Earl Oswalt, a Stillwater man accused of killing Chelsey Chaffin and throwing her body in the Cimarron River, was officially charged Thursday in Payne County with one count of murder in the second degree. Alternatively, the charge is also listed as first-degree manslaughter under Oklahoma law but carries the same penalty.
Oswalt, 54, is due back in court this afternoon. He is accused of killing Chaffin, 29, shortly after she moved into Oswalt’s home in Stillwater. Chaffin, originally from Hutchison, Kansas, had only been living in Stillwater for a few months, according to her family in Kansas.
The probable cause affidavit from the Payne County Sheriff’s Office was entered into court records as well, Thursday. According to deputies, Oswalt admitted in an interview to striking and killing Chaffin after Chaffin had threatened him and another resident of the house.
The affidavit also states that Oswalt told deputies he and the other resident brought Chaffin to the Cimarron River bridge north of Ripley on State Highway 108 and threw her into the river.
Oswalt had actually been the one to file the missing person’s report with the sheriff’s office, according to deputies. On May 29, he claimed that Chaffin left his residence in the early morning hours of May 26 with an unknown male. Investigators then began multiple interviews with Oswalt and the other resident.
Oswalt told deputies that he had been drinking with Chaffin when she became enraged and threatened the other resident with a glass bottle. He told deputies he had to pull Chaffin away from the other resident by grabbing her by the throat. Oswalt also said Chaffin had struck him with the bottle, and some time later he struck Chaffin once in the face causing her to fall to the ground unconscious. He told investigators he did not remember what happened after he hit her and that he could have injured her more but did not know if he had.
The other resident told deputies that she went to bed around 9 p.m. Saturday while Chaffin and Oswalt were playing cards and drinking beer. She said she awoke some time later to Chaffin standing over her with a bottle, and Chaffin told the other resident that to leave the house. She told deputies Chaffin was unharmed at the time. She said Chaffin let the other resident leave willingly, which deputies say conflicted with Oswalt’s story about the threats. The other resident said she left about 4:20 a.m. seeing no visible trauma to Chaffin. The other resident said while she was away from the house, she got a call from Oswalt where she heard Chaffin yelling in the background. The other resident said Oswalt picked her up at 7:30 a.m. covered in blood on his head, chest and shorts with an extremely swollen right hand.
The woman said Oswalt took her back to the house and told her to start cleaning up the blood from the living room floor. She said she saw Chaffin lying flat on her back with blood around her nose, and she believed Chaffin was dead at that time.
The other resident said Oswalt told her he was going to seek medical attention, and that she should not call anyone or open the door for anyone. She told deputies that Oswalt had a rule not to open the door for anyone if he wasn’t home.
The other resident told investigators she remembered seeing marks on Chaffin’s neck, that investigators believe would be consistent with strangulation. Investigators said Oswalt denied strangling Chaffin, and the marks were from him restraining her.
Because of his former crimes, Oswalt – who spent time in Texas and Oklahoma prisons on rape convictions – faces a prison sentence of 20 years to life. He also has a pending misdemeanor case in Payne County for violating the sex offender registry.
Law enforcement have been searching the river for Chaffin for two weeks, and have not reported finding a body.
Oswalt pleaded not guilty on Thursday and will have a preliminary hearing on July 1.