Wednesday, September 30, 2020

County Man Hit With Weapons Charge

A Sequoyah County man was charged Sept. 20 with possession of a firearm after former felony conviction, court records show.

Justin Dean Austin, 42, who was convicted of second-degree burglary in 1996, faces up to 10 years in prison on the charge. His case is set for the felony disposition docket at 9 a.m. Dec. 2. His bond was set at $10,000.

Around 8 p.m. Sept. 19, a Sequoyah County Sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to a Muldrow residence in reference to a verbal altercation that had occurred and where shots were reportedly fired.

When he arrived at the scene, the deputy met with a female, who informed him that they had stopped to confront their neighbor, later identified as Austin, about leaving their motorcycle and SUV partially blocking the roadway. She said that while they were speaking with Austin, his friend shot a gun in their direction and when they took off toward their house, the friend kept shooting in their direction.

The reporting female further informed deputies that her husband began walking toward Austin’s residence to confront him about the shooting while she called 911.

Two deputies then drove to Austin’s residence where they found the suspect in a small box trailer. 

Austin told the officers that he was speaking with his neighbor about the parking issue when a friend of his, whose name he could not remember, had grabbed some fireworks and shot them off. Austin admitted to having a .40-cal. pistol in his trailer
Austin was placed under arrest because of the altercation. He asked the deputies to close and lock his trailer with the padlock from the outside. A look inside the trailer revealed a red blanket covering a portion of the front corner of the trailer. A deputy spotted a wood stock of a rifle leaned against the wall. He moved the blanket and discovered a Remington Model 514 rifle. He also found several buckets with marijuana growing inside.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Greenleaf’s Trunk of Treat Set for Oct. 24

Greenleaf State Park is hosting its 3rd annual Trunk or Treat celebration on Saturday, Oct. 24. The fun will begin with a carnival and trick-or-treating at 6 p.m. in the marina parking lot, followed at 7 p.m. by a haunted hayride.

After the children get oodles of tantalizing temptations, there will be games and face-painting set up beside Trunk or Treat. Hayrides are available afterward for $5 each ride. There will be one ride for the young ones that isn’t too scary, but there will be a Haunted Hayride for those brave enough to venture out. 

Campers are free to put a light out at their campsite and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters and anyone wanting to set up and hand out candy is asked to call Kristen Perry at

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Sallisaw City Hall and Police Dept. to Close Offices Due to COVID Concerns

The City of Sallisaw will close public entry into city hall and the police department beginning Tuesday September 29.

“Out of precaution due to increasing COVID concerns and the need to keep city services protected as much as possible, we are again limiting public access to city hall and the police department,” stated Keith Skelton, City Manager. “In addition we will be making adjustments to our field crews to keep all employees as healthy as possible. This action will remain in effect until further notice.”

The City encourages all customers to utilize online payment tools for payment of utility and DiamondNet bills. The drop box in front of city hall is also available for payments. If a customer needs to discuss services or other topics, they can call city hall at (918) 775-6241.

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Muldrow Middle School Wins 2020 Blue Ribbon School Award

Muldrow Middle School has been named a 2020 recipient of the National Blue Ribbon Schools award, which recognizes schools on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Muldrow Middle School is one of 367 schools in the nation, and six Oklahoma schools, that received the honor in 2020, Superintendent Ron Flanagan said Monday.

Flanagan noted that the school’s award was made possible because of the staff and teachers who have joined forces to make sure the school year goes off without a hitch.

The school received a commendation letter Sept. 24 from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, which reads “Congratulations on your recognition as a 2020 Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School.” DeVos’ statement added that “the U.S. Department of Education acknowledges students’ success as an inspiring example of how teachers, parents and community leaders can work together to help students prepare for what comes next.”

“Congratulations on your recognition as a 2020 Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School! The U.S. Department of Education acknowledges your students’ success as an inspiring example of how teachers, parents, and community leaders can work together to help students prepare for what comes next,” DeVos’ letter continued.

