“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you,
I could walk through my garden forever.”
– Alfred Tennyson
A few miles east of Eufaula, Oklahoma, up a slight hill stands a crooked sign that reads LAST RESORT ROAD. Beyond that is a memorial garden with an enormous white cross at the head of it. Colored stones, flowers, and ceramic angels pepper the square garden, along with rocks spelling out “N8.” It is a serene place, with birds chirping overhead and dogs barking in the distance.
Not more than fifty yards away is a spot on the tile floor of the kitchen, where a young man named Nathan Scoggins took his last breath after a bullet pierced his skull.
“Snips and snails and puppydog tails –
that’s what little boys are made of.”
– 19th Century Nursery Rhyme
Melanie Scoggins wipes away tears from beneath her glasses as she speaks about her only son.
“He was the most loving, compassionate, caring child I’ve ever met,” she says solemnly.
Melanie takes a deep breath as she rattles off her son’s birth stats effortlessly. He was born March 28, 1985 at 5:29 p.m. He weighed six pounds and thirteen ounces, and was eighteen inches long.
Nathan grew into a loving and boisterous young man who enjoyed playing pranks on his mother, snake hunting, and fishing. Naturally excelling at sports, he was given the Presidential Athletic Award in the eighth grade. He began bull riding at fourteen (his mother’s proudest memory), breaking horses at fifteen, and at sixteen, purchased his first vehicle with the money he’d won bull riding. He was so good with horses that he was given the nickname of the “Horse Whisperer.”
“He was a cowboy through and through,” Melanie describes.
She combs her fingers through her hair as she ponders her favorite memories of her child. When he was five, Nathan and his family were driving home with some leftover pizza. When they passed under a bridge, he asked his mother if they could pull over and give his food to the homeless man standing there.
Another time, the family was driving after Christmas. Nathan had asked Santa and received a Ninja Turtles blanket. It was snowing, and when they passed by another homeless person, he wanted to stop the car and give the blanket to the man.
“That’s the kind of heart he had,” Melanie remembers.
Nathan became a parent himself in 2007 when his son, Bryce, was born. At the time of his death, Melanie was taking care of her then eight-year-old grandson while Nathan looked for work, visiting on weekends to be with his family.
The weekend of February 26, 2016 would be the last visit he’d get to make.
“It’s time to say goodbye to yesterday…
this is where the cowboy rides away.”
– George Straight
The week of Nathan’s murder set the precedent for that fateful Friday his body was found. Monday, February 22, someone broke into the house on Last Resort Road, and several items came up missing. The following Thursday, Melanie came home to the house in disarray: broken furniture and holes in the wall resulting from a fight her son had with his girlfriend, who was also staying for the weekend.
Friday, February 26, began as a normal morning that would quickly turn into horror. At 7:50 a.m., Melanie left the house with Bryce to take him to school as she did every morning. Nathan and his girlfriend were still asleep.
All seemed normal.
When Melanie returned home at 8:40 a.m., however, the cameras were shut off and the front door was unlocked. She found Nathan lying dead on the kitchen floor. His blue heeler, Todd, was curled up beside his body. There were no signs of a struggle, but when the sheriff’s department arrived, they determined he had been shot. Nathan’s girlfriend was questioned by police for hours, but nothing came of it.
The day of the murder, Nathan’s sister Brittanie was at a friend’s house. Melanie also sent Bryce to a friend’s house after school, but when he returned, she sat down and told him what had happened.
“Someone came in and killed your daddy,” Melanie said.
“You better be lying,” Bryce responded.
“I’m not lying.”
The two cried together, and after a moment, Bryce asked, “Nana, will you be okay for a minute?”
Bryce got up and selected a decorative cross, returning to his grandmother and giving it to her.
“Daddy doesn’t want you to be sad,” he said. “He’s in heaven with angel wings. He’s going to watch over us. He’s okay.”
Melanie cries as she tells this story, saying, “His connection with his dad is real.”
She didn’t tell her grandson the details of his father’s death or where he had been killed, but later found Bryce sitting in the spot on the kitchen floor where Nathan’s body had been.
Information released to the public relays extremely limited details, but Melanie says she knows exactly who did it, describing it as a story “no one will ever believe.”
Melanie procures a folder hidden in her house with over one hundred pages of screenshots, text messages, and other evidence in her case for her beloved son. She flips through the papers, handing some to me, and explaining who she believes killed Nathan. When asked about the specifics of her suspect, she gets up again.
“This is the only way I know how to explain it,” she says.
Melanie shows me a wipe-off board, taped off into equal sections. On the left side, each box has a name, and the right side shows their relationship to the crime. She goes over each name, one by one, and explains who they are and what their part was.
“We’re not safe here,” she explains.
Perhaps the most prominent evidence Melanie has is too damning to reveal. It is in regards to a specific object left at the crime scene that one of the people on the wipe-off board posted about on social media.
“They’ll either kill me first,” Melanie says, “or I’ll get justice for Nathan. I won’t back down. His life was taken senselessly and mercilessly.”
“Truth will ultimately prevail
where there is pains to bring it to light.”
– George Washington
Nathan’s memory is very much present, with pictures and crosses on the walls and ashes in different areas. Some were sprinkled in the memorial garden outside on the first anniversary of Nathan’s death.
“I don’t know how you could stay here,” I say, referring to the fact that her son died only a few feet from us.
“I have to,” she replies. “This is where his spirit is.”
Melanie spends her days fighting for justice for her child and raising her grandson. In her spare time she moderates an online Grief Anonymous group on Facebook for those who have lost children. The group began with six hundred members, and has since grown to over five thousand with eighteen subgroups. An LPN with a twenty year career with the Department of Corrections, she is now an Executive Administrator, helping other parents as they navigate through their own bereavement journey.
“That’s the only way nurses can heal,” Melanie says. “To help others.”
She remembers a time shortly after Nathan was murdered when she fell to her knees, suffocating under the unbearable darkness of grief. She cried and prayed, calling out to God to help her make it through the nightmare of a murdered child.
“God help me,” she prayed. “This is far too big for me to handle. Release me from the clutches of this grief.”
Immediately, the weight was lifted, and an overwhelming sense of purpose soared through her spirit. Her life as she knew it had ended, but her journey for truth had just begun.
And so Melanie fights on, pursuing the hidden answers surrounding Nathan’s death and demanding justice for the person or persons who viciously murdered him.
“Nathan’s life wasn’t taken in vain,” she states. “Before I reunite with him, my job isn’t done.”