‘Hang Them Up with a Damn Rope’: Oklahoma Sheriff, County Officials Caught on Explosive Audio Wishing to Bring Back Lynching, Joking About Woman’s Burnt Body

A local Oklahoma journalist has called out the sheriff of McCurtain County and several other area officials in the southeastern Oklahoma county who are accused of saying they wish they could hang Black people as a form of criminal and capital punishment.

The state’s governor, city mayor and community activists are calling for the resignation of all leaders heard on the taping.

The McCurtain Gazette-News newspaper released the audio recording of the conversation after submitting it to federal authorities.

Oklahoma County Officials caught making racist remarks
McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, Deputy Alicia Manning, and District 2 County Commissioner Mark Jennings (Photo: @saintamourmi/Twitter)

A writer alleged Sheriff Kevin Clardy, investigator Alicia Manning, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings and others were all on the audio talking about possibly killing members of the media, teasing that certain a woman was like barbecue after she died in a fire, and musing that hanging as a tool that should be reinstituted into the justice system.

The members of the media threatened on the audio were Gazette-News reporters Chris and Bruce Willingham.

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The conversation reportedly was captured after the county’s Board of Commissioners’ March 6 meeting.

The Oklahoman reports that the Gazette-News claims it has the full audio recording and added that the FBI and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office also have the evidence in their possession.

The Oklahoman also reported that it has obtained parts of the recording but is unable to corroborate that the accused McCurtain County officials are the speakers on the recording.

In addition to the first trio of peace officers and elected officials, District 3 Commissioner Robert Beck, the sheriff’s investigator Alicia Manning, jail administrator Larry Hendrix, and the commissioners’ secretary Heather Carter all reportedly are heard on the taping.

One of the first conversations was about Dannette Stoewe, a woman who died in a fire.

The Gazette-News released a full transcript of the first batch of audio for the public to review. All identifications of speakers below originate from the Gazette-News.

The sheriff and others are talking about the woman’s scorched body falling apart after being trapped in flames. During the conversation, she is first compared to barbecue before the joke turns to cooking and eating her.

When someone asked, “They really fall apart when they’re burnt?” the jail administrator replied, “Yeah. You never had barbecue?

The sheriff then rebuts, “That’s another thing,” before Hendrix replies, “Same thing.”

Beck then says he’s “hungry.”

After the quick back-and-forth, Clardy expounds on collecting Stoewe’s body and recalls, “So we get her in the body bag, and Kyler goes, ‘you do know what we gotta do now, right?’

Faith replies, ‘No, what?’ He says, ‘You gotta preheat the oven to 350 degrees, leave her in there for 15 minutes.’

Faith responded ‘Bless her heart.’ It was… and then the medical examiner said ‘Hey we’re fixing to go eat.’ And he looked her in the face and said, ‘You wanna go with me and go eat barbecue?’”

Another disturbing turn of the conversation was when the District 2 commissioner said he would not run for sheriff unless time regressed to when officers could “take a damn Black guy … whup their ass and throw him in the cell.” He said wanted society to recognize lynching as an appropriate form of punishment, lamenting that the mandate to respect Black people’s civil rights is “out of hand” in the modern era.

“Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope,” Jennings said he longed to do. “But you can’t do that anymore. They got more rights than we got.”

After learning about the conversations, over 100 protesters participated in a demonstration on Monday, April 17. They gathered outside the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office with signs and posters demanding the officials step down, according to KSLA 12.

McCurtain Memorial Hospital issued a lockdown of its facility in preparation for the protests.

The community peacefully expressed their outrage during the protest, and nothing was damaged, or no one was hurt.

They are not the only ones outraged. Oklahoma Gov. J. Kevin Stitt and Idabel Mayor Craig Young have both called for those on the recording to resign.

Stitt released the following statement condemning the recordings.

“I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County,” he said. “There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office.”

Stitt declared, “I will not stand idly by while this takes place. In light of these events, I am calling for the immediate resignation of McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, Investigator Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix.”

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