"On July 10, 1977, 18-year old Laura Long disappeared. Her new car, a high school graduation present, was found the next day in the parking lot of the Ne-Mar Shopping Center. This is Claremore, Oklahoma's oldest unsolved murder case."
For Rogers State University graduate Cade Thomas, it’s been two years of heavy, heart-wrenching work that has led to the release of his documentary film project.
“It started in a class at RSU, Lee William’s Documentary Production. It then grew from there as a passion project of mine and two classmates. As a filmmaker, I am always looking for hidden stories. I was researching local cold cases and the Laura Long case stuck out because of how close it was and it never seemed to get the publicity similar cases did. That intrigued me,” Thomas said. “I was never a huge fan of true crime stories. I always felt that they lacked heart for the victims and didn’t take the time to tell the story from different perspectives. From the beginning I knew if I made a true crime documentary, that it would need to truthfully show the loss of the human being at the center of the story and tell the story through the voices of those who lived it.”
His two-part project, he said, does just that.
“There is no narration in my documentary, no view point. The story is told by four people who were there: Ima Long-Taber - Laura’s mother, Pat Reeder - who reported on the case for decades, Chester Baldwin - who took the initial missing persons report, and Tim Norris - the detective who reopened and investigated the case. It is through each of their perspectives that Laura’s story is told.”
The first video has only been available to watch online for a short time and has already got the community buzzing.
“I have been working on this project on and off for two years. It’s a heavy project. Not only the task of going through many hours of interview footage, but emotionally it’s tough. I felt an immense amount of pressure to make this project perfect. I felt like it was on my shoulder’s to definitively tell this story, because her story had been seemingly forgotten for too long,” Thomas told the Progress. “Right now, it is two episodes. A first part to set up all the facts and a second part to dig deeper on the case and perhaps reveal some answers.”
Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said he watched the video Tuesday night and had a lot of thoughts about what he saw.
"I remember hearing about this case...I don't want to be critical of the past, but training and technology—man, they've sure come a long way," said Walton. "I feel bad for the family and that someone got away with killing someone. If we could roll the camera back, with what we know now we could have solved that case no matter what."
He said if the case occurred today, it would be all hands on deck between RCSO, Claremore, and OSBI.
When asked about the status of the case, Walton said simply: "I don't know if any unsolved case is ever really closed."