Trial begins for alleged hitman recruiter in Neal Sweeney murder case
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Monday, September 17, 2012
9/20/12 at 8:34 AM
Jury selection began Monday afternoon for a defendant in the Neal Sweeney murder case who is alleged to have recruited the hit man in a murder for hire.
The trial of Fred Shields Jr. got under way with the questioning of prospective jurors in District Judge Tom Gillert’s courtroom.
Shields is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Sweeney, 63, was shot once in the head on Sept. 4, 2008, at his business, Retail Fuels Marketing, 3158 S. 108th East Ave. He died the next day.
The first defendant in the case to have his case resolved by trial, Terrico Bethel, was convicted last month of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
In accordance with that jury’s verdict, Gillert sentenced Bethel, 26, to consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole plus 10 years in prison.
Mohammed Aziz, who operated two convenience stores in Tulsa and one in Collinsville, testified for the prosecution at Bethel’s trial that he paid to have Sweeney killed.
Retail Fuels Marketing had stopped regular delivery of fuel to Aziz’s stores because Aziz was not making required payments, and a lack of gasoline created major financial problems for him, according to prosecutors.
Aziz, 59, indicated that he paid a total of $11,100 in connection with the murder plot.
In a plea deal with Aziz, prosecutors agreed to dismiss murder and conspiracy counts against him. He pleaded guilty in January to soliciting murder, and has not yet been sentenced.
Bethel said he shot Sweeney with a .38-caliber revolver and was paid $5,000, according to jail informant Dolan Prejean, a prosecution witness at Bethel’s trial. He
testified that while he and Bethel were in the Tulsa Jail, Bethel indicated that he was concerned about an “M-1” -- murder one, in street code -- that he committed with Fred Shields.
Aziz testified that he had asked Allen Shields, a regular store customer and brother of Fred Shields, if he knew somebody who would kill someone.
Prosecutors allege that Fred Shields recruited the triggerman, Bethel.
Allen Shields pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count and testified for the prosecution at a preliminary hearing after being offered a plea deal calling for a 10-year probation and no prison time. He died in 2011 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Another defendant, Alonzo “Jack” Johnson, has a separate trial on murder and conspiracy counts set to begin Dec. 3.
Fred Shields Jr. is lead to the courtroom on Oct. 27, 2010. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World