Updated: Mar 16
1998 Tulsa, Oklahoma Cold Case - Unsolved Murder.
Saturday, June 6th, 1998
2800 Block of South 49th W. Ave. Town West Shopping Center, at 5616 W. Skelly Drive
16 year old Dena clocks in at Arby's, her place of work, planning to meet her family at the race track after work. Her family heads to the track as she heads to work. Dena pages her mother at some point and says that when she gets off work, she's going to head to Marvin's Food Store where her best friend Brandi McClellan worked, wait for her to get off as she was closing up the store, and give her a ride home. Then she'd head home. The grocery store was only a block away from Arby's. At 8:15pm, Dena arrives at Marvin's. A family friend and her daughter, Pepper, see's her inside. They speak and for a while and go on about their business.
At around 10pm, Brandi is done and goes out to the parking lot to meet Dena. Dena's car is there, windows rolled down, but Dena was nowhere to be found. Brandi tries to page Dena, and waits by th phone as Dena was really dependable to get right back to her, but the call never comes. Brandi starts freaking out and crying. The family friend sees Brandi and asks if everything is okay. Brandi tells her Dena was supposed to meet her, but isn't anywhere to be found. She asks Brandi if she needs a ride home and Brandi refuses, saying she wants to wait for Dena. The family friend then thinks it's best to call Dena's parents. Brandi eventually goes home with her brother's girlfriend.
Her dad, Larry Dean, decides to go down and look for her while mom goes home to wait on her. He finds her car, but no Dena. He searches all over the parking lot, behind the buildings, near trash cans, up and down the street, but no Dena.
“This guy wanted to speak to her after he got off work, and she asked me if she could go talk to him. And I told her she could go talk to him and stay at the store there in the parking lot. And to be careful and be home by 10:30,” said Dianna Dean, Dena's Mother.
At 1 am, They call the sheriff's office. They tell Dena's parents that she's probably just a run-away. This upsets her parents because she wasn't like that, she would never just leave without letting them know where she was going.
The FBI was informed. They also didn't believe she was a missing person at the time.
The next day, after looking into Dena's life - finding she was a dependable person, good student, etc - the classify her as missing, possibly abducted. They begin fingerprinting the car.
Her family puts up flyers all over town. During this time, they never have any contact with Dena's best friend, Brandi. She doesn't even call the night she goes missing to let her parents know she was gone.
LIFE BEFORE HER DISAPPEARANCE
Dena went to blank High School and played clarinet in the band. She was Larry and Diana's first child together, but fourth child in their family. They had a good, humble home life together. Dena was also a typical teen in the sense that she and her best friend Brandi were always together. Dena had just begun dating and taking a more serious interest in doing so, and boys. According to Brandi, she was "boy crazy."
Dena had a boyfriend she had recently broke up with shortly before her disappearance, about a month, Sam, and the relationship had begun to fray. Sam was older than her and was apparently crazy about her, speaking of marriage often. Dena, being only 16, wasn't ready to something like that, and ended the relationship. She began seeing a different man shortly after, Mike.
Angie, Brandi's mother, was a manager at Marvin's at the time of Dena's disappearance and claims they were also close, like a daughter to her, and they spoke often about what was going on in Dena's life. She says that she and Dena spoke a couple days prior to Dena's disappearance in her home.
Mike Converse, like the shoe, was Dena's new man, and she was in love with him. She said she met Mike while working the drive through window at Arby's. He also worked at Marvin's with Brandi and Angie. They began dating a month prior to Dena's Disappearance. She had told Mike that she was pregnant just days before, on June 4th, because he wasn't as committed as she was, but it wasn't true. There was a note from Brandi to Dena telling her to come clean.
Brandi told Angie that - that night, Mike had told Dena he wanted to speak with her out in the parking lot, and she would be there waiting for Brandi when she got off work.
Dena also speaks to her brother, Jonathan, saying she had a problem that she didn't know how to deal with just days before she goes missing. He says they never got the chance to go into detail because Brandi walked in on the conversation and she shut up, acting like she didn't want Brandi involved.
6 Days after Dena goes missing,
June 12th - "The Hilltop" North of Town,
West near 51st Street South and 49th West Avenue.
The Hilltop was a short distance from Marvin's and a local "lover's lane" and party place for local teens. It was a very remote location. The sheriff's dept receives a tip and heads out to search the area. Down a long gravel road, up and incline, past a pond, and into a boggy, heavily wooded area. The discover a body near the bank of the pond. She had a broken jaw, strangled, and cuts all over the body. The ME is unable to discover the exact cause of death. There was no tire tracks, no pushed over or pushed down brush, or any other indication that a vehicle was in the area. They wonder if she were killed somewhere else and dragged into that spot, or if she was brought there alive and killed there.
