Still Waiting for a Second Chance
Oklahoma’s juvenile life without parole prisoners struggle to get attorneys, new hearings
Part 1: An investigation by The Frontier found that for a new sentencing hearing or even get access to an attorney— a potential violation of their constitutional rights. many Oklahoma prisoners serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles have struggled to get their cases reopened
Just seven out of 43 prisoners serving life without parole for juvenile convictions in Oklahoma have been re-sentenced under new standards laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Robert Mitchell’s prison photos from 2000 and 2016.
Oklahoma prosecutors seek life without parole again in most juvenile cases up for review
Part 2: 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 are seeking life without parole again in six of the eight pending juvenile cases that have been granted new sentencing hearings.
Convicted of murder at age 15 in 1983, Wayne Thompson has been trying to win parole in Oklahoma for the past 20 years. COURTESY
Oklahoma rarely paroles violent offenders
Part 3: Juvenile no-parole prisoners resentenced to life with the possibility of parole The state rarely paroles violent offenders. Five of the seven Oklahoma juvenile life without parole prisoners who have been resentenced are now serving life terms. are still unlikely to win release in Oklahoma.
Convicted of murder as a teenager, Dana Barker now hopes for freedom
Inmates in Oklahoma prisons serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles
Wayne Williams Jr. is serving life without parole for gunning down two youths who allegedly shouted racial slurs at a nightclub in Spencer, Okla. from the back of a pickup truck.
Daniel Allen Oltermann, 20, and Jason Lee Barnes, 17 died of gunshot wounds to the head in August 1994. The two men were truck surfing on a Saturday night—standing up in the bed of a moving pickup truck and shouting at passersby.
Williams, age 16, and his brother, 21-year old Billy Vivian chased down Oltermann and Barnes and opened fire, according to newspaper accounts of the crime. Williams is currently seeking a new sentencing hearing on the basis of his age.
Trimaine Vick is serving life without parole for the shooting death of a former champion high school wrestler during a home-invasion robbery in 2000.
David Kennedy, 21, and his pregnant wife were visiting his sister’s apartment in Oklahoma City at the time of the robbery. Kennedy tried to use a wrestling move to take down one of the robbers and was subsequently shot at least six times in the head and back.
Vick was 16 years old at the time of the crime and still maintains his innocence although eye witnesses identified him and 15-year-old Dorenzo DeNeal Frost as the robbers. Frost testified against Vick at trial as part of a plea agreement. Vick has no attorney, and never graduated from high school, but is attempting to win a new sentencing hearing on his own from prison.
Thomas Loveless is serving life without parole plus 50 years for the rape and murder of a 15-year old girl in 1996.
Loveless, then 16, and a 17-year old classmate kidnapped Tiffany Tull and took her to an abandoned farmhouse in rural Cleveland County. Loveless raped the girl on an old mattress in an upstairs bedroom before shooting her in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. He is scheduled for a new sentencing hearing in front of a Cleveland County jury in September 2019.
Steven Antonio White was 17 when he shot and killed a young mother outside of a Tulsa health clinic in an attempted robbery in 1996. Michelle Hendrix, 30, was with her two daughters, ages 5 months and 2 years when White and another youth accosted her in the parking lot. Prosecutors sought the death penalty in the case. At trial, White’s attorney said he had schizophrenia. A psychologist who testified on White’s behalf said he had an IQ of 72 and could have sustained brain damage at birth. White was denied a new sentencing hearing in 2013 on the basis of his youth. He currently has no attorney, according to court records.
Slint Tate was 16 in 1999 when he shot and killed a 65-year-old Vernie Milford Roberts, a Delaware County reserve deputy who was transporting him to juvenile detention.
Roberts’ wife Betty, a volunteer monitor for juvenile delinquents, was also in the car. Attempting to escape, Tate grabbed Betty by the throat from the back seat and threatened to choke her to death unless Roberts pulled the car over.
Tate grabbed Roberts’ service revolver as the deputy tried to handcuff him.
The youth then fired several times before hitting Roberts.
In 2018, Tate was sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison on federal drug distribution charges. Using contraband cell phones, Tate ran a large drug trafficking ring from Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Federal authorities claimed the drug ring cleared as much as $1 million a week in methamphetamine sales.
Sebastian Shepherd is serving life without parole for the murder of a 47-year old Oklahoma City man during a home invasion. He was 17 years old at the time of the crime.
Two men and a woman broke into Arthur Strozewski’s home in Southwest Oklahoma City and stabbed him more than 30 times in August 2012. The assailants also tied up Strozewski’s 14-year old son. A 16-year old daughter hid in closet and called police.
Shepherd’s best friend, Eddie Thompson, 34, and Loretta Hawks, 33, were also both convicted of first- degree murder for Strozewski’s death.
