Article 15: February 2022
Locals voice frustrations at MCSO’s search efforts
By Chris Willingham
After having been last seen Feb. 5, Alyssa Walker-Donaldson, 24, was found dead, submerged in her car Thursday afternoon in Broken Bow Lake.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol dive teams pulled Walker-Donaldson’s vehicle from the lake and her body was inside, just off the lakeshore from a boat ramp.
Officers said there were no immediate signs of foul play, but a full autopsy and toxicology will be performed by the state medical examiner’s office.
The discovery of Walker-Donaldson’s vehicle Tuesday night was made by a search party made of citizen volunteers.
Hochatown business owner Brad Pennington first sighted Walker-Donaldson’s vehicle underwater from a plane Tuesday night and a large crowd of family and friends quickly gathered on the lake shore.
Sheriff Kevin Clardy listened to frustrations of the crowd as they begged for a diver to ID the body believed at the time to be inside the vehicle.
Clardy said they had no choice but to wait for an OHP dive team Wednesday morning, to prevent any potential evidence being disturbed.
“Guys, I have talked to the FBI. If there is foul play, the FBI has agreed to take this case, but we’ve gotta cross our T’s.
That’s the reason the OHP is bringing down a special team of divers and investigators,” Clardy told the crowd of about 50 people Tuesday night on the lakeshore.
“Since 7 or 8 Monday night when I found out about this, I haven’t been home. We’ve been working major cases. I’ve got three escapees.
“I just left Eagletown and was in an active pursuit with Donnie Kale Middlebrooks in the Tablerville area and then I came straight here,” the sheriff said.
As many voiced frustration of lack of effort in the search by the sheriff’s department, Clardy attempted to calm the emotional crowd.
“I’ve had my guys here 24/7 since she went missing and we’ve watched thousands of hours of video. We’ve pulled video from every store up here,” he told the crowd, as seen from a family member’s Facebook Live video obtained by the newspaper.
“I knew her vehicle had to be in this area; that’s why we’ve had airplanes in the air and drones.
“They’ve been doing that for two days. We’ve been up here, you may not have seen us, but we’ve been here the whole time, actively searching,” he said.
The large group of family and volunteers assembled Tuesday night were not the only ones frustrated with the sheriff’s department.
There were hundreds of comments, voicing anger and disappointment on the sheriff’s department’s Facebook page.
A local fireman reached out to the newspaper Wednesday after spending the day with a group of approximately 150 volunteers, who came to Hochatown to help search, but had no direction from officers.
The fireman, who was off-duty and volunteering his time, admitted he had not read the newspaper in a long time and didn’t know about any of the sheriff’s controversies this newspaper has covered since November.
However, upon arrival Wednesday morning he said he could quickly tell something was very wrong.
“I could sense a breakdown of communication when I got there,” he said.
I visited with (Walker-Donaldson’s) family and no one had contacted them and kept them informed.”
“I listened to (radio) chatter and realized the sheriff’s office had issues with this and the escapees at the same time, meanwhile, this girl is out there somewhere.”
“I was just in pain watching that mother sitting there with nobody providing leadership. She was just sitting there crying. It was pitiful,” the fireman said.
“She was sitting there, not knowing what’s happened to her daughter, and nobody has talked to her.”
The fireman said with no direction by law enforcement to begin searching, the large crowd began calling every state official they could think of.
“We’ve got local citizens they need taking care of and there’s not one officer around. If this was my daughter, I can’t even imagine it,” he said.
The fireman said he called one elected state official from this district who “told me the sheriff himself had told him it was all taken care of. He said he didn’t need any more resources here.”
“Something is wrong with our county. McCurtain County deserves better than this. I’m pissed off and something has to give,” he said.
Many Hochatown businesses did everything they could to help the search parties, with local businesses providing water, coffee and free meals for the groups.
A fund has been setup to help Walker-Donaldson’s family with expenses. Donations may be made at any McCurtain County National Bank location.