When I moved to Oklahoma City in 1973, the downtown area was already a victim of urban sprawl. Many stores and businesses had moved out of the city’s original area for the more affluent outlying neighborhoods. Downtown OKC had long since fallen into disarray and disrepair. There was no new construction, no new businesses, and little sentiment to revive this crumbling portion of Oklahoma City.
Like other cities, OKC had its skid row. In the seventies, and to a large extent today, beggars, panhandlers, winos, prostitutes, and runaways congregated in an area near the downtown bus station. Hotels, many built shortly after the beginning of the city, remained along the Reno Avenue corridor. Most were run down, shabby, and homes for gamblers and prostitutes. One of these hotels was the Tivoli Inn on W. Sheridan Avenue.
The Tivoli was built in 1922 as a grand hotel. It went through several transformations but in October of 1972, it had degenerated into little more than a flophouse for transients taking a detour off I-40, one of the interstate highways that bisect the city. On October 13, 1972, the desk clerk of the hotel met her untimely death.
I hadn’t yet moved to Oklahoma in 1972 but I remember hearing about the murder of Phyllis Jean Daves. Daves, age 49, was the desk clerk at the Tivoli Inn the night of her death. According to accounts in the Daily Oklahoman, she was beaten, robbed and strangled to death.
On October 13, 1972 (yes, it was Friday) she was dragged into the elevator and apparently still fighting for her life when she and her attacker reached the sixth floor. Her nude body was found under a bed in room 607 and rape was likely attempted but never consummated. Two former employees of the Tivoli Inn were suspected but later cleared of the crime when they failed to provide a match to bloody handprints held as evidence.
I remember hearing stories of blood covering the lobby walls from the horrific struggle that ensued. The crime remains cold, never solved. Urban renewal of downtown Oklahoma City began in earnest during the latter seventies, the Tivoli Inn razed in 1979 to make room for the Myriad Gardens.
Nothing remains today of the old Tivoli Inn but memories and some old photographs. Most Oklahomans don’t even remember it, nor does anyone remember Phyllis Jean Daves, or worry much about who killed her, or why.
Born near Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption, and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma where he continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. He is the author of the French Quarter Mystery Series set in New Orleans and the Paranormal Cowboy Series set in Oklahoma. Please check it out on his Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBook author pages. You might also like to check out his website.