DeVos praised the school’s administration, teachers and staff, saying, “Our country needs more dedicated educators like you. It is my hope that you will become a beacon for other educators, working with them, and sharing the practices that make your students so deserving of this national recognition.”

DeVos’ letter also said, “A world-class education must be available to every young person if our nation is to meet the challenges of the future—and of right now. Great school leaders pivoted and kept learning going for their students as health realities disrupted everything.”

Because of state and local restrictions on in-person gatherings to quell the spread of the coronavirus, the 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools awards ceremony will not be held in person as previously planned. There will be a virtual recognition ceremony Nov. 12-13 to celebrate the Muldrow Middle School’s success.

The list of all 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools is also available on the U. S. Department of Education’s website, and National Blue Ribbon Schools website at

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Commissioners Discuss Purchases, Auction Items

The Board of County Commissioners for Sequoyah County met at their weekly meeting Monday to discuss several vehicle purchases.

The commissioners unanimously approved the awarding of a bid for the purchase of a truck for the Sequoyah County Assessor’s Office. The panel also awarded a bid to purchase three or more cab-and-chassis for Sequoyah County District 1.

The commissioners also approved a Purple Wave Auction Agreement with the Sequoyah County Health Department on condition that the equipment has been declared as surplus.

The commissioners spent the bulk of the meeting discussing the upcoming sheriff’s auction, which will feature several vehicles seized in drug arrests. For the auction, the panel approved declaring as surplus quite a bit of equipment and other items to be sold.

The panel also approved a transfer of appropriations from the District 1’s maintenance and operations account to its capital outlay account, and they transferred appropriations from the county’s general personal service account to the county’s general maintenance and operations account.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Friday, September 25, 2020

The Outdoors are Always Open; Archery Season Opens Oct. 1

While certain fall activities may be more limited this year due to Covid 19, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation reminds hunters that the outdoors are always open. With Oct. 1 marking the first day of several archery seasons across Oklahoma and the Wildlife Department encouraging hunters to harvest more antlerless deer, it could be a perfect year to focus on bowhunting.

The deer archery season is the most popular archery season in Oklahoma, with a record 113,000 archery hunters bringing home 30,748 deer in 2019-20. It's also one of the most widely available, running Oct. 1 - Jan. 15, 2021. Deer archery season is open statewide, with a season limit of six deer. New this year, regulations on some public hunting lands have been changed to mirror statewide regulations, and a new rule is now in effect regarding the importation of deer and elk carcasses and carcass parts into Oklahoma from surrounding states.

Deer archery season coincides with turkey archery season, and it's common for deer hunters to head to the field along with the proper fall turkey license in case they get a chance to harvest a turkey while deer hunting.

For a rundown on deer, turkey and other big game archery seasons opening Oct. 1, including elk, black bear and pronghorn, check out this new post on the Wildlife Department's blog, the Outdoor Oklahoma Journal.

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CN Hosting Virtual ACT Boot Camp

Cherokee Nation Foundation is offering a free virtual ACT Boot Camp on Friday, Oct. 16, for Native American students preparing for the national exam in December. 

“The landscape of education is changing, and our students are facing new and complex challenges as they prepare for their futures,” said Janice Randall, executive director for Cherokee Nation Foundation. “We’re thankful for quality partners like MasteryPrep, who share our passion for education and help extend vital programs to our students. The ACT Boot Camp is perfect for students just getting started with the ACT as well as those looking to perfect their score.” 

ACT Boot Camp is led by MasteryPrep, an organization dedicated to building students’ confidence on test day by providing essential test-taking strategies and skills. Instructors guide students through content strategies for all four subjects and administer practice tests to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses. 

The deadline to register is Oct. 11. Students interested in the course can call the foundation at 918-207-0950 or apply online at

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One Dead, Five Injured After Thursday Crash

A two-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday at approximately 4:54 p.m. left a Gore man dead and several others injured.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) report, the collision occurred at Highway 64 and County Road 4490 South approximately two miles west of Vian.

Travis Tullos, 31, of Gore, was driving a 2003 Toyota Corolla and was pronounced dead at the scene by Pafford EMS.

