Preliminary hearing starts for man charged in Weleetka girls' deaths
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Monday, January 28, 2013
1/28/13 at 1:16 PM
Read previous stories on the girls’ deaths and the community reaction.
OKEMAH -- Testimony began today in the preliminary hearing of a man charged in the deaths of two Weleetka girls with the grandfather of one girl describing how their bodies were found.
Peter Placker, the grandfather of Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13, testified he discovered the girls' lifeless bodies on the side of a rural Okfuskee County road on June 8, 2008.
Placker, who said he raised Taylor, testified that he and his wife had begun frantically searching the road for the girls after calls to Taylor's cell phone rang unanswered. Taylor and her friend, 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker, had taken a walk down to Bad Creek Bridge after a sleepover that weekend.
Placker found the girls' bodies and checked to see if either had a pulse.
He said walked to the middle of the road and "started screaming (his)head off."
"They killed our babies," he yelled.
They called 911 and paramedics arrived at the scene, but the girls were already dead. A paramedic was the first to notice the shell casings in the road, Placker testified.
Placker was the first witness to testify in a preliminary hearing in Okfuskee County District Court for Kevin Joe Sweat, charged with first-degree murder in the girls' deaths.
Both girls were shot multiple times and left to die. Sweat also has been ordered to stand trial in June in Okfuskee County for the July 2011 slaying of his former girlfriend, Ashley Taylor, who disappeared in the summer of 2011 after she and Sweat left Henryetta to get married.
Sweat has pleaded not guilty in both cases, and prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.
Placker's testimony was followed by that of OSBI agent Brad Greene, who processed and documented the crime scene on the evening the girls' bodies were found.
Greene said each girl appeared to have been shot multiple times, with evidence indicating a larger-caliber pistol was used, in addition to a smaller-caliber gun.
As Greene described details from the crime scene, Sweat sat at the table with his defense attorneys, hands folded and lips pursed. He occasionally took notes and asked his attorneys questions.
Before the hearing recessed for lunch, Edward Silvey Jr., a records custodian for Austrian gun manufacturer Glock's US office in Smyrna, Ga., testified. Silvey discussed the company's process of tracking guns by serial numbers as required by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The Okfuskee County judge handling the hearing has not yet ruled on a motion filed by Sweat's attorneys to suppress statements he made to law officers during interrogations in September 2011.
OSBI agents interviewed Sweat on Sept. 13, 2011 while he was being held in Ashley Taylor's slaying. He told agents he was driving on a rural Okfuskee County road in June 2008 when he pulled over, got out of his car and was approached by "two monsters," according to court records.
Sweat told the agents he "panicked," grabbed a .40-caliber handgun from between the seats of his car and "shot the monsters." He then grabbed a .22-caliber gun from the glove box and "shot the monsters" again before getting back in his car and driving away, agents said.
Attorneys for Sweat contend that although he signed a waiver of his Miranda rights before making any statements, he made "a clear request to have counsel present," court records state.
Because Sweat did not have counsel present, those statements should not be allowed to be presented in court as evidence, defense attorneys argued.
Sweat's attorneys have also requested that his trial be moved outside Okfuskee County due to media coverage and community interest in the case. Such changes of venue are rare in Oklahoma and it is not likely such a request would be granted.
In 2008, the brutal killings of Paschal-Placker and Whitaker grabbed national media attention due to the victims' young ages and the normally peaceful rural setting where they were murdered. For years authorities had no clear leads in the killings.
Then Ashley Taylor's family reported her missing. She was last seen July 15, 2011, when she told her family she was going to Louisiana with Sweat to get married. Her family became suspicious of Sweat after statements he made following her disappearance.
At one point before his arrest, Sweat was confronted by Ashley Taylor's family, and he allegedly told them: "I suppose I'm going to get blamed for this like the Weleetka girls."
They told police about it and later discovered he had been questioned in the girls' killings but never arrested or charged.
Investigators were eventually able to link the Glock .40 caliber pistol used in the Weleetka girls' killings to Sweat, and he was charged in their murders, too.
Prosecutors recently filed a list of nearly 200 potential witnesses to testify on such topics as the remains of Ashley Taylor's bone fragments, eyeglasses and ring found on Sweat's father's property and Sweat's Facebook and social media accounts under false names and alter egos.
Check back at tulsaworld.com for updates to this story.
Timeline of key events
June 8, 2008: Skyla Whitaker and Taylor Paschal-Placker are gunned down on an Okfuskee County road.
July 15, 2011: Ashley Taylor is last seen by her family; she tells them that she and boyfriend Kevin Sweat are leaving Okmulgee to go to Louisiana to get married.
July 29, 2011: Ashley Taylor's family reports her missing after they haven't heard from her and discover Kevin Sweat is still in town.
Aug. 3, 2011: Authorities arrest Sweat in connection with Ashley Taylor's disappearance.
Aug. 8, 2011: Police announce they found human remains they suspect may be Ashley Taylor's. Sweat is later charged with her murder. Trial date is set for June 10, 2013.
Dec. 9, 2011: Sweat is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Whitaker and Paschal-Placker. Preliminary hearing begins Monday.
Kevin Joe Sweat