Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

November 22, 2013

Requiem for a free spirit

More than 70 show up for prayer vigil for Baby Dakota

TAHLEQUAH — Community members gathered Thursday night to search for answers surrounding the tragic death of a 3-year-old boy named Dakota.

Most who attended didn’t know the toddler, but nevertheless shed tears over his loss.

“I am reminded that we do live in a sinful world that is very dark at times,” First Baptist Church Pastor Buddy Hunt told the crowd of more than 70 people, who gathered for a vigil in honor of Dakota. “Let us remind ourselves that as children of God, we are the light of the world.”

Dakota was found dead Tuesday morning at the Stepping Stones Rooming House. His mother, Jeri Danyce Sanders, and her common-law husband, Bufford Ellison, were later arrested on complaints of first-degree murder.

Detectives learned Dakota had been living in “deplorable” conditions before he died, according to court documents. Some neighbors told authorities they had suspected the boy was being abused. There’s no record any reports were made to authorities, however.

Marsha Taylor and Cassie Vance helped organize Thursday’s candlelight vigil. Taylor didn’t know the young boy, but said the story of his death moved her to action.

“This event started because a few of us wanted to honor Dakota, and to give him in death what he did not get in his short life,” said Taylor. “I’m humbled by the support of this amazing community. We are not defined by tragedy, but by the love and strength we show every day.”

Vance, who did know Dakota, shared memories of a happy child who would often tell exciting stories.

“Dakota was kind of a free spirit,” said Vance. “He had no boundaries. He played all the time, was a joyful kid. He would sometimes just run and jump in my lap and smile at me. When he was telling a story, he was into it. He was just so happy, he’d go on and on about it.”

Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King encouraged the community to fight for the city and its children. He acknowledged the community isn’t bullet-proof, but said it’s necessary to take a stand.

“There really are no words to describe the feeling many of us are going through right now,” said King.

“The senseless death of Dakota has us scratching our heads and questioning humanity as a whole. However, I look out and see all of you, and I know humanity is still good. Tahlequah is still good. Most of you did not know Dakota; I didn’t know Dakota. The thing is, we don’t need to know Dakota to care for what happened to him. We don’t need to know about each other to care about someone being wronged.”

King said it is unfortunate Dakota lost his life before others knew of his situation.

“Could any of us have stopped this heinous crime if we had known Dakota beforehand? We’ll never know,” said King. “But I challenge each and every one of you to be more perceptive about your surroundings, to notice what’s going on and not be afraid to step up for the weak. Sometimes that may be the only voice they have.”

King read from the New Testament, quoting Matthew 5:21, which speaks of murder and judgment. He also quoted Romans 12:14-21, which says to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

“I’ve seen many things in my time in law enforcement that don’t make sense,” said King.

“We’ll never find those answers as to why. Our anger will not bring Dakota back to life, and it won’t punish his murderers any more. These people will be accountable for their actions both on Earth and before God.”

King encouraged the community to turn its sadness into motivation.

“We must use it to make us better parents, better husbands and wives, better brothers, sisters and friends; better people,” said King. “We will never forget Dakota; we mourn for him. Help make this tragedy something positive not only in our life, but in our community. We cannot give up.”

GET INVOLVED

Community members can donate to the “Benefit Fund for Baby Dakota” at any BancFirst location in Tahlequah to help pay for burial costs and a headstone.

jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

1
Text Only
Local News
  • CN, UKB battle over trust land application

    Two Tahlequah-based tribes presented oral arguments Friday in a protracted fight over a land-in-trust application.

    Over the course of five hours, attorneys for the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation Entertainment and the Department of the Interior made their cases before Northern District Judge Gregory Frizzell in a hearing that was originally scheduled for February.

     

    July 25, 2014

  • ts-NSU-Main-1-a.jpg No NSU pool, for now

    NSU experiencing delays in fitness center construction

    Earlier this month, Northeastern State University announced it is experiencing delays in the renovation of its fitness center and pool.
    The facility was officially shuttered Sept. 17, 2012, and at the time, the projected completion date for renovation was this fall.

    July 25, 2014 3 Photos

  • jn-Suspect-1.jpg Officials: Images of suspects may help nab church burglars

    Cherokee County investigators hope surveillance footage captured around the Crescent Valley Baptist Church in Woodall helps lead to the suspects accused of breaking into the complex and setting fire to one building this week.
    According to Undersheriff Jason Chennault, cameras captured footage of two suspects on bicycles early Tuesday morning, July 22.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • svw-movie-night.jpg Local library hosts family movie night

    Nova Foreman and her two daughters were about to leave the Tahlequah Public Library Thursday, when they saw the Family Movie Night flyer.
    The three decided to stay and enjoy a movie they had not yet seen at the free, theater-like event.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-Keys.jpg Grant to fund stepped-up Keys PE program

    Kair Ridenhour’s new office is filled with pedometers.
    Ridenhour officially started his new position as assistant elementary principal at Keys Public Schools on July 1.
    But his other role at the school – that of physical education project coordinator – prompted the influx of pedometers.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • jn cvbc fire.jpg Church catches fire after burglaries

    Authorities are looking for the person accused of breaking into the Crescent Valley Baptist Church two times this week and likely causing a fire that damaged the youth building early Wednesday morning.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • svw Humane photo.tif More volunteers needed to house strays, help with spay-and-neuter

    Furry friends may seem like the perfect addition to round out a family.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marijuana, seeds lead to four arrests

    Four people were arrested on marijuana related charges early Wednesday morning after a traffic stop on South Muskogee Avenue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Sex offender found living in tent at river

    Cherokee County sheriff’s investigators arrested a convicted sex offender this week when they discovered he has been living in a tent along the river.

    July 24, 2014

  • ts-NSU-MAIN.jpg Fledgling RiverHawks arrive

    Over 200 incoming freshmen took part in orientation class at Northeastern State University

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

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

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites
Stocks