Slain Cheerleader Heather Rich (left), myself and my childhood horse (middle), and Tiffany (Fox) Case (right) — Three critical parts of this amazing chain of events.

From Tragedy at Belknap Bridge To Triumph at “The Bar Nothin’”

How Cheerleader’s Death Led to the Inspiring Story of Legendary Quarter Horse: ‘Sooner Superstar’

Penn Little
18 min readJul 8, 2020

On Wednesday evening, October 2nd, 1996, Heather Rich, angrily left home without her parents’ knowledge to meet another 17-year-old Waurika, Oklahoma High School senior named Joshua Bagwell. An argument with her mother (over a 300-dollar telephone bill) prompted the free-spirited Rich to bolt for the back window. And that was the last night Duane and Gail Rich saw their daughter alive.

A seemingly-typical, turned-edgy high school get-together involving alcohol resulted in Rich’s rape and subsequent murder. The investigation, prosecution, and conviction of Bagwell and two other friends — ultimately found the trio collectively responsible for the crimes that occurred that night.

Heather Rich’s final resting place. Source:

Investigative Journalist Pamela Coloff (in the July 2002 edition of Texas Monthly) — revealed that a seven-year-old girl first identified Rich’s remains on an evening cattle-checking drive with her grandfather, a local rancher. His thought had been that the corpse was that of a drowned-calf. However, that evening, his granddaughter insisted that “There’s a body in the water.” Coloff added,

“On his morning rounds the next day, the rancher drove out to the Belknap Creek bridge. The pale, ethereal object had glided closer, and he could see now that it was indeed a girl, her sandy-colored hair fanning out along the murky surface of the water. Within hours, local lawmen had identified her as Heather Rich.”

A shotgun wound to the back of the head, eight more to her back (in-order-to attempt to conceal the rape), and seven days in the murky clay-muddied waters provided her family with horrific closure — only identifiable by a diamond signet ring.



Penn Little

Entrepreneur & Investigative Journalist | Story Tips: Email your name, phone, and 2 paragraph summary.