FOX23 Investigates: Family searches for answers 41 years after woman’s brutal murder

TULSA, Okla. — “This case has so many twists and turns.”

Lt. Brandon Watkins is Tulsa Police Department’s lead homicide detective. He spoke with FOX23 about a cold case murder investigation that is beginning to grab attention.

In 1981, Gertrude Blakey lived in one of Tulsa’s most affluent communities, near 31st and Utica.

“It’s one of the oldest, wealthiest neighborhoods in the city of Tulsa,” said Lt. Watkins.

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Blakey was brutally beaten just inside her front door on Oct. 13, 1981.

Blakey was supposed to pickup a friend for a trip to the Performing Arts Center. When she didn’t arrive, the concerned friend called Blakey’s cousins to go check on her.

When the cousins arrived, they and some concerned neighbors found Blakey’s body lying in a pool of blood. They called 911, thinking she fell and hit her head. Blakey was still alive and was rushed to the hospital. She died eight days later.

Mary Deisenroth lived down the street from Blakey and still lives on the street. She vividly remembers that day.

“I just remember her door being, you know, partially opened. And then, a body there,” said Deisenroth.

At first, investigators weren’t sure if Blakey was murdered, or if her death was an accident, until the Medical Examiner’s report was released.

The report shows Blakey had lacerations, contusions, and fractures on her skull. It also shows she was hit at least five times on her head.

Her cause of death was listed as multiple blunt trauma to the head and the manner of death as a homicide.

In the early stages of the investigation, police said there were no signs of forced entry and she wasn’t robbed.

Blakey only had one child, Ann. She married a man named Richard Elder and had six children. Marshall Johnson is one of Blakey’s grandchildren, and he said she would have never opened the door for a stranger.

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“To be hit that many times in the head, this was someone that knew her,” said Johnson.

FOX23 learned that Blakey was afraid. Police say she installed a red light on her porch and told a neighbor that if it was on, to call police.

The neighbor says she never saw the red light on.

The same neighbor told FOX23 that the lot across from Blakey’s house was empty and overgrown. They think the killer could have tossed a metal pipe in the bushes.

Lt. Watkins confirmed that a metal pipe was turned over to police. He believes that Blakey’s death was connected to her money.

“She had a will, and there was a trust that was set up,” said Lt. Watkins. “It looks like a lot of this is surrounded by money.”

Detectives tried to charge Blakey’s only child, Ann, with the murder in 1997. Ann had a lengthy criminal history and had even spent time in prison.

However, the judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Ann with her mother’s death at the time. Detectives believe Ann and her husband planned the murder but didn’t carry it out.

Richard died in 2011, and Ann died the next year.

Last month, detectives asked the forensic lab if new technology could detect DNA on any of the evidence.

If so, that could change everything.