Weleetka murder suspect to appear in court for girlfriend's death
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Monday, April 23, 2012
4/23/12 at 7:36 AM
OKEMAH - The man accused in the high-profile slaying of two Weleetka girls in 2008 is due to appear in court this week for the death of his former girlfriend last summer.
Kevin Sweat's preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin Monday at the Okfuskee County Courthouse for the death of Ashley Taylor, who went missing last summer after she and Sweat allegedly left Henryetta to get married.
Sweat, 26, was arrested and charged with Taylor's death in August, and was being held in jail when he was charged in December with the deaths of Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13, and Skyla Whitaker, 11.
Taylor, 23, was reported missing to the Okmulgee Police Department on July 29 by her mother when she did not return with Sweat. The two left on July 17 for Louisiana to get married, according to an affidavit filed by Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Agent Kurt Titsworth.
According to Titsworth, Sweat told agents on Aug. 3 that he had cut Taylor's throat and pushed her into a lake in Henryetta. He had previously denied any knowledge of her whereabouts to agents.
Her body was not found in the lake, but agents found human bones, female clothing and glasses with a prescription consistent with Taylor's on property belonging to Sweat's father, according to Titsworth.
Michael Taylor said his daughter Ashley was always happy, and that Sweat "was respectful and clean cut."
"She was very happy-go-lucky," Michael Taylor said. "Always smiling, always laughing. She was a great kid."
He knew that the two planned to get married and they were leaving to do so in July. When Sweat returned and Ashley Taylor didn't, he became concerned and suspicious.
"As soon as she disappeared," Michael Taylor said, he was suspicious. "She was supposed to be going with him to get married. We find out he's back and she's nowhere to be found."
What concerned him more was when he started to realize that he might know more about Sweat, and suspect him in one of the area's most notorious crimes, Michael Taylor said.
"I was shocked (about Ashley Taylor) and even more shocked that I may have had some info on the other murders, but I wasn't aware it was relevant at all," Michael Taylor said.
In November, he began going to several media outlets with other members of the family to speak about the crime and what they suspected. The OSBI had earlier released that investigators were looking for a gun that was supposedly connected to the Weleetka girls' slayings but did not name Sweat as the suspect until December when he was charged.
Michael Taylor said he has waited months for the hearing in his daughter's case to progress, but that's what he expected.
"I figured it was going to take quite a while," Michael Taylor said. "They did tell us in advance it would take quite a while."
Monday's preliminary hearing will be to determine if there is enough evidence for a judge to conclude that a crime had occurred and that probable cause exists to proceed with a jury trial, said District Attorney Max Cook. Three days have been scheduled for arguments, but Cook said it is difficult to tell in advance how much time the hearing could take.
If a judge decides enough evidence exists to proceed with the case, a jury trial will likely be set.
Cook said he understands that several months have passed since the charges were filed in the Ashley Taylor case, but that several reports needed to be completed and "this has been postponed by agreement between attorneys."
Cook has filed motions indicating the state will seek the death penalty in both the Ashley Taylor case and the deaths of Paschal-Placker and Whitaker. Other motions in both cases filed in the past few months could get rulings by a judge next week, including a request for a gag order filed by Sweat's defense.
No date has been set yet for the preliminary hearing related to the deaths of the girls in Weleetka.
While family of Whitaker said they want justice, they also want to make sure the case is tried completely.
"I want them to do it correctly," said William Whitaker, Skyla Whitaker's father. "I don't want to get out on some little loophole. I want to make sure they have the right guy."
Kevin Sweat is accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of two Weleetka girls and a Henryetta woman.
Date of death: June 8, 2008
About Taylor: She was on the cheerleading squad as well as being a straight-A student and was about to enter the seventh grade at Graham Independent School District.
Date of death: June 8, 2008
About Skyla: She was about to enter the sixth grade at Graham Independent School District and played on the basketball team and was on the cheerleading squad. She was known as a sweet, loving girl, according to school officials.
Date of death: July 2011
About Ashley: She enjoyed playing video games and liked to write, according to her Facebook page. She was excited about her engagement to Kevin Sweat, according to her account.
Kevin Joe Sweat
Charges: Sweat was charged in December with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill in the deaths of Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13, and Skyla Whitaker, 11. They were killed June 8, 2008, in Okfuskee County. He was also charged Aug. 12 in Okfuskee County with first-degree murder in the death of Ashley Taylor, 23.
In custody: Arrested Aug. 3 in Ashley Taylor's death. Held in Seminole County jail without bond.
Previous charges: One count of possession of a controlled drug (marijuana) and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, filed Nov. 10, 2009, in Okmulgee County.
Original Print Headline: Court time begins
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Kevin Sweat (center) is escorted to a vehicle after a hearing at the Okfuskee County Courthouse in Okemah on Dec. 13, 2011. Sweat is accused of killing Taylor Paschal-Placker and Skyla Whitaker near Weleetka, but first faces charges of killing Ashley Taylor, 23. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World file
Ashley Taylor. COURTESY