Tulsa killer gets last shot at clemency today
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer & ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor
Friday, February 24, 2012
2/24/12 at 8:26 AM
In 1996, Trisha Stemple was violently beaten and run over by the side of U.S. 75 south of Tulsa. She was found dead with only 11 cents and her wedding ring.
The man who gave her that ring 11 years earlier, Timothy Shaun Stemple, faces his final chance for clemency Friday before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
He was sentenced to death in 1997 for planning and executing his wife's brutal murder so he could collect a $950,000 life insurance payment.
Stemple is scheduled to die by lethal injection March 15 at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
He will appear at Friday's hearing via video connection.
A veteran Tulsa police homicide detective, Sgt. Mike Huff, investigated the murder and will testify at the clemency hearing.
Huff, who is now retired, said that of all the cases he investigated during his 30-year career, the Stemple case is among those he can't forget.
"Wow, what an evil guy, and he put a lot of thought into this," he said.
Huff described Trisha Stemple as "a wonderful woman doing her best to raise her kids and take care of this loser husband."
"His wife was basically supporting him, ... but he would not miss a payment on this million-dollar-plus life insurance policy that he had on her."
According to court testimony, Shaun Stemple hired a teenage accomplice, Terry Hunt, to wait in the woods by the highway, and then Stemple feigned car trouble so he could stop at a preselected spot nearby.
Then he and Hunt took turns beating Trisha Stemple with a cellophane-wrapped baseball bat and ran over her body with a pickup.
Court records indicate that Trisha Stemple tried to get up after her husband attempted to drive the truck's tires over her head, and he got out of the truck, walked over to her and said: "Don't worry, Trish. The ambulance is on its way."
He then grabbed the bat again and hit her in the back of the head eight to 12 more times, court records indicate.
Trisha Stemple's skull, neck bone and pelvis were crushed, and 17 ribs were broken.
Shaun Stemple, now 45, has maintained that he is innocent.
But court records include a signed confession he wrote for a fellow inmate at the Tulsa Jail while he was awaiting trial and indicate that Stemple tried to hire the man to "get rid of" his accomplices and mistress.
Huff said Stemple had a young girlfriend who worked at a fast-food restaurant and that "she was the link to the actual kid who did the killing."
Trisha Stemple's sister, Missy Rudick Hibbard of Adair, said her sister's killer doesn't deserve mercy from the state.
"Of course, the execution is not going to bring Trish back, but it's the punishment for what he has done," she said. "What he did was very brutal and very heinous. She suffered tremendously."
Her absence has hurt her family, Hibbard said.
"Trisha absolutely loved her family with all her heart, and she did everything for them," she said. "She was a wonderful sister and wonderful friend.
"She loved Shaun," Hibbard said. "That he would do this to her is unfathomable. But he took her life away."
Huff said he has heard that a high-profile expert is expected to testify at the clemency hearing on Shaun Stemple's behalf in an attempt to question the evidence.
But "the case is tried; he's convicted," Huff said. "Let's not retry the case."
When asked whether it was likely that Stemple would be granted clemency, Huff said: "I hope not, because I have March 15 marked off, and I'm going to McAlester that day."
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477 Ziva Branstetter 918-581-8306
Timothy Shaun Stemple: He is scheduled to be put to death March 15 at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.