- Ada, Oklahoma

December 30, 2013

A look back at Ada news in 2013

Brenda Tollett Associate Editor

Ada — Weather played a major role in headlines for The Ada News in 2013. Ada was spared the brunt of a huge winter storm bearing down on Oklahoma from the Great Plains in late February. However, other areas in central Oklahoma were left with more than a foot of snow in some areas. Oklahoma utility companies reported nearly 50,000 customers were without power. Roads and airports across the state were closed due to blizzard-like snow and ice.

In late November, Pontotoc County was again brought to a halt with rain, sleet, snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Many schools, businesses and government offices were closed for almost a week because of the icy roads and freezing conditions.

Local residents were stunned by a series of tornadoes that ripped through the Moore, Oklahoma City and El Reno areas in May and June. While Ada received no major damage during these storms, area residents were not unaffected. Many of them had family, friends or property in the path of the EF-5 twister that killed 24 people, including 10 children (including the grandson of an Allen couple). The storm also injured 377 people and destroyed 1,200 homes.

In addition to weather woes, Ada residents were hit hard in January with influenza. Urgent Care of Ada reported in January it had documented approximately 150 cases of confirmed influenza since September 2012.

A government shutdown in October caused problems for people who needed basic government services or planned a recreational outing to government-funded parks and lakes. Businesses such as Arbuckle RV Resort in Sulphur who rely heavily on tourist attractions were severely affected. The Lake of the Arbuckles is part of the Chickasaw National Recreation area in Sulphur, which closed when the federal government partially shut down. The shutdown prompted park rangers to block access to recreational areas — including the lake — and post signs announcing that the park was closed until further notice. The park’s website was down and employees were furloughed. Visitors could not hike along the trails of the park, eat lunch in one of the picnic shelters or fish in the lake.

In October, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board imposed new limits on the amount of water that can be taken out of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer each year.

The board voted to set the aquifer’s maximum annual yield at 78,404 acre feet. The order will allow communities and landowners who hold water permits to withdraw up to 0.20 acre feet of water - about 2.4 inches - per acre per year.

Ada paid tribute to several community leaders who died in 2013, including Bill Gray, former Ada fire chief and mayor; David Brown, former lieutenant governor of Chickasaw Nation; and former state Rep. Bob Plunk.

On July 1, Valley View Regional Hospital became Mercy Hospital Ada. A lease agreement between Mercy and Valley View Regional Hospital’s board of directors gave Mercy full operational authority of the hospital. As part of the transaction the community hospital adopted the name Mercy Hospital Ada.

For the second time since December 2012, East Central University campus was rocked by the murder of one of its students. Christopher Lane, a 22-year-old Australian national, died after being shot in the back Aug. 16, in drive-by shooting at Duncan. Three juveniles, ages 15, 16, and 17 were charged in the murder of Lane. One of the juveniles told police he randomly shot and killed a jogger “for the fun of it.”

In April, prosecutors in Pottawatomie County asked for the death penalty against Jerrod Murray, 18, Asher. Murray was charged with first-degree murder in the Dec. 6, 2012, death of Generro Sanchez, 18, a student from Stuart who attended East Central University in Ada. Police affidavits allege Murray committed the murder to see how it would feel to take someone’s life, a Pottawatomie undersheriff wrote. Other students were targets as well, police allege.

A man convicted of kidnapping and killing Donna Denice Haraway while she was working an Ada convenience store in April 1984, has gained the attention of Oklahoma Innocence Project. Attorneys with the organization are now representing Karl Fontenot, one of two men convicted in Haraway’s murder.

Fontenot has been in prison for the past 28 years, serving a sentence of life without parole.  His application for post-conviction relief was granted in October.

Pontotoc County District Judge Tom Landrith ordered “hundreds of documents” the Oklahoma Innocence Project says were never disclosed in the case to be turned over to the court by Dec. 31.

According to Oklahoma Lottery Commission a Powerball ticket worth $2 million was sold at D&W Quick Stop in Ada.

Several area teams won state championships in 2013.

Latta Panthers won their first school’s first-ever boys basketball state championship in March. During the same tournament, Sulphur Lady Bulldogs captured the Class 3A State Championship with a 30-0 record. Ada High School boys golf team won the Class 4A State Championship.

Ada High School boys tennis team won the Class 4A State Championship.