Shepherd claims he is innocent.
He was convicted largely on the testimony of Thompson’s sister, who said Shepherd admitted his involvement in Strozewski’s murder to her in a phone conversation. There was no physical evidence tying Shepherd to the crime and Strozewski’s children could not positively identify him, according to court records and news coverage of his trial.
Ronald Jesse is serving life without parole for the 1993 murder of 14-year old Brandy Crystian Hill in Lawton.
Jesse and co-defendant Kenneth Chad Charm picked up Hill on the side of road. Jesse and Charm raped Hill, strangled her and hit her in the head with a sledgehammer.
Jesse was 16 at the time of the crime
Charm, who was an adult, was executed by lethal injection in 2003. Jesse is currently seeking resentencing. The state is seeking life without parole again.
Robert Stevens was sentenced to life without parole for the 1994 kidnapping and murder of Johnny Lawrence in Canadian County. Stevens was 17 at the time of the crime. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Stevens’ sentence in 2018. The state is seeking to sentence Stevens to life without parole again, claiming he is incapable of being rehabilitated.
Robert Mitchell was convicted of first-degree murder for stabbing his 90-year old neighbor Myrtle McGeehee to death in 1992. Mitchell was 15 at the time of the crime in and continues to maintain his innocence. A Seminole County District Court judge granted Mitchell’s request for a new sentencing hearing in June 2018. The state is seeking to sentence Mitchell to life without parole again, claiming he is beyond rehabilitation. Mitchell’s family and attorney say they will seek a new trial for Mitchell.
Richard Harjo is one of four men convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of a Tulsa QuikTrip clerk to death in 1995.
Harjo—who was 16 at the time of the crime– is serving life without parole. The three other men were all over the age of 18 and were executed by lethal injection in 2009, 2011, and 2014. Harjo is now seeking a new sentencing hearing on the basis of his youth.
Randy Mounce was convicted of first-degree murder for stabbing a 67-year old man to death in 1994 during a robbery. Victim William Wohl was found in his neighbor’s driveway in Washita County, dead from a single stab wound to the upper chest. Mounce was 17 at the time of the crime. He pled guilty to avoid a possible death sentence. Mounce last sought a new sentencing in 2013 on the basis of his youth at the time of the crime, but was denied.
Nicholas Goosby was 15 in 1993 when he and his 16-year old cousin killed a woman during a failed carjacking in Warr Acres. The 24-year-old victim Pamela Krohe was returning home from working the late shift as a hospital nurse. At a preliminary hearing, a Warr Acres police officer testified that Goosby became angry when he discovered Krohe’s car was a stick shift, which he couldn’t drive. The two teenagers began firing on Krohe after she honked the car horn and screamed for help. Goosby’s sentence was vacated in 2018. The Oklahoma County District Attorney's office has said it intends to seek life without parole again, claiming Goosby is incapable of being rehabilitated.
Miguel Cardoso is serving life without parole after a Jackson County jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the 1993 drive-by shooting death of Joe Ortega Jr.
Cardoso, 17, was in a car with two other teenagers when Ortega was shot and killed by a single bullet to the chest.
Enrique "Henry" Rodriquez, another teenager who was in the car with Cardoso, is also serving life without parole for Ortega’s murder.
Cardoso’s sentence was vacated in 2018 on the basis of his youth and he is awaiting a new sentencing hearing. His attorney has asked the court to rule that Oklahoma’s straight life sentence is unconstitutional for juveniles because it does not provide them with a meaningful opportunity for release.
Michael Ray is serving life without parole for stabbing his 14-year old ex-girlfriend to death with a butcher knife in Duncan. He was 16 years old in 2013 at the time of the crime.
After Alyssa Wiles broke up with Ray, he entered her bedroom window while she was sleeping and stabbed her to death.
Ray last sought a new sentencing hearing in 2017 on the basis of his youth, but was denied.
Leigh Ann Zaepfel is one of only two women in Oklahoma serving life without parole for juvenile crimes. In 1990, 17-year old Zaepfel shot and killed Ira Greninger, 65, and his wife, Vivian, 63, at their home in Miami during a robbery. After killing the couple, Zaepfel and her boyfriend, Christopher Allen Carrion, searched the Greningers’ house for money and only found about $19. Zaepfel was sentenced to two consecutive life without parole terms. Zaepfel unsuccessfully petitioned the court to have her sentence modified in 2013 and 2016.
Justin Ryan Long was just 15 when he stabbed his adoptive father, Hoyt Long to death in 2000 at their east Duncan home. The Longs adopted him at age 7.
