By JOSH NEWTON
Investigators are still trying to piece together the mysterious death of a 38-year-old Northeastern State University professor who was found dead in her Tahlequah home May 31.
Authorities say Dr. Tiffany Rene Maher failed to show up at an academic conference in Kansas where she was scheduled to speak. An NSU police officer discovered her body at her home in the 100 block of Kupsick.
Court documents indicate Maher’s home had been set on fire from the inside.
Details in a court document filed by Tahlequah Detective Jeff Haney indicates the person who tried to set fire to Maher’s home also tried to burn her body.
Haney said there were no other obvious signs of injury when Maher’s body was discovered.
“We got the call that she was found on a Friday, but we believe she had been deceased for several days,” Haney said Wednesday. “Since her signs of death were not obvious, we are having to wait for a report from the state medical examiner.”
Haney and Detective Elden Graves are meeting with officials from the state medical examiner’s office as the investigation progresses, Haney said. A formal report has not been issued.
“We believe there are people out there who know more about this,” Haney said. “Some people we can’t find, and they need to come forward. They may be thinking we will call them to talk with them, but some people we may just not know about. There could be someone out there who knows more about [Maher’s] relationships, her past friends, the extracurricular activities she participated in, maybe someone she had an argument with – anything that could be beneficial. We need them to call us at (918) 456-8801.”
Haney said investigators have talked with a lengthy list of people who knew Maher, including her family members, her friends, her acquaintances, her ex-boyfriends, members of the church she attended, and her co-workers.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people, but there’s just nothing solid that has developed from that yet,” said Haney. “At the same time, we do feel we have a direction we’re going with this case. We don’t want to be narrow-minded or have tunnel vision, but we do feel like we have a direction to go in the investigation.”
Haney said there were no signs of forced entry into Maher’s home, leading investigators to believe the last person in her home was likely someone she knew. That person also likely took Maher’s vehicle, Haney said.
Maher’s car was missing from her residence when her body was found, and was later discovered in the Broken Arrow area.
Investigators aren’t sure how Maher’s car ended up at the same apartment complex where some of her family members live. The car was located in an area where Maher’s family wouldn’t have seen it, according to Haney; they instead learned about its discovery when they arrived home and saw a television station’s helicopter hovering over the area. A resident at the apartment reported the car to police when he saw its description on a TV news report.
“We just don’t know why it was there,” said Haney.
Court documents also indicate other “electronic equipment” may have been taken from Maher’s home.
Detectives and agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation have been scouring Maher’s phone records and text messages for any information that might give them a new lead in the case.
“There are thousands of [messages] to look through, just as there would be with almost anyone who has a cell phone and texts,” said Haney.
OSBI officials are analyzing computer data, detectives said. Agents with the OSBI have filed at least two search warrants related to their investigation, but both were sealed from public view by a judge.
“If you know anything about [Maher], or have any information that could help in this investigation, please don’t wait for us to call you; we may not know you,” Haney said.
“Call the police department and if you want, you can remain anonymous.”