In honor of Giving Tuesday, we’re taking a look back at some of our most impactful stories of 2019. Donations to The Frontier in December  up to $1,000 will be matched thanks to NewsMatch, a program that supports nonprofit journalism outlets like The Frontier. 

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A vacuum truck prepares to begin pulling water out of Carlton Landing’s No. 1 lagoon. COURTESY

We uncovered a resort town had dumped millions of gallons of water from sewer lagoons into an Oklahoma lake.
After our reporting, environmental regulators opened a criminal investigation and the town stopped its dumping practices.


Michael James Hoeppner was 60 when he died in the Atoka County Jail. Courtesy

The Frontier’s ongoing project Cell by Cell is tracking deaths in Oklahoma jails.
We uncovered the story of a long-haul trucker suspected of driving under the influence who actually just had pneumonia. He died in jail without medical treatment.  Police body camera footage we obtained showed Michael James Hoeppner appeared disoriented and short of breath and that he told the arresting officer that he was sick. After the death of a teenager in Oklahoma City, we reported on how Oklahoma jails that hold minors aren’t subject to the same standards or state oversight as juvenile detention centers.


Netarsha Johnson’s son, Tiras Johnson, was murdered in Tulsa in 2013, but the state program set up to help victims of violent crime declined to help with his funeral expenses. CLIFTON ADCOCK/The Frontier

Our investigation found that black families of murder victims are more likely to be denied money from Oklahoma’s victim compensation fund—often based on the determination that the victims contributed to their own deaths in some way.
We also found that the majority of claims by sexual assault survivors to Oklahoma’s victim compensation program are denied.

Graphic by Dylan Goforth/The Frontier

We examined maternal health in Oklahoma found that one woman dies from complications each month in the state.
A state committee on maternal deaths has never issued a report on the 119 deaths it has reviewed since 2009.

Our ongoing project Shot by Shot tracks police shootings in Oklahoma.


The Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training facility in Ada. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

We uncovered that almost anything counts as mental health training for Oklahoma law enforcement—including a course on radical Islam deemed biased.
The state agency tasked with overseeing the training has no real accreditation process.
After our reporting, the course on radical Islam was removed and the state police training agency said it plans to develop is own courses, which will be accredited by the Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Dana Barker is serving life without parole for the murder of her father’s ex-wife. Now she hopes for a second chance. BRIANNA BAILEY/The Frontier

Our investigation found that many Oklahoma prisoners serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles have struggled to get their cases reviewed or even get access to an attorney— potential violations of their constitutional rights. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that life without parole should be reserved only for the worst juvenile offenders who are beyond rehabilitation, Oklahoma prosecutors have sought life without parole again in most cases up for review.