Video: Sweeney case breaks: 23-year-old charged with murder
BY NICOLE MARSHALL World Staff Writer
Friday, June 05, 2009
4/05/11 at 4:46 PM
A man who police say was the triggerman in the September contract killing of businessman and former University of Tulsa football player Neal Sweeney was charged with first-degree murder on Thursday.
Terrico Bethel, 23, of Tulsa is accused of fatally shooting Sweeney at his business, Retail Fuels Marketing, 3158 S. 108th East Ave., on Sept. 4, court records state. Sweeney died at a hospital the next day.
Bethel has been jailed since Feb. 27, when he was arrested on unrelated complaints that included drug possession and assault on a police officer, according to an arrest report.
Police Chief Ron Palmer said detectives are still investigating who paid to have Sweeney killed. The investigation has revealed that Sweeney's death resulted from a dispute with someone with whom he was doing business, Palmer said.
"I want to emphasize at this time that this investigation is still ongoing. It is not over. We are continuing to pursue other leads that exist right now that may lead to charges of other individuals," Palmer said.
"The warrant for Mr. Bethel this morning is not the end of the Neal Sweeney investigation."
Detectives interviewed Bethel on Wednesday, "at which time he admitted to the crime by confessing that he did it on behalf of other individuals involved in the crime," according to a police affidavit that was filed in Tulsa County District Court on Thursday.
Police did not disclose how much money Bethel allegedly was paid to shoot Sweeney.
Soon after the shooting, police said it was clear that Sweeney was shot by someone who appeared to be familiar with the office complex where Sweeney worked.
"At the time that it occurred, the initial motive for the crime was unknown, but from our experience it appeared to be a contract-type killing," Palmer said.
Detectives have investigated hundreds of leads trying to determine the motive. In late January, they talked to someone who provided them with specific, detailed information about the crime and the motive.
"At that time, it was determined that the motive was indeed a contract killing, and it was initiated over a business dispute over the sale of gasoline through Mr. Sweeney's company to other individuals," Palmer said Thursday.
On Feb. 4, the van that police say the shooter was driving was found at a Tulsa apartment complex. That vehicle, which police determined had been stolen in Muskogee two days before the shooting, was processed for evidence, he said.
A witness whom police interviewed on April 29 told them Bethel had talked to him in detail about the killing. Bethel allegedly told the witness that he used a .38-caliber revolver to shoot Sweeney one time in the head, according to a police affidavit that was signed by Detective Victor Regalado.
The witness said Bethel also described the scene of the shooting, including details about where Sweeney's office was located within the business, that Sweeney was sitting at his desk when he was shot and that Bethel walked past a screaming woman to get to Sweeney, the document states.
As far as police know, Sweeney did not know Bethel, Palmer said.
Bethel was convicted April 27 in connection with his February arrest and was awaiting transfer to prison when the murder charge was filed, Palmer said.
On his arrest report, police noted that Bethel was a member of the Neighborhood Crips and that his street name is "Life."
Police records also show that he has had frequent contact with the police and has previous convictions for false impersonation, resisting arrest and carrying a weapon.
Officers have served warrants and interviewed many people about the Sweeney homicide, they said.
"The detectives behind me deserve the gratitude of the citizens of Tulsa for working so hard on this case and bringing some closure to it," Palmer said at press conference while flanked by Homicide Unit detectives and supervisors. "They deserve our appreciation and credit for what is being done today."
A junior college All-American, Sweeney had been a standout wingback for the University of Tulsa in the 1960s. During his junior season, he was the third-best receiver in the nation, with 78 catches. He was a sixth-round selection to the NFL's Denver Broncos. He stayed with the team for one season before leaving the game.
Sweeney's family could not be reached for comment Thursday.
A $25,000 reward
posted by colleagues of
Sweeney’s in the fuel industry
is still offered for
information that helps
police arrest the people
responsible for his death.
Anyone with information
about the homicide
is urged to call or text message
at 96-COPS or e-mail
police at tulsaworld.com/crimestoppersemail.
The Crime Commission
offers an additional
reward for information
leading to arrests, and
tipsters can remain
Nicole Marshall 581-8459
Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer stands with detectives Thursday as he announces that charges have been filed in the homicide of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
The composite sketch of Neal Sweeney's killer can be compared to the mug shot of Terrico Bethel.