Alicia Hernandez, 30, of Vian was driving the second vehicle involved in the accident, a 2006 GMC Sierra 1500. Hernandez was transported by Air Evac to St John's in Tulsa with head and arm injuries. She was treated and released.

Four juveniles from Vian, who were all passengers in  Hernandez's vehicle, were also injured. 

A 14-year-old female was transported to St. Francis by Muskogee County EMS with minor injuries. She was treated and released.

A 9-year-old female was transported by Mercy Life Flight to St Francis where she was treated for minor injuries and released.

Two three-year-old males were transported to St. Francis by Pafford EMS where they were treated for minor injuries and released.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

It's unknown if Tullos was wearing his seatbelt. Hernandez and two of the passengers in her vehicle were wearing seatbelts. Two of the juveniles were reportedly not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident. 

The OHP was assisted by members of the Sequoyah County Sheriff’s Office, Pafford EMS, Muskogee County EMS, Gore Police department, Vian Police Department, and Vian Fire Department.

 KXMX News Staff

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Cherokee Nation Reservation Now Visible on Google Maps

Image of Cherokee Nation reservation now on Google Maps.

The Cherokee Nation’s reservation boundaries are now mapped on Google Maps.

“After the monumental US Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v Oklahoma, we’ve had many questions about our reservation boundaries, which always existed on paper maps. Now that our reservation is labeled on Google Maps, it’s easy for people around the world to search and see our reservation boundaries,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. 

The Cherokee Nation reservation boundaries include 7,000 miles in northeastern Oklahoma.

"Google Maps aims to provide the freshest, most accurate map possible. In response to July's Supreme Court decision, we worked to evaluate authoritative data and then used this information to add labels and borders for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole reservations to Google Maps. These reservations are now viewable and searchable on Google Maps," Raleigh Seamster, program manager for Google Maps said.

Cherokee Nation citizen Joseph Erb provided feedback about the reservation mapping project, which includes mapping for all Five Civilized Tribes.

“It is an exciting step forward to be included on the map,” Erb said. “This is a visual reminder that our nation is still here and a contemporary Indigenous nation of Continent.”

The link to the Cherokee Nation reservation on Google Maps can be found here:

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Three Plead Not Guilty to Drug, Gun Charges

Three area residents pleaded not guilty Sept. 16 to three felony counts, including possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm after former felony conviction and grand larceny, court records show.

Charles A. Ortega Jr., 30, of Sallisaw; LeeAnn Renee Elkins, 33, of Muldrow; and Jose Guerrero, 33, of Roland each face years of imprisonment in the Department of Corrections on each charge, as well as hefty fines.

According to a police report, on Sept. 5, a Sallisaw Police Department lieutenant was working at the police department when a dispatcher told him a Greenwood Police Department officer wanted to talk to him on the phone. The Greenwood officer told the lieutenant the GPD was working on a burglary and that the suspects may be from Sallisaw.

The Greenwood officer described the car the suspects were in, but SPD officers didn’t recognize it. The GPD officer provided the names of C.J. Ortega, LeeAnn Elkins and a juvenile.

The SPD officer knew that Ortega and Elkins both had ties to Sallisaw and had lived there in the past. The GPD officer said the burglary occurred around 11 p.m. 

The Sallisaw police lieutenant had received information in the past week that Ortega wanted to harm law enforcement if they made contact with him. A short time later, the officer went to Ortega’s mother’s residence and spoke with her. The woman told officers that her son was staying at a trailer park west of Sallisaw, so law enforcement went to that location. 

The police found that Ortega and Elkins had been staying there but were also staying at a Sallisaw motel. The officers went to the motel and found Elkins.

The officers heard a clanging sound coming from the room, as if metal, possibly guns, being tossed and striking one another.

Police gave several commands for the person inside the room to come out and finally Elkins came out of the room. She said Ortega had left to go to Walmart with her little sister. When asked again if Ortega was in the room, she said he wasn’t there.

The officers entered the motel room and found no one else inside. They then asked Elkins to come back inside the room and read her the Miranda Warning. The officers told Elkins they were looking for possibly stolen guns and Elkins gave them permission to search the room.

