Cushing triple homicide suspect jailed
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
2/18/09 at 7:49 AM
CUSHING — Jesse Martinez said he lost four friends Tuesday morning.
Three of them — two men and a woman — were found dead inside a residence at 814 E. Moses St.
The other friend — 20-year-old Robert Chad Barela — is a “significant person of interest” in the triple-homicide case.
Barela was taken into custody without incident near a Stillwater Wal-Mart around 11:30 a.m. after an extensive manhunt, Cushing Police Chief Terry Brannon said.
Barela was detained for questioning by the Cushing Police Department and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation at the Stillwater Police Department.
Later in the day, he was booked into the Payne County jail on a hold for the OSBI under the name of Robert Chad Lansford-Barela.
Capt. Kevin Woodward of the Payne County Sheriff’s Office said that OSBI is expected to file a specific complaint against Barela on Wednesday around noon.
“I think we’re still interviewing him at this point,” said OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown.
The names of the deceased have not been released by police, but the Oklahoman reported that former roommates of one of the victims identified her as Elizabeth Michelle Hueser, 19; the other victims, Albert Sernas and Douglass Mason Peck, were identified by relatives.
Brannon would not comment on the manner of the deaths and had not provided additional information since an 11:30 a.m. news conference.
Martinez said that he has known Barela since he was age 9.
Martinez said he believes Barela may be responsible for the deaths based on information he’s learned about the case.
Barela reportedly drove to Stillwater in one of the deceased friend’s vehicles — a maroon Chevrolet Blazer — and also had the cell phone of one of the deceased friends, Martinez said.
“I’m shocked to be honest with you. That wasn’t him. That was the drugs,” Martinez said.
Martinez said Barela reportedly sent a text message to a friend Tuesday morning saying that he had lost it and didn’t know what he had done.
After learning of the deaths, Martinez said he felt his family could be in danger. He said he went to the OSBI, which took some of his family into protective custody until Barela was found.
“I’m from California where this is kind of normal. But people here weren’t ready for this. The whole town is talking about it,” Martinez said. “Drugs, meth — it’s ruining this town. It’s ruining everything.”
Martinez said Barela dropped out of high school and that they weren’t hanging out as much anymore because Barela was often strung out on drugs.
“I said, 'Dude, I can’t hang around you. You’ve been up for days,’” Martinez said.
Barela would stay at Martinez’s house or other friends and family’s houses. But Martinez said he told him he had to stay clean to stay with him because he has children in the house.
Martinez said that Barela had a troubled background that included abuse, desertion and juvenile hall. Over the years Barela had lived in both Cushing and Stockton, Calif.
A photograph of Barela on his Myspace page shows a bare-chested, bandana-wearing Barela holding a handgun. His interests are listed as “money and guns god and police activity there up to something.” Under heroes, it says “not the cops.”
Martinez said Barela’s Myspace persona was a macho facade.
“Deep down he wanted stability, someone who cared about him,” Martinez said.
The homicides were reported Tuesday at 5:21 a.m. Police immediately began canvassing the area and searched unsuccessfully for Barela at two residences.
The caller who notified police is considered a significant witness in the case, Brannon said. The witness did not place the call from inside the residence where the homicides occurred, Brannon said.
Brannon said he knew Barela from his stepson’s youth soccer team. He said Barela had lived in Cushing for eight or nine years.
Police took out two methamphetamine labs in the same block where the homicides occurred recently, Brannon said.
Brooke Barrows, lives about a block away from the house where the bodies were found, said there have been some bad fights in that block.
“It’s pretty scarey. I have a 2-year-old. We’re almost ready to just put our house on the market,” Barrows said.
Cushing schools went on a voluntary lock-down during the search for Barela.
Cushing is in Payne County, about 60 miles southwest of Tulsa. Its population is around 8,371. Cushing’s last homicide was in April 2007.
World staff writer Matt Barnard and Oklahoman staff writer Johnny Johnson contributed to this story.
Robert Chad Barela
Cushing Police Chief Terry Brannon leaves the site of a triple murder in Cushing. SHERRY BROWN/Tulsa World
Police block off traffic near a Cushing neighborhood where a triple homicide occurred earlier Tuesday. NewsOK
Screen shot of MySpace page for Robert Chad Barela.