Though she was interrogated as a material witness in one of Tulsa’s most high-profile homicides, Susie Pauline Canady maintains she’s a surviving victim of the crime who was high on drugs when she sent text messages claiming to be involved in the killings.
Canady was arrested as a material witness within days of the January 2013 execution-style slayings of four women at the Fairmont Terrace Apartments and held in isolation under a false name at the Tulsa Jail for six weeks. Police later released her after they decided her statements were not credible, they said.
On Jan. 7, 2013, the bodies of twin sisters Rebeika Powell and Kayetie Powell Melchor, 23, and their friends, Misty Nunley, 33, and Julie Jackson, 55, were found fatally shot, bound with their hands behind their backs, inside Powell’s unit at the complex near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue.
Three days later, an unnamed witness told Tulsa police that Canady sent him text messages stating she was involved in the slayings and had disposed of the murder weapon in the Arkansas River, according to an affidavit filed in the case.
Other witnesses told police of a recent argument between Canady and Melchor, and allegedly saw Canady wearing blood-spattered pants after the homicides.
“I’m not a killer. … I’ve been in trouble before, but nothing like this,” Canady told The Frontier in a recent interview. “Me and her argued because she took my boyfriend from me.”
The day before the Fairmont Terrace killings, Canady found her boyfriend in a motel room with Melchor and challenged her to a fight. Melchor refused, and Canady said she yelled that she hated Melchor and left.
Canady then visited Powell’s apartment the following day, Jan. 7, to use drugs with her, she said. Seeing the door cracked open, Canady entered and immediately felt a gun being held to the back of her head.
“Freeze, bitch, or I’m going to blow your brains out,” her assailant said.
Canady said she was led into a bedroom where the four women were tied up where she reportedly saw James Poore, one of two brothers prosecutors have charged in the killings.
She says there was another man present, and she noticed a scar or patch of hair above his lip. Canady speculated could have led police to suspect Poore’s brother Cedric, whose jail mugshot reveals a scar between his nose and upper lip. He’s also been charged with murder in the case.
But this is where Canady’s story varies from the investigators’ version of the killings: After seeing Cedric Poore in court at the preliminary hearing, she’s sure he wasn’t the other assailant.
“I’ll never forget the look on James Poore’s face,” she said.
Canady said she witnessed the fatal shootings, something police now doubt. She described the twins attempting to hold hands, Powell begging for her sister’s life, Nunley’s pleas for mercy and Jackson praying in their final moments.
As the last victim fell, Canady heard a knock at the door and the man holding her at gunpoint said to his accomplice: “It’s time to go.”
The men threatened to kill her, reminding her they knew who she was, her boyfriend’s name and what kind of car she drove.
“I shouldn’t be alive right now,” she said.
Canady returned to another apartment in the complex where friends lived — the witnesses who told police they saw her with blood on her pants, a detail she refutes. Another friend soon picked her up and she left her white SUV behind, fearing the men could use it to find her.
During a text conversation with a former lover, Canady told him she was involved in the homicides and said: “Trust me there ain’t no evidence leading back to me,” according to an affidavit.
She had been high on meth for five days at that point and was out of it, she said.
“It causes you to say stupid shit,” Canady said.
Witnessing the four slayings plunged her further into drug addiction, she said. But she’s proud of more than a month’s sobriety after a recent arrest.
Tulsa police considered Canady a material witness based on information she gave in a Jan. 11, 2013, interview with detectives, but later decided her story was not credible.
She knew “intricate details,” including where the women were shot, the type of gun used and “items that were gone through by the assailants,” according to an early police report.
Documents pertaining to Canady were filed under seal “out of significant concerns for (her) protection” and “preserving the integrity of the evidence associated with the on-going investigation,” the affidavit states.
She was booked under the name “Maddison Jones” and unable to communicate with her family. Her family members made repeated calls to the jail in an attempt to locate her, but were told she wasn’t in custody.
“They didn’t know if I was dead or whatever (else),” Canady said.
She’s confident, though, that her confinement saved her life by keeping her hidden.
Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker told The Frontier that the more detectives spoke with Canady, the more inconsistencies they found between her changing stories and the physical evidence.
“She did not know enough to actually be there. … This couldn’t have happened the way she said it happened,” he said.
Walker thinks extensive news coverage of the homicide investigation and the rampant spread of information and rumors throughout the 61st Street and Peoria Avenue area could have fueled her version of events.
James and Cedric Poore are “the only two that are responsible for the murders,” he said.
The court granted a motion for severance in order for their jury trials to be held separately. James Poore’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 14. Cedric Poore will be tried Oct. 19. Both are charged with four counts of first-degree murder — each of which lists an alternative of felony murder — and two counts of armed robbery.
Canady was subpoenaed by defense attorneys to appear for their joint preliminary hearing, but a judge determined both men would be bound over for trial before she was called to testify.
Cedric Poore’s attorney, John Echols, expressed concerns about preserving Canady’s testimony at the time. He has filed an application for conditional examination, which would require Canady to submit to an interview with Cedric Poore’s defense team.
An investigator hired by Echols attempted to speak with Canady at the Craig County Jail in April after Vinita police arrested her on an unrelated crime.
She refused to participate at the time, knowing others could potentially hear the conversation, but said she has cooperated with Echols and his investigator previously.
Earlier this year, Canady pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of threatening an act of violence for an April incident in which she chased and threatened a woman with a knife, court records show. She was given credit for time served with the remaining one-year jail sentence suspended. Court records show she previously pleaded guilty to property crimes in 2006 and 2010 in Craig County.
Tulsa County District Judge Kurt Glassco denied Echols’ application, one of three he has filed in the case. Echols has since applied to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for original jurisdiction asking them to review the decision.
The appeals court requested last week that Glassco provide his findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the application. Glassco’s clerk said the judge mailed that document to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday, but it has not yet been included in the public case filings at the Tulsa County Courthouse.
Another application recently filed by Echols alleges there is evidence allegedly implicating Freddie Hayes in the homicides. Hayes was also previously considered a person of interest during the homicide investigation.
DNA tests on the bindings used to tie the woman excluded both defendants as contributors but Hayes could not be excluded as a contributor, Kunzweiler and Echols told Glassco at a May hearing.
Hayes previously stated to police he and Powell had sex in her apartment the morning of the homicides, according to case documents.
The state’s evidence as provided to Echols and his co-counsel, Michael Manning and Kristen Bernhardt, includes other witnesses’ statements identifying Hayes as a participant in the killings.
The evidence also includes video surveillance they argue does not confirm Hayes’ alibi or Hayes’ statements to investigators that he was pistol-whipped by a friend of the victims just outside the homicide scene, according to the application.
“We looked at all these people,” Walker said. Those allegations are simply the defense attorneys using the police department’s thorough investigative work against the state and its prosecutors, Walker said.
Prosecutors, under then-District Attorney Tim Harris, announced last year they would not pursue the death penalty against James and Cedric Poore after objectively considering the evidence.
Assistant District Attorney Julie Doss said the state has no intention or plan to reconsider the decision under District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.