Judge orders man to trial in Weleetka girls' deaths
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
1/30/13 at 2:20 AM
OKEMAH - An Okfuskee County judge ordered a man accused of killing two Weleetka girls bound over for trial today following two days of testimony that included the man’s videotaped confession to killing “two monsters.”
Associate District Judge David Martin’s ruling that sufficient evidence exists to order Kevin Sweat bound over for trial came late Tuesday afternoon. Sweat is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Skyla Whitaker, 11, and Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13.
Martin did not set a trial date and said another judge would set the date at Sweat’s next hearing, an arraignment.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Sweat in the girls’ deaths, which occurred June 8, 2008. Before Martin made his ruling binding Sweat over for trial, he ruled that Sweat’s September 2011 videotaped statement to authorities should be admitted as evidence.
“This is one of the saddest cases I’ve had in a long time,” Martin said, in making his ruling that sufficient evidence exists to hold Sweat for trial.
Prosecutors played the video, which lasts more than two hours, for most of the day Tuesday.
During the interview, OSBI agent Kurt Titsworth reads and has Sweat sign a Miranda waiver and tells him once they start talking, they can stop anytime. Titsworth tells him investigators know Sweat was at the murder scene and says authorities have DNA and forensic evidence linking him to the killings.
"I need to know your side of story," he says.
"I'm sure I would remember if I killed somebody," Sweat responds, protesting that he knows nothing about the girls' murders. "This is all news to me."
On tape, Sweat says there are people he wouldn't mind killing, including Osama bin Laden, Fidel Castro and his brother's killer. "But not two little girls," he protests.
Sweat repeatedly fishes for information from Titsworth during the interview, the tape shows. Did one of his former girlfriends tell them something, he asks.
"How? Hair? Was it hair?" Sweat asks.
Eventually during the interview, Sweat begins to talk about the killings, telling the agent he has struggled with mental problems and memory issues.
"If a demon did come out, I didn't know," Sweat tells Titsworth. He also raises the possibility that it was a blackout.
"Kurt, the only thing I can think of is a blackout," Sweat says.
"Was it demons that you thought were coming at you?" Titsworth asks Sweat.
"I guess," he whispers, hanging his head. Sweat says he was seeing things that may weren’t real.
" What?” Titsworth asks.
"I don't know, things ... Monsters," Sweat replies. "They were coming after me." He said he pulled over to "take a leak," saw the girls walking and panicked.
During the interview, Sweat said used a .40-caliber gun and a .22.caliber gun he kept in his car to kill the girls before fleeing the scene.
“How many times did you shoot them?” Titsworth
"I didn't keep count; I just panicked," Sweat answered.
Defense attorney Wayne Woodyard said tapes show Sweat making a clear request to have counsel present during interviews with Titsworth, but interviews continued without his attorneys present.
Prosecutors argued the video shows Sweat never made a clear request for counsel to be present. Instead, Sweat made ambiguous statements that do not require investigators to stop interviews under the Constitution, they said.
The taped interviews are a key piece of evidence in prosecutors' case against Sweat and Martin ruled they are admissible in his trial.
In testimony Monday, Taylor's grandfather discussed finding the girls' bodies. The two had a sleepover and had gone for a walk down the rural road when they were killed. Other testimony involved witnesses discussing how the 40-caliber gun used in the girls' deaths was traced from a shipment to a Baltimore police department before it was sold to various Oklahoma law enforcement officials and eventually to Sweat.
Sweat is also charged in a separate case with the slaying of his former girlfriend, Ashley Taylor, who disappeared in the summer of 2011. Sweat’s relatives testified Monday about statements Sweat allegedly made regarding Taylor’s threats to tell people he killed “those girls” if he broke up with her.
Sweat has been ordered to stand trial in June in that case.
Check back at Tulsaworld.com for updates to this story. View Twitter updates on today's testimony at twitter.com/caryaspinwall.
Kevin Sweat is led into the Okfuskee County Courthouse in Okemah by Undersheriff Derrall Summers (right) and Deputy Rex Hefner (left) on Tuesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World