The search uncovered an orange medical marijuana container that had multiple baggies with a white substance inside them. The officers also found a bag with a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol that matched the description of two of the three guns stolen from Greenwood. Elkins was then placed under arrest.

As the officers continued to press Elkins, she admitted that Ortega was hiding in a room a few doors down. Officers made entry into that room and discovered Ortega lying in the floor on the opposite side of the room from the entrance. A female was lying on the floor beside Ortega. 

Ortega was handcuffed without incident. He had several warrants in Sequoyah County for traffic offenses.

More drugs and paraphernalia were discovered in the room Ortega was hiding in. The officers contacted the GPD and an officer there was sent to Sallisaw to interview the suspect.

Ortega’s next court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 23. Elkins is due in court at 9 a.m. Sept. 30, and Guerrero is to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 30.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Okie-Arkie Cloverleaf Trail Ride Scheduled for Oct. 14

When fall arrives, the fun begins with the Okie-Arkie Trail Ride’s Oct. 14 Cloverleaf Trail Ride near historic Dwight Mission and Marble City.

Glen Dale Woody is the current trail boss. Robert Vinson, assistant trail boss, said Wednesday that the 48th annual, 100-mile event will take horse riders from north of Tahlequah on Highway 10 near Hanging Rock all the way to Fort Smith, Ark., over six days. Once the riders get to Fort Smith they will take part in the Old Fort Days Rodeo parade, Vinson said.

Vinson said the event would not be possible without the landowners who allow riders to travel on their land, especially the late Leland and Jana Choate (below), who were “instrumental” in keeping the event going. The couple passed away in July, Vinson said. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without everyone’s help.”

The late Leland and Jana Choate hand-in-hand 
during one of their many trail rides together.

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, riders and their horses will assemble at the Choate residence, which is 9 miles north of Sallisaw and 3 miles south of Marble City. The ride-out time will be at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14. Riders are asked NOT to camp at the Choate residence before Sunday, Oct. 11.

Breakfast and dinner in camp will be catered by Happy Belly’s BBQ. Lunch and snacks will be available on the trail as well. There will also be a small service honoring the Choates.

A potluck supper will be held Saturday evening, Oct. 17. The Okie-Arkie Trail Ride, Inc., will furnish the meat, beans and vegetable for the meal, and riders are asked to bring breads or desserts. Everyone is asked to bring their own silverware and plate.

The following rules and regulations will be in place:

*No stallions will be permitted on any ride

*No one is allowed to pass the pacesetter without permission from the trail boss. No rough riding and no passing on the trail is permitted without permission. Trail courtesy will be strictly enforced

*The trail boss, Robert Vinson, and camp boss Corky Culbert and their assistants have absolute authority

*Children 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult member who will assume responsibility

*No intoxicating liquids on the trail, no littering and no blocking the trail, no ropes and no guns. No dogs or pets of any kind

*The Okie-Arkie Club shall not be responsible for accidents or theft

*All camp areas must be clean before leaving them

*All camp activities will cease by 11 p.m.

*No rider age 18 or younger participating in any Okie-Arkie Trail Ride, Inc., function shall use any hard-and-fast restraint equipment to secure themselves to their equine and/or saddle in any manner

*There will be NO leading of riderless horses on the trail except in the case of an emergency.

For more information or to find out how to become a member, call or write Debbie Dilbeck, (918) 637-4280 or P.O. Box 95, Porter OK 74454. You may also visit the Okie-Arkie Trail Ride, Inc.’s Facebook page.

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

New OSU Extension Ag Agent Joins Sequoyah County Team

Todd Trennepohl, OSU Extension Agent

The OSU Extension is welcoming Todd Trennepohl as a new agriculture agent in Sequoyah County.

Trennepohl, a former Warner resident and a married father of three, has worked with the Extension service for the past six years and serves Woods, McIntosh and Muskogee counties.

