Holly Cantrell Missing: On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office publicly unsealed indictments filed against a man in connection with the death of a McAlester woman who went missing in 2017. In a news release issued on Tuesday, Attorney General John O’Connor stated that his office will prosecute a first-degree murder charge filed against Cody Ketchum, 36, in the 2017 murder of Holly Cantrell, as well as a misdemeanor charge of destroying evidence. Ketchum is also accused of deleting text messages made between himself and Cantrell from his cell phone.
“The multicounty grand jury is an invaluable resource on which the state depends to assist law enforcement and prosecutors in complex cases like this,” O’Connor said in a statement. According to Pittsburg County Jail records, Ketchum was being held on a $1 million bond. The two indictments were returned by the 19th Multicounty Grand Jury on October 13, and the Pittsburg County Court Clerk received them on October 14 with an order to seal On October 14, Pittsburg County Associate District Judge Tim Mills signed a warrant issued against Ketchum. It was returned on Oct. 17 after Ketchum was apprehended by the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Department.
Cantrell went missing in January 2017 while on her lunch break at the McAlester Regional Health Center. Ketchum told detectives that he picked up Cantrell from the hospital and dropped her off at the Braum’s on US Highway 69 in McAlester so she could eat with friends. Cantrell never returned to work and was reported missing by her family after failing to return home. Her handbag was discovered a month later, in February 2017, about 11 miles north of McAlester, near the Cardinal Point Recreation Area. One year later, skeletal remains were discovered in the same region before DNA testing at the University of North Texas identified the bones as Cantrell’s in 2020.
After the remains were discovered and recognized as Cantrell’s, the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Department launched a homicide inquiry. Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris stated that investigators from his department and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office collaborated on the investigation, which was later presented before the 19th Multicounty Grand Jury convened in Oklahoma City. According to the sheriff, evidence discovered on Ketchum’s cell phone during the execution of various search warrants led to the indictments.
“They sent some investigators down and they really helped us a lot in terms of search warrants and really getting some key evidence,” Morris told the News-Capital following Ketchum’s arrest. According to the evidence destruction charge, Ketchum “unlawfully and knowingly deleted text messages between himself and Holly Cantrell from his cellular device.” According to the indictment, Ketchum testified in front of the grand jury with PCSO, McAlester Police Department, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and Cantrell’s family members. Morris stated that the cause of Cantrell’s death is still unknown.
Cantrell’s family asked for privacy. According to the OAG’s office, the multi-county grand jury has jurisdiction to investigate offenses committed in any of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. Grand jurors serve for 18 months, hearing testimony in the Attorney General’s office in Oklahoma City two or three days every month. Grand Jury procedures are private and not open to the public. Jurors have the authority to issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to come and testify under oath, or to provide papers and other desired evidence. Unless a judge orders otherwise, state law allows witnesses to make their testimony public if they so want. Witnesses who appear before the grand jury may be represented by a lawyer, but the lawyer is not permitted to object to grand jury questions or make arguments to the grand jury. The AG’s office presents evidence and interviews witnesses when a grand jury is convened. If the grand jury returns an indictment, the defendant is charged in the district court where the indictment is filed.