Oklahoma suburb searching for answers after fatal stabbings

AP News
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Posted: Aug 01, 2015 11:09 AM
Oklahoma suburb searching for answers after fatal stabbings

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) — In the dim of morning, there isn't much to see at the house on Magnolia Court. Garage door's up. There's a Corvette parked inside and a burgundy GMC Yukon XL parked behind it in the driveway.

Police technicians walk briskly through the front door and around the side of the sprawling brick-and-shingle home, which is being lit by a cluster of portable lights. Neon-orange triangles mark evidence on the lawn. Police tape distances curious neighbors who have set up lawn chairs or walked outside in bathrobes.

More technicians glance at a pile in the front yard covered with a silvery-black tarp anchored by a flower pot and a brick, which at first blush looks like an unfinished gardening project.

Helen Hoagland can't stop staring at the lump on the lawn, either. The 88-year-old has lived here pretty much since the development went up in the early 1970s and is the de facto chronicler of most comings and goings. She's been discussing the scene with fellow empty-nesters since 4 a.m.

What they know: Five dead, all stabbed, pretty certain it's the Bever house. Two of the boys, 16 and 18, in custody. But why?

"It's absolutely crazy," Hoagland says, retreating inside.

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Unusual here is when somebody crashes a golf cart or leaves the trash bin at the curb too long. This Tulsa suburb of 103,000 is known for its big families, big churches and big-box stores.

Yet in the days since the July 22 killings, some neighbors have wondered whether they could have noticed signs that things were unraveling.

"Stabbing! Man, they stabbed them!" neighbor Troy DeLarzelere, a 55-year-old landscaper, stammered.

Since 2007, the family of nine lived so inconspicuously that some neighbors would only learn their identities when the medical examiner's office released their names: David Bever, 52; wife April Bever, 44; and children Daniel Bever, 12, Christopher Bever, 7, and Victoria Bever, 5. Two sisters, 13 and 2, survived.

Brothers Robert Bever, 18, and Michael Bever, 16, were charged Friday — the 16-year-old as an adult — with five counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault and battery with intent to kill.

Neighbors recall April walking with the kids, keeping them close together. Many locals said they tried to involve at least six of the children in activities. Hoagland recruited the younger ones to decorate the subdivision entrance for Christmas, but that lasted only two years.

Neighbor Matt Jacobsen, 35, made it a point to walk next door when he saw the introverted 16-year-old pushing a lawnmower, and tried to make small talk. Bill Whitworth's son asked the 18-year-old to ride bikes through the winding neighborhood, but the reply was the same: "That was the unwritten rule: that they wouldn't socialize."

The kids did play, at least by themselves. In the backyard, which is overrun with poison ivy and weeds, sits a faded plastic slide and swingset and a covered-up above-ground pool.

But mainly, the Bevers stayed inside their 2,652-square-foot keep. They were home-schooled and religious, although neighbors didn't precisely know what denomination.

Tamela Massey, David Bever's sister, described them as a "tight, Christian family" who attended services at several area churches, including Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, where David Bever once studied. She disagreed with the notion her relatives were standoffish.

"They were a very quiet and private family and that's the way they lived," Massey said.

Maybe there were signs.

In June, neighbor Tandi Wells was walking with her kids when she encountered the 16-year-old at a corner, holding a bag of soda and chips. Tandi said he would not stop staring; wouldn't say anything, either. The 30-something was so unsettled that she rushed home to tell her husband. "It totally creeped me out," she said.

Then there was the day, weeks before the killings, when retired high school teacher Julie Wallis noticed a disheveled, troubled-looking teenager walking around the block. It could've been either brother, Wallis confessed, but something was definitely off.

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At midday, technicians place blue and black tarps around the mass on the lawn. Two coroner's vans roll up. The daylight reveals what had been obscured the night's shadows: a massive amount of blood on the front stoop, a pair of bodies crumpled on the front lawn.

Days later, teddy bears, roses and children's cards line a small fence on part of the Bevers' front yard. Some balloons are tangled in one of the unruly rose bushes.

The blood has been scrubbed away. Heavy lace curtains are drawn at the front window, and a rusty air conditioner grinds, as if someone is there, hiding from the 91-degree heat. A salamander flits between a cluster of flower pots bunched near the entrance.

There's a sign leaning in the corner of the stoop: Home is Where the Heart is.


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