Jury selections begins for trial of third defendant in Neal Sweeney murder case
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Monday, December 03, 2012
12/03/12 at 7:33 AM
What could be the final trial chapter in the Neal Sweeney murder case is scheduled to begin Monday, with the start of a jury selection process in the case of Alonzo "Jack" Johnson.
Of five defendants in a case that police categorized as a murder for hire, Johnson is destined to be the third to stand trial in 2012.
The other two defendants waived their rights to a trial and agreed to testify for the prosecution.
Sweeney, 63, was shot once in the head on Sept. 4, 2008, at his business, Retail Fuels Marketing, 3158 S. 108th East Ave. The former University of Tulsa football standout died the next day.
Johnson, 41, of Broken Arrow, faces trial on counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Police have alleged that Johnson stole a white van from Muskogee that was subsequently used by triggerman and co-defendant Terrico Bethel in traveling to and from the shooting scene.
The van allegedly taken by Johnson was recovered in February 2009 at a Tulsa apartment complex, according to prior testimony.
Attorney Mark Lyons, representing Johnson, said that Johnson denies stealing the van and "absolutely" denies any involvement in the Sweeney killing.
In court Friday, Lyons asked Tulsa County District Judge Tom Gillert to exclude at the trial all evidence regarding a white van. Gillert denied that request.
In a court document, Lyons asserts that the van, which had been held as evidence by the Tulsa Police Department, has been sold and cannot be produced to be inspected by the court or jury.
In his court filing, Lyons said in preparing for trial, it was learned that the alleged getaway van was removed as Tulsa Police Department evidence and sold at an auction.
Harris indicated that the van, after it had been photographed and processed for potential evidence, was inadvertently released for auction. There was "no bad faith" by police, he said.
Bethel, 26, was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life without parole for murder plus a 10-year prison term for conspiracy to commit murder.
In accordance with another jury's verdicts, Fred Shields Jr. was sentenced to two consecutive life prison terms - one of them without the possibility of parole - for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Bethel and Shields are seeking new trials in appeals.
Convenience store operator Mohammed Aziz, now 60, admitted paying money to have Sweeney killed.
Retail Fuels Marketing had stopped regular delivery of fuel to Aziz's convenience stores because Aziz was not making payments, and the resulting lack of gasoline 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 been sentenced, but a plea deal calls for a recommendation of a 35-year prison term, with the possibility of having that reduced to 25 years.
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, 34, died in 2011 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Original Print Headline: Murder trial begins today
Bill Braun 918-581-8455