The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 7, 2013

Murders still an open wound

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — On Feb. 25, 1997, two Oklahoma City men were found dead in room No. 28 of the Holiday Motel on Rock Island Boulevard.

The bodies of Tramon L. Johnson, 18, and Michael S. Colbert, 19, were found with gunshots to the head, the room in shambles because of a struggle.

Investigations by the Enid Police Department, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been unable to produce enough evidence to prosecute any suspects in the case. Those with knowledge of the case were involved with gangs and the drug trade at the time. Witnesses were unreliable. Cooperation fleeting.

Another problem was the investigation itself in 1997. Three Enid men were arrested and charged in March 1997 with the murders, but in May 1997, those charges were dropped. Then-District Attorney Cathy Stocker called the investigation into the murders “flawed.”

Dennis Madison, who was Enid Police Department chief at the time, agreed, saying at the time: ‘It’s embarrassing not only to me, but the whole department.

‘The bottom line, to be honest, we didn’t properly investigate the case, and I felt like it was my responsibility to take care of that problem.’

 The case still remains active to this day.

“It was a difficult case because of the people involved, the witnesses and the lack of cooperation,” said Enid Police Department Chief Brian O’Rourke.

At the time of the murders, O’Rourke was part of the department’s Narcotics Unit and became involved with the case later on in the investigation.

“It’s obviously still an open case,” he said. “There are people who are out there that still know and there are people who are out that are responsible.”

He said the case has produced suspects, but cooperation and information is needed before an arrest can be made.

“It’s not that we don’t have an idea,” O’Rourke said. “We have suspects. We just need information.

“Just because this happened 16 years ago does not mean it’s been forgotten, by any means,” he said. “People who have information of this might think it has been forgotten, and it hasn’t.”

In the 16 years since her son was murdered, Yvetta Hicks has gone through a range of emotions.

From anger with police investigating her son’s death, to being stricken with grief and finally just wanting closure, Hicks thanks God she’s made it this far.

“All I was thinking of was who killed my baby and they killed my baby,” she said.

Hicks thanks her pastor, the Rev. Dr. Lee Cooper Jr., and his assistant, Alice Richardson, for helping her the past 16 years. She also thanks her sister in Houston for giving her a shoulder to cry on.

“Those are the folks I cried on when I had no one else to cry on,” she said.

Friday would have been Tramon’s 34th birthday. Hicks said she always calls the police this time of year, just to check up on the case. She said she used to call the department in a rage, asking why nothing had been done to solve her son’s death. Now, she seeks only closure for herself.

“I have to apologize to the Enid Police Department for being so mean, so ugly, rude — because I was hurting at the time,” Hicks says, adding she is trying to make progress in coming to terms with her youngest son’s death.

“This is my 16th year and I’m just asking for someone to come forward. They don’t have to talk to the police, they don’t have to give their name to the Enid Police Department,” she said, referring to Crime Stoppers and Text-A-Tip programs. “I want closure. I’m sure Michael Colbert’s mother, Pam Colbert, wants closure. All I am asking for is closure.

“I’m not trying to send anyone to prison. I just want to have closure for who killed my son.”

Hicks said she had told her son to stop coming up to Enid from Oklahoma City. She knows her son was up to something when he traveled here.

“I told my son not come here and he left anyway,” she said. “My son was one of those kids who never knew a stranger. Everyone was cool with him, especially if they was doing wrong.”

She said her son was in a gang, and claimed himself as a Blood. But even so, she said he was friends with everyone. She said she had not met Colbert until the night her son said they were coming to Enid.

“They were doing wrong,” she said. “I told them and told them and told them to stop coming down to Enid. It’s going to get you in trouble and it finally did.”

O’Rourke said the fact the two were up to no good “still doesn’t excuse the crime.”

Hicks described her son’s murder as “execution style.”

“My child was shot in the back of the head,” she said. “It was a really execution-style murder. They had weapons and he (Johnson) didn’t know they were coming and it was just a mess.”

Hicks said she wished Enid police had made a case against her son for drugs back then, because maybe her son still would be alive.

“I just wished they had made that case, because then I could have gone to prison to see him and not the graveyard.”

She said she always visits her son’s grave in Spencer on his birthday, on the anniversary of his death and on Memorial Day.

“Those are some days I do recognize,” she said. “I call every year about this time.”

Hicks said she thinks her son’s killer might be prison, but for another crime. All she cares about is finding the truth.

“I just want to know who did it. I’m not worried about the rest of that,” she said. “I think 16 years is a long time for someone to carry this on their brain.”

If she could speak to her son’s killer, or someone who knows who that person is, Hicks said she would tell them she forgave them.

“God said vengeance is his. I just want to know and I don’t care what happens after that,” she said. “I forgive you. And I pray that you would let God work through you and say you did it or know who did. I want you to know I forgive you.

“To have my blessing, I have to forgive with what you’ve done with my child and Michael Colbert.”