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Alleged Paramour Charged With Pregnant Nurse’s High-Profile 2017 Disappearance And Murder
Holly Cantrell's skeletal remains were found scattered in a secluded part of Oklahoma in 2018, though it would take another two years to formally identify her.
An arrest has been made in the case of a missing nurse whose skeletal remains were identified in 2020.
Cody Ketchum, 36, was charged Monday with first-degree murder for the death of Holly Cantrell, 40, whose 2017 disappearance garnered widespread coverage. According to Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris, investigators linked Ketchum to the crime following the execution of several search warrants, as well as the discovery of evidence extracted from the suspect’s mobile phone, as first reported by the McAlester News-Capital.
Per an indictment from the Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General sent to Oxygen.com, Ketchum is also charged with a misdemeanor count of destroying evidence.
“Glad we could make an arrest and help bring closure to the family,” Morris said in a statement emailed to Oxygen.com. “When you work so hard on a case, it is a relief to finally see someone arrested in the case and we now look forward to going to trial."
Cantrell's husband, Tommy Cantrell, took to Facebook, saying it’s “been a long time coming, but finally here.”
Holly Cantrell, a mother of three, disappeared on Jan. 20, 2017, after leaving for a lunch break from her nurse’s job at the McAlester Regional Health Clinic — about 130 miles east of Oklahoma City and 90 miles south of Tulsa. Several outlets, including NBC Oklahoma affiliate KFOR-TV, reported Cantrell was pregnant.
Just before noon, hospital surveillance footage captured Cantrell getting into a green truck, and she was reportedly spotted less than 30 minutes later at a local Braums chain restaurant just a few miles away.
Investigators soon identified the driver of the green truck as Cody Ketchum, with whom Cantrell allegedly had an extramarital affair, as reported by several outlets, including CBS Tulsa affiliate KOTV-DT. McAlester Police said Ketchum — identified as a “person of interest” in the case — was cooperative and took a polygraph test, telling police he dropped Cantrell off at Braums, where she was allegedly due to meet up with friends.
On Feb. 25, 2017, about one month after Cantrell vanished, a hunter spotted the victim’s purse near Lake Eufaula, according to the News-Capital.
Investigators zeroed in on the alleged love triangle, as highlighted in several true-crime mediums, including Investigation Discovery’s “Disappeared.” Some accused Tommy — who was also named a person of interest in the case, according to KOTV-DT — of becoming “controlling” after learning about the affair.
According to the series, Tommy admitted he was jealous but denied ever wanting to harm his wife.
Cantrell’s unborn child also became a focal point in the investigation, as rumors abounded over the child’s paternity in true-crime forums around the internet.
In February 2018, more than a year after her disappearance, Cantrell’s relatives came upon a partial skull and bones in a secluded area of the Cardinal Point Recreation Area — about 13 miles north of Braums, according to KOTV-DT. Pieces of clothing matching the green nursing scrubs Cantrell was last seen wearing were also found strewn about the wood.
However, it wouldn’t be until 2020 that the skeletal remains would be positively identified as Holly Cantrell after being sent to the National DNA Database for Missing and Unidentified Persons at the University of North Texas.
“I know there was frustration for the family at times in this case because of the time frame, but there was a lot to put together, and it took almost two years to get DNA results,” Sheriff Morris told Oxygen.com. “Very glad to solve this one.”
Morris confirmed to Oxygen.com that Ketchum was arrested on Monday at around 3:30 p.m. near the McAlester Army ammunition plant, where Ketchum reportedly works, according to NBC Tulsa affiliate KJRH-TV. The arrest came following a multi-county grand jury’s decision to indict.
Morris told KJRH they are considering no other suspects in the case, adding there’s “not a doubt in my mind” that Ketchum is allegedly responsible for Cantrell’s murder.
“When it comes to homicides in our county, we will work endlessly to make an arrest and get a conviction, and it's not just for us, it's for the family and Justice for our county,” Morris told Oxygen.com.
Ketchum was booked into the Pittsburg County Jail, where he is being held on $1 million bond.