Trennepohl, who is waiting for the budget to be finalized before he will be able to spend time at the Sequoyah County office, said he will do most of his work from the Muskogee County office until that time. He noted, however, that Sequoyah County residents can always reach him at his Muskogee office and he can still take soil samples, forage samples, answer questions and more for residents in Sequoyah County. 

After going to college to become an agriculture teacher, Trennepohl said he wanted to give back to those communities that helped him so much when he was growing up. He said he especially enjoys working with 4-H groups and giving younger folks the same opportunities he was given.

To contact Trennepohl or the Muskogee County Extension office, dial (918) 686-7200 or email him at

Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Voter Registration Deadline is October 9

Friday, October 9, is the last day to apply for voter registration in order to be eligible to vote in the November, 3 General Election, Sequoyah County Election Board Secretary Cindy Osborn said today.

Osborn said that persons who are United States citizens, residents of Oklahoma, and at least 18 years old may apply to become registered voters.

Those who aren’t registered or need to change their registration may apply by filling out and mailing an Oklahoma Voter Registration Application form in time for it to be postmarked no later than midnight Friday, October 9.

Osborn said applications postmarked after that time will be accepted and processed, but not until after the November 3 election.

The County Election Board responds in writing to every person who submits an application for voter registration. The response is either a voter identification card listing the new voter's precinct number and polling place location or a letter that explains the reason or reasons the application for voter registration was not approved. Osborn said any person who has submitted a voter registration application and who has not received a response within 30 days should contact the County Election Board office.

Oklahoma Voter Registration Application forms are available at the County Election Board office located at 110 E Creek St. in Sallisaw  and at most post offices, tag agencies and public libraries in the county. Applications also are available online at

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DPS Extends Expiration of Commercial Driver Licenses

The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) is further extending the expiration date of all Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs), Commercial Learner Permits (CLPs) and federal Department of Transportation medical certifications that expired on or after March 1, 2020. CDLs, CLPs and medical certifications that expired on or after March 1, 2020, will be extended and considered valid until Dec. 31.

This decision comes after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) granted a similar extension giving drivers with expired CDLs, CLPs and medical cards extra time to get them renewed.

DPS offers online renewals for CDLs and CLPs. Customers can complete the application by going to and clicking on “Online Services.” They can also find a link at as well. Customers will have to create an account at To use this service, the customer’s previous renewal must have been made in person. The only exception to this is customers (including spouses and dependents) who are active duty or civilian contractors with the Armed Forces of the United States. A customer may only renew or replace their driver license if their driving privilege is in good standing and Oklahoma address is correct and current. 

A customer may use this procedure to renew or replace a Class D license, ID card or a CDL or CLP. Renewals may be made up to one year early. Replacements can be obtained any time during the four-year period the license is valid. 

Customers choosing online renewal will be able to pay online by credit card. The new driver license or identification card will then be sent to the customer by mail.

There is a small service fee to be able to do this online. Class A and B CDL renewal is $59.41. Class C CDL renewal is $49.51. Replacement for Class A, B and C CDL is $26.65. Those prices include the renewal fee, convenience fee and postage.

If drivers want to get a REAL ID, that requires an in-person visit. More information on REAL ID can be found at

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Cherokee Heritage Center Postpones Reopening

The Cherokee Heritage Center has announced the postponement of its planned reopening this week. Operations were temporarily suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus health crisis and were slated to resume Sept. 18.

Before reopening, however, a team member tested positive for COVID-19.

“Our team has been working hard to reopen to the public and bring back the same authentic, immersive experience our guests have come to appreciate,” said Paul Buckner, the CHC’s interim executive director. “While we’re eager to welcome back our guests and get back to doing what we love, our first priority is and always will be the health and safety of our team members and guests.”

CHC is working closely with health and tribal officials. After an evaluation from the Public Health Contact Tracing team, it was determined that there was no risk of exposure to other team members because of the current mask policy and potential exposure time.

The heritage center has opted to temporarily postpone its public reopening out of an abundance of caution to allow for additional testing and to thoroughly sanitize the facility, ensuring the safety of its team members and guests. A reopening date has not been set at this time.

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