Authorities in Oklahoma announced this afternoon that they have no suspects in the double murder of best friends fatally shot as they walked along a dirt road Sunday evening in the remote town of Weleetka, about 60 miles south of Tulsa.
"We don't have a person of interest," said Ben Rosser, special agent for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations. "We don't have a suspect."
Skyla Whitaker, 11, and Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13, described as best friends, both died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the state's medical examiner.
The two girls, classmates at the local elementary school, were found in a ditch on the side of a dirt road in a rural part of the state. Rosser said authorities did not believe the girls were sexually assaulted before the murder, but DNA samples and their clothes were being processed for evidence.
State law enforcement officials sent investigators to help local police comb the crime scene, located in a densely wooded area. Authorities were looking into tire tracks near the spot where the girls were found, as well as shoe imprints. Heavy rains throughout the day Monday did not help the investigation.
"We photographed and tried to record those as best we could," Rosser said. "We don't know whether they are relevant or not."
They also recovered empty shell casings near the scene, but were not sure whether they had any connection to the murders. Rosser said that investigators have an idea what kind of gun was used in the crime, but he did not want to jeopardize the investigation by publicly releasing that detail.
The OSBI, with help from local banks, offered a $14,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the crime. Accounts were also established to help pay for the girls' burial services.
Authorities have followed up on several leads and tips, interviewing family and friends of the two girls and and vetting alibis.
Rosser and Ofuskee County Sheriff Jack Choate said that investigators believe whoever is responsible for the murders likely had a knowledge of the area where the girls were killed, a dirt road near a busy highway overpass known as a spot where trash is often illegally dumped.
"The reason we're looking at a local person is because of the location," he said. "It's unlikely someone just pulled off [of the highway ] there."
Authorities also have not identified a motive for the crime and are considering several scenarios. The girls may have known the killer or killers and were fleeing when they were shot; they could have been surprised; they also could have stumbled upon something that the killer did not want anyone to see.
The bodies of the girls, wearing shorts and T-shirts, were found by Peter Placker, Taylor's grandfather and legal custodian. He went looking for the girls after one of them failed to pick up a call on her cell phone. They were about a quarter-mile from Taylor's house, where they were having a sleepover.
"They were the best and I'm not just saying that because they are gone," Wanda Mankin, the girls' principal and school counselor, told ABC News. Taylor was a new student last fall at the local K-12 school, which had very small classes.
"There were five girls in that classroom and they were all best friends," Mankin said. "The other three girls are devastated." Mankin, who said that counseling resources have been made available, said the child murders shattered the perceived security in the rural area.
Choate, the sheriff, said that his office has heard from citizens who are concerned about a killer on the loose. The public has reason to be concerned, he said.
"We've had a few phone calls from parents that are worried about their children," Choate said. "If it was me, I wouldn't let my kids out walking unless they were with someone they know."
Joe Mosher, identified by ABC News' Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO as Taylor's uncle, described his 13-year-old niece as a girl who did not have an enemy in the world. "She got along with everyone," Mosher said. "She didn't have an enemy in this world. People who never met her fell in love with her."
The double murder has left authorities pushing for a quick arrest as members of the quiet Oklahoma community grasp for answers.
"Nobody can understand what's going on right now," Mosher said.