Four Dead Oklahoma

A law enforcement officer enters a residence near Lacey, Okla., in Kingfisher County, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, the was the scene of a quadruple homicide. State police in Oklahoma say that four people killed at a marijuana farm were "executed," and that they were Chinese citizens.

LACEY, Okla. – Lacey area residents are speaking out about the murders of four Chinese nationals at a marijuana grow operation in the area.

“All of a sudden there are vans of people up and down the roads and people with guns at the gate to the property,” said Cathy Sturgeon Howard, who has farmed in the area her entire life, about what has happened since the grow operation opened.

She said she was not happy with having the operation in the area and was concerned about what could happen.

“That quarter of land sold for an outrageous price,” Howard said. “It was too much to pay for a farm and expect to make it.”

The bodies of four people, three men and one woman, were found Sunday night at the grow operation. Another person was wounded.

Becky Walker, who has a farm one-quarter mile north of the grow operation where the murders occurred, said investors bought the property then sold 10 acres to the marijuana grow company.

“They did not have electricity in the beginning, so they were using generators and hauling tons of gas in vans back and forth to Hennessey,” Walker said. “It’s amazing there wasn’t an explosion.”

Walker said she and her husband invested in a small marijuana grow operation after Oklahoma voters in 2018 legalized the use of medical marijuana, hoping to add another cash crop to their farm.

“I believe OMMA (Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority) was trying to do things right but lost control when it grew too fast,” Walker said, and foreign investors, many of them from China, got involved.

The size and growth of the industry have outpaced regulators’ ability to keep up with enforcement. OMMA is required to physically inspect all licensed marijuana businesses in the state, according to the watchdog journalism organization The Frontier in a story in January.

At least 75% of an Oklahoma marijuana business must be owned by someone who has lived in the state for at least two years, but businesses are finding creative ways to get around the requirement, according to The Frontier. The state laws governing medical marijuana grow operations have led to hundreds of cases of ghost owners – in-state residents who are owners of companies on paper only. The practice has opened the door to out-of-state and foreign-backed companies and individuals to control large portions of the state’s marijuana market.

The state issued a moratorium in August on processing applications for new grower, processor and dispensary licenses.

Foreign operators “flooded the market and ruined it for small producers like us,” Walker said. “It should have been a crop for Oklahoma producers.”

Howard said the marijuana grow property has “become trashy,” and the land isn’t the rural Oklahoma she’s lived in and loved.

Walker said the same. She used to jog and ride her bike down the country roads, but doesn’t do that anymore.

Donna White has a family farm in the area. She said she was headed to her home in Enid from her farm late Monday night and was followed by a deputy.

“He followed closely behind me on a country road for about nine miles,” she said. “I don’t like any of this.”

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Byrd is the education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. 
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