 12 year old middle school student who was known for her intelligence and kindness. She surrounded herself with great friends and although she was quiet spoken, her friends would have nothing but nice things to say about her. This year she was in the pep club and was ready to cheer on the team.
That day, Principal Larry Springfield told the members of the Pep club that they didn’t need to attend today’s game due to the dismal weather conditions. But to his surprise, JJ was the first girl in line to purchase and pick up her scarlet and gray pep club uniform.
Before the Game, JJ and some of her friends went in early to hang out with the team before they had to go onto the field. For many of them, this would be the last time they would get to do so.
It’s amazing what can happen in a blink of an eye and with so many people around. This gae was attended by over 500 people. People who were Fans, Parents, Students, Teachers, Off Duty Police Officers. But only a few witnessed what happened.
By all accounts, everything at the game went fine, after the game, nothing would ever be the same.
What was planned for that night was that JJ’s step father was going to pick her up right after the game. Jerry arrived and when he pulled up to the school’s parking lot, he decided that he was going to circle around and come back due to so many parents already there to pick up their kids.
I don’t know if you remember what it’s like to pick up children, but it can be a nightmare. Even today, going and getting your kids from a school event can be a mad house so I totally don’t blame Jerry for this.
Jerry came back around and JJ was nowhere to be seen. Jerry waited and waited and soon he was one of the last people there. He knew something was not right, this was not like JJ at all.
And so the parents contacted the police that night.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a kid that was missing and not know what to do other than call the police. There one time in my life that I can remember where I felt so homeless and needed to find my child. I was at work when my wife called me and told me that my daughter was not at the child care place that she went to after school. They tell her that she never got off the bus. So they just thought she was sick or something and didn’t call us. So here it is, hours later and I have no clue where my daughter is. Well, we ended up taking the bus that came to our neighborhood with a friend and went to her friend’s house that was just down the road from our house. So by the time we get home, she’s waiting at our house because she was done playing with her friend.
This family however, was waiting overnight with no idea where their little girl was. They had no clue if she were in danger or if she were safe or not. Sadly, in this case she was not safe at all.
The Midwest City Police and the Jr. High worked quickly together with trying to figure out what happened to JJ. The Principal talked to all of the kids over the school’s intercom system and told them that JJ was missing since the game and that they needed to know if anyone had any information on JJ’s movements after the game. 20 students in all came forward with what they knew of what happened. One story that was given to authorities was that after the game, JJ walked out front where the parents typically come up to pick up their kids. She talked to friends while waiting and said she spotted her Step Father. She then started walking to the front of the main building to be picked up. Another student came forward with some more detail, he stated that he saw someone pushing a struggling JJ into a car and then they drove off together. Although this student would be the only one to report such a thing, it was quite possible his account was true.
The next morning, several youths were headed down a country road in Harrah Oklahoma, just 10 miles from the Midwest City Jr. High. And they saw something odd on the side of the road. To their horror, it was the semi nude body of a young girl. They quickly alerted police. It wasn’t long for the police to figure out who this was. It was sweet, innocent JJ.
When police arrived, JJ was only wearing her bra and underwear that was pulled down to her knees. Police believed that she was not murdered at this location, but was dumped here.
To support this theory was that it looked like at one time JJ had been bound and gagged. She had several marks around her wrists and face that should suggest that she was kept alive for some time and was restrained in some fashion.
The Family and School were alerted the same day to the discovery of JJ’s body. It was tragic. Friends of JJ were interviewed by the local news and many of them had wonderful things to say about JJ. Some of the students didn’t want to be identified due to the nature of the killing. This was now a town that had a murderer on the loose and everyone feared that he would strike again.
Saturday, September 30th, just a couple of days after the abduction, the police had this to say in a Daily Oklahoman Article. (Breakthrough seen in Slaying – read first three paragraphs.)
Now, this seems like not a lot of information here, but reading between the lines. They have some clues they are following that ls leading them somewhere and they have possibly found some evidence. Also, since the discovery of the body, the medical examiner was trying to figure out the cause of death. It seems that at this point, JJ was believed to have been strangled and possibly sexually assaulted.
One of the main talking points during this time was how can something like this happen to anyone when the school should be one of the safest places for our kids to be at. The school’s response to all of this is that there is no 100% full proof way to protect everyone at the games. What Midwest City did for security at the time was to have as many teachers come to the games along with two off duty police officers. Together, they would keep an eye on things as best as possible. Other schools in Oklahoma reportedly did the same or similar. Bill Bradley The Nichols Hills police chief was interviewed by the Daily Oklahoman and had this to say about it. “I think that we are afraid to meet the problem head on. Talking to a 12 year old about being abducted; being sexually abused and being killed is very uncomfortable. But it is necessary. Children should be educated, make the child aware of becoming a victim, tell your children to always stay in a group. Children are curious, they are more vulnerable when alone.
As a parent you don’t want to scare your children. But, you may do more harm than good if you don’t teach them about the dangers that are in this world. So many kids, even today, think that they are invulnerable. They think that there is nothing in this world that can harm them. But the sad truth to all of this is that there are people out there that will take advantage of children, they will harm them, they can kill them. What Chief Bradly said 30 years ago stands even truer now than ever. Kids have more access to the outside world with the help from technology. Make sure you are constantly checking their devices and keep your children safe.
Now, Thursday night, the same night as the abduction, a man just a half mile from the Midwest City school reported that his car was stolen. The next day his car was found two miles from the school. The only problem was, someone was driving it. A man with a colorful history of violence.
Next week we will move forward with this case. Join us as we delve further into the background of this mystery man who has attacked before…. Did he do it again?