Suspect found guilty in killing of Tulsa businessman
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Saturday, September 22, 2012
9/22/12 at 7:23 AM
A Tulsan was convicted Friday of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the 4-year-old killing of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney.
Jurors meted out a life prison term without the possibility of parole and a $10,000 fine to Fred Shields Jr. on the murder conviction.
The jury imposed a life sentence with parole possible and a $5,000 fine after finding Shields guilty of the conspiracy crime.
During a separate sentencing phase on the conspiracy count alone, jurors learned of four prior felony convictions that Shields, now 38, has incurred - for second-degree murder, possession of a firearm as a felon, concealing stolen property and auto burglary.
In that prior murder conviction, Shields pleaded no contest and was sentenced in 1995 to 10 years in prison for the fatal shooting of a 12-year-old girl in 1994, newspaper reports show.
At this week's trial, District Attorney Tim Harris and First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond maintained that Shields recruited the hit man in a "murder for hire" and by his own admission provided a handgun to Terrico Bethel that Bethel used in the killing.
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.
Sweeney was a standout football player for the University of Tulsa in the mid-1960s.
In 1995, he was inducted into the University of Tulsa Athletic Hall of Fame.
In a closing argument, Harris said Sweeney was "executed in a contract hit."
Shields deserved life without the possibility of parole for being willing to kill a person he didn't know for money, Harris asserted.
Shields did not testify at his one-week trial in District Judge Tom Gillert's court.
In a closing argument, defense attorney Stephen Lee maintained that the prosecution had "no hard evidence" - such as DNA or fingerprints - to implicate Shields.
Lee indicated that the prosecution's case relied on testimony from people facing assorted charges who were looking for deals in plea agreements.
Bethel, accused of being the triggerman, was convicted by a jury last month of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced to life without parole plus 10 years in prison.
Former convenience store operator Mohammed Aziz testified for the prosecution at both Shields' and Bethel's trials and admitted that he paid money to get Sweeney killed.
Retail Fuels Marketing had stopped regular delivery of fuel to Aziz's stores because Aziz was not making the required payments, and the resulting lack of gasoline had created major financial problems for him, testimony indicated.
In a plea deal, prosecutors dismissed murder and conspiracy counts against Aziz.
He pleaded guilty in January to soliciting murder and has not yet been sentenced. His plea agreement calls for a recommendation of a 35-year prison term, with the possibility of having that reduced to 25 years.
Bethel said he shot Sweeney with a .38-caliber revolver and was paid $5,000, according to jail informant Dolan Prejean, also a prosecution witness at both the Bethel and Shields trials.
Allen Shields, a brother of Fred Shields, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count and testified for the prosecution at a 2010 preliminary hearing after being offered a plea deal calling for a 10-year probation and no prison time.
Allen Shields died in 2011 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Harris told jurors he made a deal with Aziz because Allen Shields "offed himself."
Harris said he had been facing the prospect of proceeding in a major murder case with a dead witness.
Another defendant, Alonzo "Jack" Johnson, is scheduled for a Dec. 3 trial on murder and conspiracy counts.
Original Print Headline: Shields guilty in Sweeney murder
Bill Braun 918-581-8455
Fred Shields Jr.: He was convicted of murder on allegations that he recruited a hit man to kill businessman Neal Sweeney
District Attorney Tim Harris (left) and First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond speak to media after they exited District Judge Tom Gillert's courtroom after a jury found Fred Shields Jr. guilty on first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges Friday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Defense lawyers Stephen Lee (right) and Mark Cagle exit District Judge Tom Gillert's courtroom Friday after their client, Fred Shields Jr., was found guilty on first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges at the Tulsa County Courthouse. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World