JAY – The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office is launching a new investigative unit aimed at solving recent and decades-old cold cases.
The Reserve Cold Case Investigation Unit is comprised of retired and experienced law enforcement personnel as investigators, said Sheriff James Beck.
“This will be a volunteer program that will use the experience of its members to try and solve cold cases,” Beck said.
Beck, who took over the top law enforcement position in Delaware County in December, said he is committed to increasing services that will provide justice to victims and their families.
Some of the cases Beck is looking into include:
Reed was last seen on Dec. 9, 1987, in the Colcord and West Siloam Springs area. He used three different dates of birth — March 12, 1955; March 31, 1955; and March 21, 1956.
Ball, 60, was last seen on Sept. 27, 1988, in a green Dodge vehicle in the Twin Oaks and Siloam Springs, Ark., area. A search in 2005 tuned up parts of a shoe or boot and an empty brown billfold. Ball was declared legally dead in 1996.
Barbara Ann Johnson-Willard
Johnson-Willard, 29, of Colcord, was reported missing June 17, 1996. Days later, her red Mercury Cougar was found in a ravine on a farm in southern Delaware County. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents recovered skin tissue from the trunk of the vehicle and cigarette butts from the ashtray.
John Lee Weeks, of Gentry, Ark., was charged in Delaware County District Court with first-degree murder. Testimony showed the fingerprints and DNA found in the automobile matched Weeks.
Weeks and Johnson-Willard both worked at Simmons. Weeks’ last day of employment was June 14, 1996 — the last day Johnson-Willard worked. The case was dropped against Weeks, who is serving a sentence in the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kan., on multiple offenses, including aggravated kidnapping, rape and aggravated criminal sodomy.
Peggy A. Sweeten
Sweeten, 52, of Grove, has been missing since Jan. 17, 1998.
James Sweeten filed for divorce on Feb. 9, 1998, three weeks after his wife’s disappearance. Peggy Sweeten did not appear in court for the proceedings and a divorce was granted April 6, 1998, court records show.
James Lee Sweeten, a former Arma, Kanas school superintendent, refused to submit to a polygraph test, according to the search warrant. He also “appeared to be deceptive and evasive” during the interview and was attempting to find out how far the investigation had progressed and what direction the investigation was headed, the search warrant stated.
Coffey County, Kan., court records show Debra Hammond’s divorce was granted April 1, 1998. James Sweeten and Debra Hammond moved in together in June 1998 and were married in December 1998, the warrant states.
Misty Dawn Faulkner
Faulkner, 29, was last seen January 14, 2011, in Eucha, Oklahoma.
After work, Misty contacted her grandmother to tell her that she would go pick up groceries from a Walmart in Jay, Oklahoma before heading home. Her purse, cellphone and groceries were left in the vehicle that was still parked in her grandparents’ driveway. Authorities administered several lie detector tests on a few persons of interest but they have not released the findings from those tests.
Mardeyev, 27, of Grove was last seen on Nov. 29, 2011, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
According to published reports, Mardeyev left his Grove home alone traveling to Tulsa.
His car was parked in front of the Riverspirit Casino for an hour, then it left and was parked again at the Batman Convenience Store. On December 9, his car was towed from the convenience store parking lot where it had been abandoned.
Mardeyev’s keys were in the ignition and his GPS system and expensive sunglasses were inside the car, along with a bottle of Coke and an open bottle of whiskey. His Bible and some paperwork he was filling out for his visa were missing.
He was carrying his wallet, passport, and approximately $3,000 to $5,000 in cash at the time he went missing.
Mardeyev was born in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, which was then part of the Soviet Union. He was in the United States on a work visa in 2011 and lived with his sister and brother-in-law.
He was due to fly to Russia for Christmas but never made his flight.
Teel, 33, of Jay was last seen around Jan. 1, 2017.
He had been staying with his aunt for a few nights before he went missing, according to published reports.
Dameron, 25, who is transgender, was last seen leaving her family’s home near Grove around 3:30 a.m. March 9, 2019. Several searches in the area have been unsuccessful.
Wright, 49, of Grove, died on Jan. 29, 2021.
His body was found in a vehicle engulfed in the Zena area. No arrests have been made in his death.