Tahlequah Daily Press

November 23, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Accused killer released from hospital


TAHLEQUAH — The accused killer of 3-year-old Dakota Sanders is back in the Cherokee County Jail this morning after his release from St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa Friday night.

Jack Thorp, first assistant district attorney, confirmed this morning that he learned Friday evening Buford Ellison was about to be discharged.

Thorp had helped broker the deal to allow Ellison a bond so he could be hospitalized, a move that would save the county more than $250,000 in medical care. Thorp had agreed to the arrangement based on information from Tahlequah City Hospital personnel suggesting Ellison, who is riddled with cancer, had only about a week to live.

When the District Attorney’s Office was alerted about Ellison’s upcoming hospital release, Thorp filed a quick motion to revoke the suspect’s bond. A judge signed an order granting the request, and set a hearing for 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Thorp himself went to St. John’s and remained in Ellison’s room to ensure the suspect did not leave. At about 7 p.m., Ellison was whisked into a sheriff’s patrol car and returned to the Cherokee County Jail.

Thorp says he’s now received “two very different stories” about Ellison’s health condition and imminent death. Since opening the initial investigation into the homicide, Thorp has learned that up until the child was killed, Ellison had been able to occasionally walk and watch TV, and was going to cancer treatments outside of Stepping Stones, where he had been living with the child’s mother, Jeri Sanders.

Sanders and Ellison have both been charged in the boy’s death at the rooming house, which now faces closure by city officials. After a neighbor alerted authorities, Dakota was found dead in the apartment of a baby sitter. Authorities described conditions inside the facility as “deplorable.”

An employee with a local hospice told the Press late Friday night that St. John’s had contacted that agency about placement for a “non-insurance patient.” The employee said the hospital indicated the patient would be staying “in the home of a friend” until he could be admitted to hospice care Saturday morning. However, when contacted to make transfer arrangements, the alleged “friend”  told the hospice, “No way he is staying with me; he killed that little boy.”

The hospice, upon realizing the patient was Ellison, declined to take him.