Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series about Ida’s Law, which establishes a liaison to work with law enforcement agencies and families to solve Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons cases throughout Oklahoma. The series explores Ida Beard’s story, legislation history and more.
The El Reno Police Department received a call July 15, 2015, that Ida Beard, a 35-year-old Cheyenne and Arapaho female tribal member, was missing.
Six years later, and the department has not received any credible leads.
“I feel for the family,” detective Todd Ward said. “I know that a lot of the family wants answers, and it sucks not being able to get them answers from an investigative standpoint. I wish I could end up finding the answers that they need to either locate Ida or give them some closure on the case.”
Although Beard’s family does not have answers, the department continues to comb through information.
“It’s still an active case, so I am not prepared to release all the details because we are still talking to people,” Assistant Police Chief Kirk Dickerson said. “The details are very important. We can sift through truth versus rumor. … It’s an old case, but it is not a cold case.”
Dickerson said Beard is still considered missing and that they have no evidence that points toward any foul play in her disappearance.
“We have been provided information, but none of that to this point has yielded any concrete information,” he said. “We are still very hopeful that Ida is out there somewhere, alive and well. She just – for whatever reason – has decided to not contact her family and not come back. That is a possibility. We – right at this very moment – are open to all avenues and we will follow every lead that becomes available. We will chase that down.”
Dickerson said Ward was assigned to follow-up the case after the last detective retired during the investigation. Ward took over March 23, 2016.
“The last person who claims they saw her was the night of June 29, (2015) here within El Reno,” Ward said. “The address off South Hadden and roughly Watts area.”
He said the address of her last seen location at 511 S Hadden Ave. was reported to the department July 15, 2015. Dickerson said Beard might have been walking home.
“The information that was given to the initial reporting officer was that she was walking north on Hadden to Watts and turned west,” Ward said. “The distance to the address, from property line to property line, was 622 feet. That’s as a crow flies.”
Dickerson said he and the department maintain an empathetic position with the family.
“The family, deservingly so, want to know – they need to know,” he said. “They want as many answers as possible and we’re willing to give them those answers, but unfortunately with certain missing persons cases, it takes a tremendous amount of time.”
Ward keeps an open dialogue with the family, while keeping it factual, he added.
“We really don’t want to convolute the story with a lot of rumors or misinformation because that’s just not healthy for anyone,” Dickerson said.
How Beard’s case is being investigated
After a person is reported missing, a patrol officer takes the initial report. It then goes through the officer’s supervisor before being sent to the operations captain, then the investigating lieutenant. From there, the lieutenant assigns the case to one of the department’s detectives.
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a database that names missing, unidentified and unclaimed persons, has been a service that Ward has used to help him in this case.
NamUs has a DNA testing site at The University of North Texas, where samples from direct relatives of a missing person are sent to determine any matches, Ward said.
Beard’s NamUs case was created Sept. 25, 2015.
If a law enforcement officer in the U.S. enters Beard’s name into the National Crime Information Center’s database, the NCIC notifies the El Reno Police Department of a possible hit for Beard.
“We are waiting for either one of those organizations,” Dickerson said. “If they come in contact then they will contact us, then we will proceed forward from there.”
Ward said he was receiving many hits on Beard’s name from Caddo County, but it was police training to see what a missing person profile looks like on NCIC. He is hopeful any time he hears a tip about Beard’s case, it is a credible one.
“I want to think every time someone tells me something, they are going to end up telling me something that is pertinent,” Ward said.
In many instances, information he receives goes back more than three years ago.
“We look at every single tip as credible until proven otherwise,” Dickerson said. “So far, in this particular case, we haven’t had any that have really been determined to be completely credible.”
Department is ‘encouraged’ to have MMIP liaison at OSBI
There are a few aspects that set Beard’s case apart from others, Dickerson noted.
“The time involved is a major portion of it,” he said. “Just the silence. Like I said, there is various talk that happens. So far, most of that talk has been uncredible or unsubstantiated. The silence is deafening.”
Active compared to inactive cases, also known as cold cases, supply new information that doesn’t allow the case to stall, Dickerson said.
Beard’s case is at the top of Ward’s list, as it is the oldest one on his load.
“All of us investigators have caseloads,” Ward said. “Our caseloads, for each investigator, is probably 120 to 140 a year that we get.”
The department is encouraged by the newly-created Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons liaison at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations – created by Ida’s Law, legislation signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt April 20.
“We’re very thankful to Gov. Stitt and the legislators of the state of Oklahoma for getting this law on the books,” Dickerson said. “Any help at all that comes from it will be most appreciated.”
The department works with OSBI on some cases from time-to-time, and Dickerson said they have a good relationship.
To Ward, there isn’t a difference between a missing Indigenous person’s case in comparison to another missing person case of someone with a different race or ethnicity. However, challenges are still present.
“One missing person being a purple person versus another person being a green person – there’s some that can be harder than others,” Ward said.
Dickerson agreed, saying there is no difference in the case because of Beard’s Native American ethnicity.
“We look at everybody the same,” he said. “If you are missing, you are missing. We’re going to continue to work just as hard for every person who’s out there.”
If anyone has tips that could help Beard’s case, call the department’s hotline at 405-295-9399. People can call the hotline any time of day.
“Every bit of information we get is important,” Dickerson said. “Every bit of it deserves to be given its due diligence and followed up on.”