By Liz Brewer
FITTSTOWN — Lorena Howry turned a gun toward church-goers Easter Sunday according to witnesses at the Fittstown Methodist Church. The tension had been building for quite some time according to family member Pete Rhynes.
Property lines on either side of the church had been in dispute due to early day surveying errors getting corrected to what the government now says are the true property lines. The road on the west side of the church was being used by church-goers much to the chagrin of property owner Lorena Howry, and she decided to take extreme measures to make her point.
When Gary Johnson drove his car around the west side of the Methodist Church Sunday to park, Howry was pointing a handgun at his car. Johnson rolled down his window and asked Howry to put the gun away, according to the report filed by Deputy Ronald Sites from the Pontotoc County sheriff’s office.
Refusing, Howry reportedly said “I will not,” and told Johnson he was on her property. Johnson said he told her to put the gun away or he would call the authorities, according to the report.
Johnson said Howry then said “Go ahead, but you are going to have a hard time doing that when you are all dead.” Johnson then drove to the other side of the church, went inside and told Oklahoma Highway Patrol Mike Manning about the situation.
Pontotoc County Sheriff’s officers took possession of the small framed Taurus 38. Special and five hollow point bullets.
“It was a bad incident, nobody was right or wrong, it just finally came to a head,” said Rhynes. “It should not have escalated this far and there will be hurt feelings for years to come.” Rhynes said the satellite survey system was causing problems with land owners all over the country, that even the store at Fittstown is surveyed now to be where the middle of the road should be.
Recently a fence that was installed where the old property lines between the church and Howry’s property was taken down, but according to Rhynes, the sheriff’s office advised him to put the fence back up. “I have the utmost respect for our law enforcement officials,” said Rhynes, ”They worked with us on this and they could have put her in jail, but they didn’t. They have to act within the law, but they are smart about it. Due to her age and health problems it could have been real hard on her to be incarcerated. They are letting us take care of the situation.”
The original survey of Oklahoma was begun in 1870 and completed in 1900. This survey was begun at the initial point which is a 14-inch by 14-inch by 5-foot sandstone near Davis. A line was run North on a true meridian, now referred to as the Indian Meridian. Property lines based off surveys made using these reference points are not as accurate as they are today with the use of GPS, the Global Positioning System.
GPS is the only system today able to show you your exact position on Earth at any time, any where, and in any weather. So says the Aerospace Corporation, a 45 year old nonprofit corporation that serves the Air Force in the scientific and technical planning and management of its missile space programs. But ask 84-year old Lorena Howry from Fittstown, how exact positioning has affected her.
Title and boundaries are very essential issues that may affect the rights of a property owner.
When neighbors’ surveys do not agree on the location of the common boundary line, it can be expensive unless an amicable solution is agreed to on a boundary line, with both sides compromising in order to achieve a workable solution. It is common for the parties to agree on a physical object that would serve as the boundary line, and the owner and his or her neighbor would then sign a quitclaim deed to grant the other neighbor ownership to any land on the other side of the agreed-upon line. Other means of dispute resolution can include using a mediator or an arbitrator to help determine a boundary line without going to court. The property owner can also bring a quiet title action in court.
According to Rhynes, attorneys have not been brought in to resolve the dispute or offer advice on whether there are any legal remedies.
By Liz Brewer