OKEMAH — In exchange for a chance to talk to the FBI, Kevin Sweat chose to enter a blind guilty plea on Thursday on all three counts of murder against him, sparing the state a lengthy trial.
Sweat, who was set to face trial on Monday, was found guilty of murder Thursday in the 2008 deaths of 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker and 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker and the 2011 killing of Ashley Taylor, 23.
In Okfuskee County District Court on Thursday afternoon, Sweat told Judge Lawrence Parish he wanted to change his plea to a blind guilty plea on all three counts.
Parish read through each of the charges and asked Sweat whether he fully understood that he was giving up his constitutional right to a trial. Sweat told the judge he understood, and he signed a written guilty plea admitting that testimony he gave the OSBI, along with statements by witnesses and evidence collected by the state, proved his guilt.
After the judge found Sweat guilty on all counts, family members of the victims cried quietly in the courtroom. Several hugged prosecutor Maxey Reilly afterward. They handed out purple and green rubber bracelets with the three victims’ names that said “Pray 4 Justice.”
Earlier Thursday, the Tulsa World reported that newly filed court documents allege Sweat’s motive for the 2008 slayings of Skyla and Taylor: He blamed a family member of Taylor’s for selling drugs to his brother, who died of an overdose in 2007.
Sweat’s signed guilty plea explained that he was promised a chance to talk to the FBI, and agents were in court on Thursday waiting to meet with him. There was no discussion or explanation regarding why Sweat wished to speak to FBI agents.
“Whatever his lawyers, Mr. Sweat and the FBI do is up to them,” Parish said.
From his jail cell while awaiting trial, Sweat has been regularly corresponding with an Oklahoma City television reporter, claiming that he has evidence that will lead to federal indictments and help the FBI solve other crimes.
In a blind plea, he is throwing himself on the mercy of the court and accepting whatever sentence the judge gives him. Sweat cannot withdraw the plea and later ask for a trial if he doesn’t like the judge’s sentence.
After the Department of Corrections performs a presentencing investigation, the court will schedule a hearing to allow victims’ impact statements and testimony about mitigating factors before Sweat is formally sentenced.
Because he waived his right to a jury trial and has pleaded guilty, the only options for his punishment under Oklahoma law are life in prison with the possibility of parole or life without the possibility of parole.
This week, prosecutors filed an additional list of witnesses, including a former Subway co-worker who was to testify that Kevin Sweat blamed the Placker family for supplying his brother, Brian Sweat, with drugs.
Brian Sweat died of a drug overdose in July 2007 at a Henryetta motel, records show.
The related exhibit list filed by prosecutors mentions that the state had planned to present recordings of phone calls and visits Sweat had with family members while in jail awaiting trial.
The state’s witness list indicated that Christopher Placker, the son of Peter and Vicky Placker, was living in the Weleetka area in 2007 and selling drugs — including methamphetamine — in Henryetta. The court filings allege that Christopher Placker was selling up to $250 worth of drugs per day and was selling them to people associated with Kevin Sweat’s brothers, Brian and Eric Sweat.
Peter Placker is Taylor Pashcal-Placker’s biological grandfather, who raised her as his daughter.
Taylor and Skyla were found gunned down by the side of a county road outside Weleetka on June 8, 2008.
The girls’ murders remained unsolved until after Sweat’s fiancée, Ashley Taylor, went missing, and Sweat reportedly made incriminating statements to her family when confronted about her disappearance.
Her family reported her missing in July 2011 after the couple supposedly had traveled to Louisiana to get married. Sweat initially told investigators he had last seen his fiancée walking down U.S. 75 after the couple argued and she demanded to get out of the car.
An investigator later testified that Sweat told him he cut Ashley Taylor’s throat with a knife he had thrown at her.
Sweat had previously been questioned in the Weleetka girls’ slayings but wasn’t charged in their deaths until investigators linked incriminating statements he allegedly made in video confessions and evidence showing that he owned one of the guns used in their murders.
Sweat reportedly told OSBI investigators that his fiancée had threatened Sweat that if he ever left her, she would tell police that he killed the Weleetka girls.
Michael Taylor, Ashley Taylor’s father, said it was difficult to hear Sweat admit guilt, but it was like “a weight lifting off our shoulders.”
He had banked more than 400 hours of vacation time, planning to attend every day of the trial, which was expected to last at least a month.
“It’s a big relief, knowing that this is going to be over,” he said.
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477