20-year cold case of Dena Dean could have a resolution in the next year

TULSA -- If you heard the name Dena Dean before 1998 you may not have known her, but after 1998 if you hear the name, you see her face, but you may not know her story as well as you think you do.

"My fear is just finding her dead or not finding her at all."

This 20 year old tale starts on a couch when Larry and Diana called 2 Works for You in the summer of 1998 beside themselves.

They prayed the next phone call was from their 16-year-old daughter Dena. 

"I hope every time I pick up, I hope it's her on the other end saying, 'Mom, I'm ok, come and get me,' because I'd go get her in a heartbeat," her mother Diana Dean told 2 Works for You in 1998. 

Today, we meet Larry and Diana in the same spot on that couch. 

"He said we need to go inside and talk. And that's when they told me they'd found Dena's body," cried her father Larry Dean. 

They're no longer waiting for Dena, but cold, hard justice. 

"This boy was notorious for being in trouble and always calling his dad to get him out of trouble," Larry said. 

For them, the story is simple, and much like the images of their sweet Dena, hasn't changed in 20 years. 

"A friend of Dena's saw her just before 10 last night," reported 2 Works for You in 1998. 

"I knew she wanted to go talk to the boy," Diana said. 

An affidavit from 2003 said Dena had told a boy she was pregnant by him days before. 

Police have never publicly named him so we'll call him Joh. 

"She wanted to continue the relationship and go on from there and apparently he didn't," said Tulsa County Cold Case Task Force Director Mike Huff. 

He was working at Marvin's Food Warehouse in the Town West Shopping Center on the day she disappeared. 

 "She was kidnapped from Town West shopping Center," Huff said. 

Dena's friend told police John wanted to speak with her after his shift about the pregnancy. 

"She left her billfold in the front seat with the window rolled down, making us think something happened making her want to leave so fast," police told 2 Works for You from the scene in '98. 

"I just had that gut feeling that something went wrong and I'd never see her again," said Diana. 

She only ever saw Dena in photos after that.

"The FBI assisted the sheriff's office for 6 days before she was found."
Investigators found Dean's body after traveling the route John typically took to and from work. 

That was days after he failed multiple polygraph tests where he denied doing or knowing anything. 

Her body was in a field a quarter of a mile from his home. 

"That was interesting to see as an investigator." 

Dr. Josh Turley helped find her body. 

"When you see a 16-year-old child you know that is someone's child and that is hard," he said. 

He took the Tulsa County Sheriff's Cold Case Task Force around the scene in 2016. 

The task force works on the case every day. 

"There is one thing that happened that as investigator was gigantic. But you won't learn that just yet," said Cold Case Task Force Member Dorsey Shannon.

They've gone after suspects and witnesses. 

 "We served about 10 search warrants in 3 or 4 counties in two different states."
A few warrants for phones and saliva were directed at John, his uncle and father as recently as last year. 

Documents show John's father visited him at work the day Dena disappeared and called law enforcement multiple times with unsubstantiated tips on the case. 

But Sgt. Huff won't say who or how many suspects. 

 "It's more than one, less than six," he laughed. 

But the Deans don't need him to. 

"If I had met him one on one no cameras or nothing, I'd probably kill him," Larry cried. 

They've always suspected, but still waited patiently, never missing a year to celebrate Dena's birthday, or honor the day they lost her. 

"I do not feel like my daughter's at peace. DO YOU FEEL LIKE SHE'S WAITING FOR SOMETHING? I feel like she's waiting for justice."

They keep her alive in any way they can because they know she won't rest until John has his day in court. 

The Deans hope to one day show this video of a speech Dena did for an assignment to him. 

It's her opinion on the death penalty for murder. 

 "I hope beyond all hope that she's tormenting these people," said Diana. 

They say until then there are only two things they know for sure. 

"Yes, she would be 36 now, but she'll always be 16 to me."

She'll always be their little girl who no one can take away, and until her killer is identified, the devastation that once lived on their West Tulsa front porch will drive them to a resolution no matter how long it takes. 

If you have any information on Dena Dean's murder, call the Cold Case Task Force at (918) 596-5723.

 

 

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