Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

November 20, 2013

EVENING UPDATE: Documents detail death of boy

TAHLEQUAH — *Updated at 5 p.m Nov. 20*

Tahlequah detectives believe a 3-year-old boy suffered a “heinous” death Tuesday morning at the Stepping Stones Rooming House on East Chickasaw Street.

Now, the boy’s 36-year-old mother, Jeri Danyce Sanders, and her common-law husband, 49-year-old Bufford Ellison, are accused of murder.

Associate District Judge Mark Dobbins bound over Sanders and Ellison Wednesday morning. Sanders said nothing as Tahlequah Detective Chris Boals read details of the investigation from an affidavit.

Ellison was unable to appear before the judge. First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp said Ellison has Stage IV cancer and is hospitalized.

“He has a collapsed lung, and is having serious physical issues,” Thorp said. “I have been told by medical personnel at Tahlequah City Hospital that [Ellison] has one week to live.”

According to Boals’ probable cause affidavit, Sanders was interviewed Tuesday after Tahlequah firefighters and medics responded to Stepping Stones Rooming House.

Sanders said her son, Dakota, had been suffering from insomnia for several weeks, and would scream when he was put to bed. The screaming caused her stress and agitation, she told detectives.

“She advised it was to the point they had been talking about giving Dakota away to a family member because they could no longer deal with him,” Boals’ affidavit says.

Sanders told detectives Dakota was up until about 3 a.m. Tuesday. He eventually fell asleep, but awoke at around 5:30 a.m. and began to scream. By 7:30 a.m., Sanders had “reached her limit,” Boals’ report says, so she gave the boy to Ellison and left the room because she “couldn’t take it anymore.”

When Sanders returned to the room about 15 minutes later, Ellison seemed to be sleeping in a chair, and the child’s body appeared to be face-first in the recliner, under Ellison’s body. Sanders told detectives her child appeared “lifeless,” and she knew, in the back of her mind, that the boy was dead. But she left him in that position until about 9 a.m., when Ellison placed the boy onto the floor.

Sanders said she carried the child’s “lifeless body” to a neighbor’s room across the hall at about 9:30 a.m. Boals’ report says the neighbor had agreed to baby-sit the child. Sanders allegedly placed the boy into a bed with the baby sitter, and went back to her own bed to rest because she needed some “alone time.”

The baby sitter believed the child was sleeping until she tried to wake him around 11:30 a.m. The manager of the rooming house then called 911.

Boals said he tried to interview Ellison, but the suspect claimed he needed to “protect [my] rights.” According to Boals, Ellison claimed he had “watched all the police shows so I know what’s going on.”

Boals said he didn’t question Ellison, but overheard him telling Sanders he couldn’t say what had happened because he needed to protect his rights, and that he “was just stressed out.”

“[Sanders] never showed any emotion about her son’s death and seemed only concerned about Ellison not going to jail and making sure she got his check cashed,” Boals wrote. “The EMS and firemen [who] were on scene prior to my arrival stated while they were trying to revive Dakota, [Sanders] was sitting in a chair, texting and talking on the phone.”

During questioning, Sanders allegedly told detectives Ellison would use a broom handle to hit the 3-year-old as a form of discipline.

Detectives said Sanders’ room at the facility was “deplorable,” littered with food and cigarette butts, and “thousands of roaches on every surface and item in the room.”

According to Boals, Sanders also admitted she never tried to take her son to a doctor while he suffered from insomnia. Sanders and Ellison are recipients of SoonerCare, food stamps and disability, and could have received free medical care for the boy, detectives said.

The official cause of Dakota’s death will be determined by the state medical examiner’s office. Police Chief Nate King said the initial investigation leads detectives to believe the boy was suffocated or strangled.

Sanders, a daycare worker, is being held without bond.

According to Thorp, an agreement was reached Wednesday evening to release Ellison from the county jail’s custody through a personal recognizance bond.

Ellison will be given an ankle monitor – though he is unable to walk, according to Thorp – and must remain in the hospital. If Ellison becomes eligible for release from the hospital, prosecutors will ask for a new bond hearing to have him put back in jail, Thorp said.

The decision to give Ellison a PR bond is meant to keep the county from paying Ellison’s medical bill, which could reach $250,000 or more under the current prognosis.

Ellison was scheduled to be moved from Tahlequah to a Tulsa hospital Wednesday afternoon.

“We don’t want the county to pay for this guy’s death,” Thorp said.

Text Only
Local News
  • ts-marching-MAIN.jpg Marching in step

    Tahlequah High School Orange Express Marching Band kicks off 2014 season with summer drills.

    The Tahlequah High School Orange Express Marching Band has added 30-35 freshmen to its roster this year, and drills began for the newest members last Thursday.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • studie-roberta.jpg Woman accused of stealing cash, taking it to casino

    A 35-year-old Tahlequah woman is free on bond after she allegedly took $1,200 from a man who had been jailed for old warrants.
    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies said they spoke with Jason Jones last week after Jones was arrested by park rangers for the outstanding warrants. Jones said he came to Oklahoma to see family, and when he was arrested, he left his wallet and cash with one of his daughters.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-Hepatitis.jpg Hepatitis vaccinations important today

    The phrase “back to school” may be disdained by kids for many reasons, including a trip to the doctor’s office to update immunizations.
    But hepatitis cases in Oklahoma provide a good example of why these vaccinations are important.
    “There was a time when Hepatitis A was just crazy in Oklahoma. The state was actually known for it,” said Becky Coffman, an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma Health Department’s Acute Disease Service.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • hood-raymond.jpg One man caught, another sought after foot chase

    Two people tried to escape sheriff’s deputies, and one was successful, after a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 62 last weekend.
    Deputy Bryan Qualls was on the highway when he noticed a red Chevrolet Avalanche matching the description of a truck that had been spotted at the scene of a recent burglary.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Detectives investigate deaths of two elderly residents

    Incident may be murder-suicide

    Tahlequah police detectives believe the deaths of two elderly Cherokee County residents are part of a murder-suicide that took place July 24-25.

    July 29, 2014

  • ts-Tax-free-main.jpg Shopper's delight

    Tax-free weekend coming up Aug. 1-3, just in time for back-to-school savings

    Attention, shoppers: Oklahoma’s Tax-Free Weekend is coming up, beginning at 12:01 a.m., Friday, Aug. 1.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • ballard-amanda.jpg Woman pleads no contest to molestation

    A Tahlequah woman accused of having more than 20 sexual encounters with a 13-year-old boy has pleaded no contest in exchange for a 15-year prison sentence, though 10 years have been suspended.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-arch-society.jpg Archaeologist: Spiro Mounds may have been ancient music haven

    People gathered from across the country at the “center of the universe,” bringing with them different styles of music and instruments, each thought to have its own power and importance.
    This could be the description of a modern music festival, but to Jim Rees, it is a picture of the Spiro Mounds 1,000 years before Columbus came to the Americas.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Two headed for trial for conspiracy to kill judge and others

    Two of the four people accused of conspiring to kill a Cherokee County judge and several other targets were bound over for trial Friday following a preliminary hearing in Tahlequah.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman accused in embezzlement sought for arrest

    Court officials have issued a bench warrant for a woman who previously pleaded to embezzling more than $40,000 while she worked for Tahlequah attorney Park Medearis.

    July 28, 2014


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating