I’ve been diligently covering the story about Seminole County Sheriff Joe Craig since he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor alcohol charges on Feb. 6. The sheriff has vowed not to step down from his post before the next election in 2012 despite calls from county leaders asking him to resign. The Oklahoman has various stories that Ann Kelley and I have written about the situation, and we are working daily to keep apprised with what is going on in Wewoka.
I was bound and determined to find the minor girl mentioned in Craig’s guilty plea and hear her side of the story. It was the part of the puzzle that didn’t quite add up. Tracking her down wasn’t too hard, either. With a little savvy and understanding of how teenagers work, the Internet has most certainly made a once large world much smaller and more connected. I was able to reach her, and with a few assurances and tearful exchanges, I set up a time for us to visit.
I met her at a country home near Seminole. It was small and quaint on the inside, but with all the necessary accoutrements of a home: Nuzzling puppies, shag carpet that makes one want to grab a pillow and sleep on the floor, and a blazing space heater near the rear of the room to keep everyone warm and comfortable.
She was helping attend to her little cousin, and in a few instances on the audio recording you can hear her cooing and speaking with the other adult in the room about boots and horses.
The backdrop was normal, comfortable Oklahoma. I sat and spoke with the girl for nearly 2 hours Feb. 17 in addition to a 45-minute interview I did with her the night before. Much of her story was painful and she choked back tears. At other times, anger seemed to boil up from the bottom of her small frame as she talked through her relationship with Joe Craig.
It was a relationship. He’s since likened her to a granddaughter (see link below), and she’s known him since she was a kid, she told me. They’d go to horse auctions together; he’d call her up and take her places like senior citizen dances in Ada. So she didn’t think anything of it when he called her the day the accounts turn sour and foggy.
In television interviews, Craig decried not being able to give his own granddaughter a drink, likening it to speeding. He also denied driving with an open container despite having pleaded guilty to doing so in court.
Today, The Oklahoman editor Ed Kelley didn’t beat around the bush. Like the Seminole County Commissioners, he called for Craig to step down.
We’ll keep following the story.