As a young child, Long says he was sexually abused by a family member. He was placed in state custody at age 5 after attacking another child with a hammer, according to a 2001 article about his trial from The Oklahoman. Long spent the next two years in a series of foster homes.
From prison, Long has filed seven applications for a new sentencing hearing with the help of a prison law clerk—the last of which is still pending.
Joe Tilley is serving two life without parole sentences for two separate murders he committed as a juvenile in Carter and Johnston counties.
At age 16, Tilley shot and killed Herman Deagon, a 75-year old man who was sitting on a porch in Downtown Ardmore in 1990.
Four days after shooting Deagon, Tilley strangled his 15-year old classmate Kimberly Ann James and dumped her body in the Washita River. A jury initially handed down a death sentence for Tilley in the James case. He was later re-sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Jimmy Esquivel is serving life without parole for killing his girlfriend’s 22-month old daughter in Altus in 1997. Esquivel, 17, was babysitting while his 18-year girlfriend was at work. The toddler died of blunt force trauma to the head.
Esquivel filed his own application for a new sentencing hearing and the court appointed an attorney to represent him. His re-sentencing is pending in Jackson County District Court.
At age 17, Jimmie Lee Lokey shot and killed a Tulsa taxi cab driver in 1992. The body of Charles Gross was found in a wooded area in Osage County, his taxi cab had been abandoned at a Tulsa apartment complex. According to news coverage of his court case, Lokey came from an abusive home where his parents drank and did drugs. By age 12, Lokey was also drinking and using methamphetamine. Lokey applied for a new sentencing hearing in 2013 and 2016, but was denied both times.
Jesus Manuel Corrales is serving life without parole for the slaying of high wrestling star Tommy Byus in 1991. Byus was killed in a drive-by shooting in south Oklahoma City. Corrales last applied for a new sentencing hearing in 2013, but he was denied.
Jesse Allen Johnson is serving life without parole for killing Leroy Joseph Vigil as part of a murder-for hire plot orchestrated by Vigil’s wife.
Johnson was 17 years old in 2005 when he and an adult co-defendant, Antwyon Deangelo Turner, killed Vigil in the front yard of his Choctaw home. Turner beat Vigil with an aluminum baseball bat and Johnson shot the man in the head three times to make sure he was dead.
Johnson was paid $200 for his role in the murder, which he spent on a new subwoofer for his car.
According to court transcripts, Johnson’s intellectual functioning is in the borderline range and he has an IQ of 77.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Johnson’s sentence in 2018 and he is now seeking a new sentencing trial in front of a jury. The state is seeking to sentence Johnson to life without parole again, claiming he is beyond rehabilitation.
Jerry DuWane Mooney is serving life without parole for the murder of an elderly Washita County man in 1993.
Mooney, age 16, and two others beat Robert Turley in his home in Canute during a robbery gone bad. Turley fell into a coma and died from his injuries six months after the assault. Mooney was then charged with first-degree murder.
Mooney is now seeking a new sentencing hearing in front of a jury with the help of attorneys from the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.
James William Campbell is serving two life without parole sentences for shooting a Garfield County couple to death while they slept in a parked car in 1997. Campbell was 16 at the time of the murders. He confessed to shooting David Blanchard and Katherine Whiting with his father’s gun after happening upon the sleeping couple parked in a field. Campbell pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in order to avoid a possible death sentence. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Campbell’s sentence in 2018. He is awaiting a new sentencing hearing.
Eric A. Elliott is serving life without parole for the 1994 shooting death of Roxy Ruddell in Cleveland County. Ruddell’s murder was part of a crime spree that stretched from Ohio to New Mexico for Elliott, then age 17, and 24-year old Lewis Eugene Gilbert II.
Gilbert and Elliott also killed a 79-year old woman in Ohio and an elderly couple in Missouri.
The pair abducted Ruddell while she was fishing at Lake Stanley Draper and shot her to death in order to steal her car. Gilbert was sentenced to death for his role in Ruddell’s murder and was executed by lethal injection in 2003.
Elliott has a private attorney and is currently seeking a new sentencing hearing.
Enrique "Henry" Rodriquez is serving life without parole for the 1993 drive-by shooting death of Joe Ortega Jr. in Jackson County.
Rodriquez, 17, was in a car with two other teenagers when Ortega was shot and killed by a single bullet to the chest.
Miguel Cardoso, one of the other teenagers who was in the car with Rodriquez, is also serving life without parole for Ortega’s murder.
Rodriquez has been granted a new sentencing hearing, currently set for November 2019.
Dylan Ray Shanks was 15 in 1998 when she shot and killed his parents and his girlfriend’s stepfather with a shotgun in Tulsa County. Shanks also shot his girlfriend’s grandmother in the face, but the woman survived. At trial, Shanks testified he was high on LSD and was hearing voices on the day of the murders. Shanks sought a new sentencing hearing in 2013 on the basis of his youth at the time of the crimes, which the court denied.
