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The Mysterious Murder of Sheila Deviney

Updated on April 27, 2015
Oklahoma Sunset
Oklahoma Sunset | Source

Maysville, Oklahoma is a tiny town which only sees run of the mill crimes like burglary and the occasional DUI. The last thing one would suspect in such a picturesque rural community is an act of horrific violence that would not only go unsolved, but reveal glaring inadquacies in the way the county and state handle crimes.

That's exactly what happened in January of 2004, when single mother Sheila Deviney was found burned to death in her trailer home...

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Sheila's story read like the summary to a romance novel: The beautiful small town cheerleader marries her football star sweetheart and settles down to have a lovely family. That's unfortunately where the picture-perfect story ends. Shortly after getting married, Sheila began to experience abuse at the hands of her once all-star husband. The two were in a volatile spiral of physical and emotional turmoil, supplemented by substance abuse.

Eventually, Sheila finally wanted out. She filed a protective order against her husband, divorced him, and moved herself and her children back to her hometown of Maysville, Oklahoma. Things went well for a while, with Sheila getting clean and heading back to school in hopes of getting a better job. Finances were tight, however, especially for a single mother who was not receiving child support.

By 2003, Sheila had decided it was time for her ex-husband to “do right by his children”. After lengthy court proceedings and bitter custody battles, the court was finally nearing a settlement on the matter. On January 5th, 2004, it was revealed her ex would have to pay triple the amount he had been expecting. On January 6th, Sheila was dead.

Crime and Mishandled Investigation

That morning Sheila came home from dropping her kids off at school. Shortly after, someone (or a group of “someones”) broke into her home, subdued her, doused her in accelerants and burned her alive in her trailer.

Things started to get stranger while the house was still smoldering. The Garvin County Sheriff’s office refused to do an investigation, though the circumstances of finding a dead person at the scene should have warranted one. The county medical examiner conducted an autopsy, but did not reveal the results to any law enforcement entity, though it was later found evidence of foul play was indicated through their examination.

The State Fire Marshal’s office insisted that the fire was accidental, while the local Fire Department and Gas Inspector said it was foul play. Even after the State Bureau of Investigation was contacted, they too refused to do anything because of the “contradictive” evidence in the case. It took the Deviney family nearly two years to petition a grand jury to look at this case as a homicide. (Noteworthy: The same officials who mishandled Sheila’s case were also reprimanded by a Grand Jury in another local homicide case in 2009.)

City-data chart for 2004 still shows 0 murders for and 1 arson.
City-data chart for 2004 still shows 0 murders for and 1 arson. | Source

Suspects, Lost Evidence, And Amended Reports

Sheila’s ex-husband, new wife, and brother all pleaded the fifth in front of the court and were never indicted. However, there is strong circumstantial evidence that points to the ex-husband. In addition to the coincidence of the murder occuring the day after the support court hearing, Sheila's family says her ex-husband had made threats to "burn her up" beyond recognition. Additionally, after the case was originally ruled an accident, the ex-husband and his friends and family hastily demolished the burned trailer, destroying what evidence was left.

The grand jury finally ordered an amended death certificate, Fire Marshal’s report, and autopsy that all certify that Sheila’s death was a homicide. What they could not do, at least not yet, was give cause to arrest the people most suspicious in this case. Therefore, many in the area consider the case “unsolved”. Today you still see posters all around Maysville with Sheila’s picture during happier times, promising a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Garvin County Murders - "The Garvin County Three"

Mystery Gets Stranger

One last twist to this tale: The Deviney Family has been reporting from their Facebook memorial for Sheila that someone has been going around tearing down the posters about the case. Someone, perhaps the same person, has also been removing mementos and otherwise desecrating her grave. Private sleuths and reporters also claim they have been followed by unknown cars once they began publicly investigating this case.


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