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News veterans remember the Sirloin Stockade Murders 40 years later

OKLAHOMA CITY - It was known as the crime that made folks in Oklahoma City start locking their doors. The crime was known as the Sirloin Stockade Murders.

Back on July 16, 1978, Roger Dale Stafford, his wife and his brother went into the restaurant and ordered six employees - four of them teenagers - into a meat freezer, shooting all of them at point-blank range, execution style in the head. It was Oklahoma's first mass murder.

"It was just stunning and shocking," said Kevin Ogle.

"That was one of the biggest homicides that took place in this part of the country in several years" said Oliver Murray.

The two TV veterans were talking about one of the biggest news stories in state history.

"The biggest thing we had going at that point was tornadoes... not a homicide on that large of scale," Murray said.

Murray was in his mid 30s and working as a photographer at KFOR. He said the fact the victims were young and just doing their jobs made the reality of the situation hard to swallow.

"Especially when you talking about young people - I believe several of the people that was found in the meat locker that day was maybe still in high school or just come out of high school," he said.

Murray said the media coverage of the event brought the brutality of the crime home like never before.

"This was one of the first trials, if not the first trial, that took place in Oklahoma County where a camera was allowed in the court room," he said.

"It was a really strange time around here," Ogle said.

He was a 20-year-old college student in the summer of '78.

"My girlfriend, at the time, who is now my wife, we were watching that and just couldn’t believe it because nothing like that had ever happened like that in Oklahoma," he said.

Ogle said the crime not only made people lock their doors but it also pushed some to think about their own protection.

"I gotta tell you, people were afraid until Roger Dale and his wife were caught. I remember a lot of people loading up at the home to make sure nobody did that to them," he said.

Ogle remembers going to the popular steakhouse chain himself. The familiarity of the place made the crime all too real.

"A lot of people went to the Sirloin Stockade and, for it to happen at a place like that and the way it happened - herding everybody back into the freezer and killing them, it was just shocking," he said.

The killers were captured days later thanks to a drunken phone call Roger Dale made to the OSBI.

Roger Dale was later linked to another crime, the murder of an Air Force couple and their young son in Purcell. He was executed in July of 1995.

Verna May Stafford, his estranged wife, is still alive, serving out her sentence at Mabel Bassett in McCloud.