Murder Mystery: Terror in Tulsa, Conclusion

 

In 1975, Texas and Oklahoma lawmen were investigating a rash of animal mutilations, particularly cattle mutilations. Farmers and ranchers were having the same problem in other states, too. Colorado experienced almost 200 such incidents between April and October of that year. The Tulsa Police Department (TPD), however, reported mutilations of a very different nature. Those mutilations were performed on humans.

In February, Geraldine Martin, 28, was the first Tulsan to suffer a grotesque death at the hands of a serial killer with such a sickening signature. He disfigured Martin’s breasts. Three months later, Marian Hope Rosenbaum, 16, met a similar fate. In August, Suzanne Oakley, 24, was the only one of the three victims not mutilated, but cops thought the killer might have been scared off. Then, the murders ended–– at least in Tulsa. TPD Detective Mike Huff spent the next 27 years of his professional life hoping to find justice for Martin, Rosenbaum, and Oakley.

 

Nov. 1, 2002, in Tulsa began with fog and drizzle, the sky as thick and gray as mushroom soup, but by day’s end the gloom had departed.

 

“I … remember [that] Friday afternoon,” Huff said. “Bob Anderson called from El Cajon, California, and said, ‘Hey, I think we’ve got a suspect for you in your Geraldine Martin case.’ That was an extraordinary day. After the adrenaline finally drained, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief.”

Detective Bob Anderson had been working several cold cases when he came across a series of burglary/homicides linked to a suspect named Clyde Carl Wilkerson, who was a long-haul truck driver. Anderson created a timeline showing where Wilkerson had lived and worked through the years. DNA had already proved Wilkerson’s guilt in the El Cajon murder cases. Anderson conducted research on the internet and contacted any towns that had unsolved murder cases matching Wilkerson’s modus operandi and occurring when he lived or worked in the vicinities of the crimes there. Cases that had obtained and kept DNA samples from victims and crime scenes were solved amazingly fast.

 

“We were fortunate to still have Geraldine’s father alive,” Huff said. “He lived in Conway, Arkansas, and had struggled every day [of] his life from 1975 ῾til 2002 when we made that arrest, trying to understand what happened to his daughter. His life was just in shambles. And we went to his bedside, where he was literally on his deathbed, and gave him the news. Shortly thereafter, Geraldine’s father passed away.”

 

“Authorities looked at an almost exact replica of the Martin and Rosenbaum cases in Indiana during an era when Wilkerson was there,” Huff said.

 

READ ALSO: Murder Mystery: The Path of a Psychopath, Pt. 1

 

As a truck driver, Wilkerson had been through all the continental United States. Huff and other detectives believed he had murdered at least 15 people. If there was pin placed on a map for every place Wilkerson had been when a torture/mutilation slaying occurred while he was there, you would need an enormous supply of pins. Wilkerson had a record, going back to his youth, when his crimes were mostly break-ins and thefts. Once he started killing, he escalated quickly. He was a sexual sadist, raping his female victims and then mutilating their genitalia or leaving their bodies in degrading, obscene positions.

 

In El Cajon, California, in 1965, he raped and strangled 19-year-old Cheryl Burnett with a curtain cord, while her infant son was asleep in the next room. Wilkerson had covered her face with ladies’ underwear that didn’t belong to her. He rummaged through the place before leaving last rite candles burning around the victim’s body. As a final gesture of contempt, he inserted a candle in the woman’s vagina. Unaware that DNA evidence would exist in the future, he left a little of himself at the crime scene. 

 

Two weeks later, Wilkerson was burglarizing an El Cajon apartment where he struck and killed the 62-year-old tenant, Louis Mercer, and sexually assaulted Mercer’s 57-year-old wife, Lola. She suffered brain damage, and her husband succumbed to massive head trauma. Wilkerson had hit the man over 20 times with a wrench. Neighbors heard Lola Mercer’s screams and intervened, which undoubtedly saved her life. DNA evidence was retrieved again.

 

In July 1965, Wilkerson attacked a nurse in her home in La Mesa, California, near El Cajon. As in his previous assaults, the violence was extreme, and the victim barely survived. A neighbor jotted down the license plate number of Wilkerson’s vehicle because the neighborhood had been plagued by prowlers in recent weeks. Police traced the tag number to Clyde Carl Wilkerson, who was later identified in a lineup. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

 

On Jan. 25, 1976, Wilkerson raped a young woman at knifepoint after she had stopped at a telephone booth in Judsonia, Arkansas. For some reason, he let her live. She was able to give police a description of Wilkerson and his car, and they caught him. He was incarcerated for about eight years before being paroled. Two years later, he was arrested again for assault in Texas. He was back behind bars in July 1987 for selling a controlled substance.

 

Altogether, Wilkerson served stretches in prison totaling over 15 years. His known crimes at that time included rape, burglary, assault, selling drugs and violating parole. 

 

But no one knew – no one could imagine – he thoughts that dwelled in the deepest, darkest depths of his deranged mind, nor that he had acted out those thoughts. Some serial killers hang onto trophies, and Wilkerson was fixated on women’s breasts. He cut off and kept the areolas and nipples of some of his victims.  

 

In 2002, FBI agents nabbed Wilkerson in Little Rock and obtained a saliva sample by collecting envelopes he sealed during his work for a trucking firm. DNA from his saliva linked Wilkerson to the 1965 killings. At the time of his arrest for the El Cajon murders, he was running a meth lab in his Benton, Arkansas, home. Aged 63, he waived extradition to California where he pleaded guilty to the slayings of Burnett and Mercer. After later confessing to strangling Geraldine Cornwell Martin, he received two life sentences and died in prison on July 12, 2016. 

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE:   My dear readers, this is my last article for AY. I have enjoyed bringing you true stories of mild-mannered murders and mysteries of the macabre. I’ll miss you. Good luck, so long, and remember … don’t walk down any dark alleys alone! 

 

READ ALSO: Murder Mystery: Terror in Tulsa, Part 1