In 1994, 16-year old Donnino Moreland shot and killed his mother and father in the living room of their Enid home. After shooting his parents, Moreland called 911 and told police he was angry after his parents grounded him for skipping school. Moreland pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison for the death of his father and life without parole for the death of his mother. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Moreland’s life without parole sentence in 2018. He is now awaiting a new sentencing hearing.
In 1998, 15-year old Derrick Lester raped and murdered an 84-year old woman who lived across the street from him in Ada.
Lester and 18-year old Jason Blevins broke into the woman’s home and bound and gagged her before slitting her throat and stabbing her to death. Lester has been granted a new sentencing hearing, but he has no attorney and no trial date has been sent. The state is seeking another life without parole sentence in his case.
Darrel Ray Miller, 17, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for shooting a Tulsa convenience store clerk to death in 2003. Miller had a lengthy juvenile record that included prior armed robberies and multiple sex crime charges. He faced a possible death sentence if found guilty at trial. A Tulsa County District Court judge sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole. Miller last unsuccessfully sought a new sentencing hearing on the basis of his youth in 2013.
Dana Barker is serving life without parole for shooting her former stepmother to death in Okmulgee County in 1994. She is one of two women in Oklahoma serving a life without parole sentence for a crime committed as a juvenile. Dana Barker was 17 years old when she shot Brenda Barker three times with a stolen .22-caliber handgun. The family was involved in a custody dispute over Dana Barker’s little brother at the time of the shooting. She currently has no attorney and said she cannot afford to hire one. She has unsuccessfully sought a new sentencing hearing at least three times since 2013.
Charles Willie Nolan is serving life without parole for killing the owner of a Frederick welding shop during a robbery.
Nolan, 17, hit shop owner Paul Riggs twice in the head with a sledgehammer before fleeing with $200 in November 1988, according to a newspaper clipping about the case. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder because his mother worried he would be killed in jail or recieve the death penalty.
Nolan has no money to hire an attorney, but filed a request for a new sentencing hearing on his own from prison in March 2018. Over a year later, The state had yet to respond. Tillman County District Attorney David Thomas, who just took office in January, said he was unaware of Nolan’s application for a new sentencing hearing. It’s possible his office was never properly served with the documents. Nolan simply mailed the forms to the Tillman County Court Clerk’s office from prison. He also mailed in a form requesting the court appoint him an attorney from the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, which a judge has never signed off on.
Chancey Luna was 16 in 2014 when he shot and killed 22-year old college baseball player Christopher Lane at random.
Lane was jogging on a street in Duncan. Luna and a group of friends were riding around town in a car and shot Lane out of boredom, prosecutors claimed. An Oklahoma appeals court granted Luna a new sentencing hearing in 2017 that would consider his immaturity at the time of the crime and chances for rehabilitation. The hearing is tentatively scheduled for sometime in fall 2019.
Carlos Provo was 17 when he shot and killed a rival gang member in 1994 in Northeast Oklahoma City. Provo claims he acted in self defense. The victim, Marvin Lavar Gulley, 16, also had a gun, which jammed during an attempted drive-by shooting in Provo’s neighborhood, according to a transcript of testimony at Provo’s trial. Provo was sentenced to life without parole after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder. He has tried unsuccessfully on his own to get a new sentencing hearing three times since 2013. He recently appealed his latest denial for a new hearing to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals with the help of a private attorney.
Andy Jack Wilson is serving life without parole for the 1994 drive-by shooting death of 20-year old Christopher John Cox in Tulsa.
Wilson, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, was allegedly a member of the Irish Mob Gang. Wilson has tried unsuccessfully three times since 2013 to win a new trial or sentencing hearing, the last was in 2017.
Bob Lewis Fitch is serving life without parole for the beating death of his girlfriend’s 22-month old son in 1996.
Fitch, 17, was babysitting Kyle Mauldin in Oklahoma City when the toddler fell unconscious. Fitch claimed the boy choked on a hot dog. Kyle died in the hospital a few hours later from head trauma.
Fitch pleaded guilty to first-degree murder to avoid a possible death sentence.
He unsuccessfully petitioned the court for a new sentencing hearing in 2013.
Adriel Simpson is serving life without parole for the murder of a 12-year old girl whose body was found burning in the middle of a Tulsa street in 1990. Simpson was 15 years old at the time of slaying. Kimberly Dawn Allison, 12, was shot three times, tied up with rope and set on fire. Simpson currently has no attorney, according to court records. The court denied him a new sentencing hearing on the basis of his youth in 2013.
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