Body Identified As East Texas Woman - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

08/10/05 - Nacogdoches

Body Identified As East Texas Woman

by Donna McCollum

The victim is 65-year-old 'Ella Oliphant' of Hemphill. Her body was found off 'Highway 21 East' near Chireno. The suspect is her husband 'Vertice Oliphant.'

The murder scene included signs of a struggle according to Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss. "We can tell just from the scene some type of altercations apparently took place in a vehicle and the vehicle apparently pulled over at this location and she exited."

Investigators are following leads hoping to find the suspect. Vertice Oliphant was last seen driving a white 1997 Chrysler Concord.

Daughter Identifies Body

The Oliphant's daughter was the last person to see her father. Authorities tell us he apparently went to 'her' workplace in Nacogdoches about noon Wednesday. After his visit the daughter could not locate her mother. This concerned her as the day before she sensed something was bothering her mother. After contacting authorities she identified her mother's body.

Strange Report In Chireno

Authorities are asking for the public's help in locating the murder suspect. Yet the person who first reported the body is still a mystery. The stranger reported his discovery in a very unlikely place at Chireno Grocery and Market. It was a rather normal afternoon, until a man buying corn meal walked in.

Owner Sherri Harrison views a videotape of the man. "Here he enters the store. He never goes anywhere, but turns directly to the right." Unusual in itself since the store had just been rearranged. Harrison had never seen the man, but she's watched him repeatedly on surveillance video because of what he said. "And he stops to ask if we take the Lone Star Card and we say, 'no'. He stops and hesitates for a while and then proceeds to tell us there is a dead man down the road. He was not nervous. He never raised his voice. It was just a monotone. It was not upset. It was just a flat statement."

Harrison had trouble believing him, but she did walk two doors down to tell Constable Chuck Copeland. He followed the lead and discovered the body was of a woman, rather than a man.

By the time Harrison returned the man was gone. "And he turns his head all the way like he knows the camera is there until he gets almost to the front. And it's unusual for him to travel all the way to Chireno, find a little grocery store and report a dead body and buy cornmeal on top of it."

The consequences are tragic, but the fashion of relaying the gruesome discovery is most definitely strange. "Just another day at the Chireno Market," quips Harrison.

Several witnesses who saw our news reports have come forward to tell authorities they saw the suspect's car at the scene of the crime. Investigators say they have enough to link the suspect to the crime scene. They still would like to talk to the man who came to the Chireno Grocery.

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