Dena's oldest brother had actually gone up there with a sister and his wife the day after Dena's disappearance. He claims they looked there thoroughly, and she wasn't there. As it was fairly easy for investigators to find her body 5 days later, I assume she was moved there after her death.
The collected several items from the scene, including cigarette butts, a pager, and sunflower seeds.
The case went cold.
Late 2010's - around 2018
Tulsa Cold Cases picks up the case and starts their investigation. They want to re-interview witnesses, especially Brandi, but over the years, she has been reluctant to be interviewed. Why?
She is finally interviewed on camera after 20 years. Brandi claims that when she went home that night with her brother's girlfriend, they drove by Mike's house (minutes from Marvin's) to see if Dena was there. His mother, Dowilla Converse, answers the door and says Mike isn't there and neither was Dena. Mike came home as she was there and looked surprised to see her. She says he looks out of breath and is short with her when she asks where Dena is. She tries asking him more questions, he gets agitated and they leave.
Mike's alibi for the night (and I have yet to see where he either denied or confirmed seeing Dena and meeting her in the parking lot that night.) had him getting home around 10:15pm, then heading out to go bowling with friends at Riverlanes Bowling Alley, 12 miles away, then to a local Pool Hall, where he claims to have been for about half an hour. If Brandi went by his house after waiting for Dena in the parking lot, where she was missing by 10:30, and Mike came home when Brandi stopped by, he would have gotten home at around midnight or 12:30. His alibi gives him 2 hours to complete these activities to fit Brandi's timeline. The theory is tested by the Tulsa Cold Case Task Force. They found that his alibi was feasible, although Mike's brother says he got home at 10:45pm, not 10:15pm.
They look at Mike's time card from work for that night, but discover that Robert Converse, Mike's father, had shown up 1 day after Dena went missing to try to get Mike's time card as well, but it was already claimed by authorities. 6 RED FLAGS OVER TEXAS
Robert, married 6 times, today presents himself a christian minister. Robert and Mike had a strong bond. One ex wife says he was very smart, but very manipulative. Another ex says he hide behind the bible. He thinks he is so loved by God that it didn't matter what he did. She said through tears that "he was the devil himself." He was living in Table Rock Lake, MO at the time Dena went missing. Authorities found that Mike had called his dad when he found out about Dena's pregnancy on June 4th, and Robert abruptly returned to Tulsa. He apparently had told his dad Dena was pregnant, and Robert showed up at Mike's work on June 6th to talk to him about the pregnancy. He was there at the same time as Mike, Dena, and Brandi. Robert denied being there that night to authorities.
A witness claimed they saw Dena arguing with someone in the parking lot around 10pm.
Documents say another Witness, #5, told investigators the boyfriend's father and uncle killed Dena and were in a red truck at the time. Witness 5 gave a detail of the crime scene that had never been released that matched a crucial fact in the case. Witness 1 said a woman told him Mike's father, Robert, showed up at her house the night Dena disappeared and he was covered in mud, needing his clothes washed. Confidential Witness 2 told investigators the uncle had once stormed into the home of Robert, pushed Robert against the wall and threatened him if he talked about the case. Authorities found the car Robert was driving that night, after being denied by Robert saying he had sold it. They wanted to test it for DNA to see if Dena had ever been in it. They found blood sources in the trunk... but was never further tested for DNA. There was a cardboard box in the trunk that had never been tested. They also tested the cigarette butts from the crime scene and the car. Recent tests find that they all contained "unknown male DNA" that is a very close familial DNA profile to Robert on a cig butt. Another profile was that of a female and another female profile from the car. DNA collection on Mike's uncle, Steven Converse, and Robert's wife, Cindy Converse, is ordered. It is thought that Cindy was having an affair with Robert at the time as he was married to someone else. While waiting on results for the DNA test, Robert posts on his FB wall of a possible suicide threat. It says "watch for the unexpected death of a tulsa minister." A warrant was obtained for Robert's laptop, cell phone and his ex wife's cell phone. Data from Cindy's Phone to Robert's phone reports: conversations between then asking the other not to talk about certain things or to make sure to delete certain things. At this time, I could not find results on the DNA comparisons, however, they were taken in mid-2018, and it's now almost 2022, so if there were a good match, I feel we would have an arrest by now, which we do not. The sheriff’s office did make a statement in 2021 that said it has exhausted most of the testable evidence, but said they aren't giving up. If there are any updates in this case, we'll make sure to add them to this episode as they come in. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dena was for the death penalty. She made a speech in school just prior to her death in which she says "if you were a mother, would you want your child's murderer, roaming the streets or sitting prison costing you thousands of dollars a year, when they should be burning in hell for killing your child?"
Killer Unknown, ID Channel Original Series