The murders of Taylor Placker and Skyla Whitaker were really the first big story I ever reported on in my news career. Sure I had worked behind the scenes and coordinated coverage of other big events, but this was a case where I got to be on the scene. I knew it was big, in fact, the first story I did was on the national and international attention the case was generating. However as the years dragged on, I did believe it would be a case that would never be solved.
That is until the OSBI announced they knew the gun that killed the girls. They knew it by the make, model and serial number. Investigators would not say how they knew such detailed information without having the actual gun. I did a story that day, the first real break in the case in more than three years. After it aired, I got a call…a tip to look up the name Kevin Sweat.
There was information in forums, bits and pieces…all clues that seemed to tie together every rumor I had heard during three years of covering the Weleetka murders. Sweat was in jail charged with murdering his fiance, Ashley Taylor. It took time, but I was able to contact the family of Ashley. They were hesitant at first to come forward, worried their information could jeopardize their daughters case. However, as information continued to surface they believed Kevin Sweat’s connection to crime could be forgotten…lost in the details of an unknown murder case.
When I first sat down with Mike and Faye Taylor, they were polite and had everything written out for me. When they first met Kevin, what he was like and why they believed he was connected to the Weleetka case. The outcome of these meetings resulted in a series of stories (Link 1) and (Link 2).
When the OSBI announced they were formally charging Kevin Sweat with the murders of the Weleetka girls, I was relieved. Relieved that nearly two months after the OSBI used every media outlet in the state to belittle my work, I was proven correct. I was relieved that this 3-and-a-half year nightmare was coming to an end for the Placker and Whitaker families. I was also relieved that the Taylors were ultimately vindicated. They too had felt pressure from officials to back off, go away and shut up. They refused. They would not be silenced. If anyone asks me who the heroes are in this case I say Mike and Faye. They didn’t back down when their daughter disappeared, they didn’t stop when investigators told them their daughter’s case was ‘just a missing persons case.’ They dug for the details and confronted the man they believed was guilty and he gave them answers for questions they didn’t ask. Answers they would later share with the OSBI. Answers that ultimately led investigators to question Sweat and get a confession about what happened on that rural road in 2008.
The questions are not over and the answers will come. The questions that remain include when and what did the OSBI know about Kevin Sweat. The director says they knew nothing that would have prevented Ashley Taylor’s death. However based on what Kevin told the Taylors, it appears there could be much more investigators knew. Why did all three of these girls have to die? So many questions.