McCurtain Gazette-News claims audio reveals commissioners discussed killing, burying reporters during meeting

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 12:21 AM CDT
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MCCURTAIN COUNTY, Okla. (KXII) - A Southeast Oklahoma newspaper says a secret recording reveals McCurtain County commissioners discussing hiring hitmen to kill and bury local newspaper reporters during a public meeting.

The newspaper wrote about the audio recordings in this weekend’s edition of the McCurtain Gazette-News, and told News 9 in Oklahoma City that a Gazette reporter, Bruce Willingham, secretly recorded the meeting hoping to find evidence of illegal meetings.

Instead, Willingham said he heard commissioners discussing killing the paper’s reporters.

Willingham told News 9 he didn’t think the conversations he heard on the recordings could be spun as a joke.

Voices Willingham identifies as county commissioner Mark Jennings and Sheriff Kevin Clardy also discussed burying bodies.

Jennings: I know where two big deep holes are here if you ever need them.

Sheriff: I’ve got an excavator.

Jennings: Well, these are already pre-dug.

Later in the recording, a voice Willingham identifies as County Commissioner Mark Jennings, lamented the discontinuation of lynchings with the sheriff, stating he would run for sheriff if he could beat up a black man and throw him in jail.

Jennings: Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a d--- rope. But you can’t do that anymore. They got more rights than we got.

A press release from the governor’s office stated Governor Stitt called for the county officials’ resignation, and said there is no place for such hateful rhetoric in Oklahoma.

A press release from the McCurtain Memorial Hospital stated the hospital will be placed on lockdown starting Monday morning just in case medical attention is needed for a protest planned for 8:15 am at the county courthouse.

Neither the newspaper nor county commissioners got back to News 12 this weekend.

The McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that they are launching an investigation into possible illegal recordings. They said they believe the audio has been altered.

The last 72 hours have been amongst the most difficult and disruptive in recent memory. This is a very complex situation...

Posted by McCurtain County Sheriffs Office on Monday, April 17, 2023

This is a developing story. Stay with KXII News 12 for updates.