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Antique shotgun, drunken phone call and maggots may hold key to Oklahoma cold case

Eddie Trotter was shot to death during Father’s Day weekend in 1996. Investigators first thought he died of a stroke, but that changed with the medical examiner finding shotgun pellets in the body from an antique shotgun shell.

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Eddie Trotter lived a hard life full of partying and drugs.

"He was a heavy drinker. He was a drug user of both marijuana and what they call 'crank' back then," said Capt. Shawn Shelby with the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office, who was assigned the case.

Many in Edmond, Oklahoma, knew his home off Peebly Road for the drug-fueled parties hosted there.

"It was the ideal place to go to have this hard, charging lifestyle," Shelby said.

Trotter was shot to death during Father’s Day weekend in 1996. Investigators first thought he died of a stroke, but that changed with the medical examiner finding shotgun pellets in the body from an antique shotgun shell.

"It was probably a weapon of opportunity," Shelby said.

Trotter's daughter said she had to maintain some distance from her dad for her own good, but his killing left a hole that can't be filled.

"It may have been 25 years, but it has been 25 years of a hole in your heart," Cristalle Pelfrey said during a news conference this past summer.

The sheriff's office allowed sister station KOCO unrestricted access to the Trotter file and the deputies working to crack the case.

The file contains stacks of interview transcripts, crime scene pictures and jotted notes – the result of decades of detective work. It also has folders with suspects' names, one of which likely pulled the trigger.

"The name of that killer, the killer, is in these files. And it's in those tapes. We have the names," Shelby said.

He thinks an arrest is imminent but getting to this point required some creative forensics.

"There was a significant amount of decomposition," Shelby said. "There was animal activity involved and maggot activity as well."

Because Trotter's body wasn't found for days, maggots had taken their toll.

"The timeline we were given by interviews back in 96 was about 73 hours," Shelby said. "Whether that's true or not, we are trying to determine that."

But those dried-out bugs may help point to a killer by helping determine the time of his death.

A researcher at the University of Oklahoma has developed a new technique to glean information from maggots. That technique could allow investigators to narrow down suspects based on what they said in previous interviews.

"There's quite a few potential suspects in this cold case, but people are not so forthcoming, wanting to talk because of drugs and money that were involved with a lot of what they did," said Deputy Jessica Berryman, with the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Task Force.

Nearly a dozen people were at the house the night Trotter was killed. Shelby thinks the shooting was sparked by an argument over a woman, a drug debt or, maybe, just a fight that escalated.

And everyone who was there knows what happened.

"There's multiple people who know there are people who have the information, and somebody is going to talk at one point or another," Shelby said.

Most of the suspects have moved on from those days, but not all.

"It goes the gamut from the homeless in Portland to a preacher. We just talked to one who's a preacher now who's left that lifestyle," Shelby said.

A call from a witness five years after the murder helped detectives learn more about the scene, but it wasn't enough to crack the case.

"She named names, and she said some things that fall in line with the evidence that was collected back in 1996," Shelby said.

Investigators learned she was badly beaten after talking to them. The woman died two years later.

Investigators are talking to one of her children, and they're pinning their hopes on what they learn.

"We're getting really close to being able to file some charges," Shelby said. "Once we get to a certain tipping point, it's all going to come down. And it's going to crack the case wide open."

A killer who has harbored a secret for decades soon could be off the streets.

"There's a murderer that's been allowed to go free for 25 years," Shelby said. "None of these people that were involved in this are in prison. I mean, a murderer has walked the street for 25 years with no justice at all."

"No one deserves to die, whether they're good people or bad people," Berryman said. "They don't deserve to die and not let their loved ones know what happened."