Judge rules Kevin Sweat must face trial in Weleetka deaths
BY CARY ASPINWALL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
1/30/13 at 7:24 AM
Read previous stories on the girls’ deaths and the community reaction.
OKEMAH - A man who is already scheduled for trial in the death of his girlfriend must also face trial in the shooting deaths of two Weleetka girls on an Okfuskee County road, a judge ruled Tuesday.
The court will also allow into evidence a recorded interview in which Kevin Sweat indicates that he shot the girls on June 8, 2008, because he thought they were "monsters" coming after him.
Skyla Whitaker (left) and Taylor Paschal-Placker:
The DVD recording of the 2011 interview with an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent was viewed by the public for the first time in open court Tuesday as part of two days of testimony in Sweat's preliminary hearing.
Kevin Sweat has been ordered to trial on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the girls in Okfuskee County. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Sweat is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Skyla Whitaker, 11, and Taylor Paschal-Placker, 13. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Associate District Judge David Martin said another judge would set the trial date at Sweat's next hearing, an arraignment.
"This is one of the saddest cases I've had in a long time," Martin said in ruling that sufficient evidence exists to hold Sweat for trial.
Peter Astor, one of Sweat's defense attorneys, said they will continue to "press on and provide a vigorous defense" for their client.
On Tuesday, the court also heard testimony from OSBI Agent Kurt Titsworth and Taylor Paschal-Placker's aunt, Linda Placker, who considered the 13-year-old girl her baby sister.
Linda Placker and Kevin Sweat worked together at a Henryetta Subway shop in the years that followed the girls' deaths, and Sweat had told OSBI investigators that Placker told him key details of the crime scene, including how the girls' bodies were found.
Placker testified that she never told Sweat those details.
Prosecutors played the interrogation DVD, which lasts more than two hours, for much of the day.
During the 2011 interview, Titsworth read and had Sweat sign a Miranda waiver and told him that once they started talking, they could stop at any time. Titsworth told him investigators know that Sweat was at the murder scene and said authorities have DNA and forensic evidence linking him to the killings.
"I need to know your side of the 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 the DVD, Sweat says there are people he wouldn't mind killing, including Osama bin Laden, Fidel Castro and anyone responsible for his brother's 2007 death. (Court records show it was caused by a drug overdose.)
"But not two little girls," he protests.
Sweat repeatedly fishes for information from Titsworth during the interview, the tape shows. He asks whether one of his former girlfriends had told them something that connected him to the girls' deaths.
"How? Hair? Was it hair?" Sweat asks.
Eventually during the interview, Sweat tells the agent he has struggled with mental problems and memory issues.
After more than an hour of intense questioning by Titsworth, Sweat's tone changes and he starts to suggest the possibility of a blackout.
Then Sweat offers another theory: He and his girlfriend, Ashley Taylor, had been experimenting with Wicca (pagan witchcraft). Maybe it was possession - a demon came out?
"That's the only thing I can think of," Sweat says.
"If a demon did come out, I didn't know," Sweat tells Titsworth.
Titsworth continues to ask Sweat to tell the truth: Did he snap? Was he hallucinating on drugs?
"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 bad things.
What? Titsworth asks.
"I don't know. Things, ... monsters."
"You saw what?"
"Monsters," Sweat says. "They were coming after me."
Sweat says that while he was in the area to visit family, he pulled over to the side of the road to "take a leak," saw the girls coming at him, panicked and shot them with a .40-caliber Glock and a .22.
He left in his car and then went on to visit his family, he told the agent.
Sweat told Titsworth he "guesses" he got rid of both guns after the killings but that he doesn't recall even owning them.
"All this info, I don't even know if it's real," Sweat says. "I'm sorry if I'm making this up as I go."
OSBI investigators matched bullet shell casings from the crime scene to casings found on Sweat's shooting range on his father's property, testimony has indicated. They traced ownership of the Glock from its import from Austria to when Sweat bought it from a Henryetta police officer he met at the McDonald's where he worked, evidence shows.
Investigators said they found ammunition and a Glock case, but they have yet to find either gun that was used in the killings. Sweat seemed aware of this fact during his 2011 interrogation.
"Apparently, ... you can't find (the guns)," Sweat said. "If you ever did find them, then what? Did you find it (the Glock)?"
Sweat claims on the recording to have sold the Glock before the homicides but later said he used it to shoot "the monsters."
At the end of the interview, Sweat asks Titsworth: "Can I actually have my attorney present?" Titsworth responds: "Are you asking for an attorney?"
Sweat says yes, that he wants an attorney, and Titsworth ends the interview.
The interview took place in September 2011, while Sweat was jailed in connection with the slaying of his former girlfriend, Ashley Taylor, who had disappeared in July of that year.
The couple supposedly were headed to Louisiana to get married, but Ashley Taylor's family never saw or heard from her again after July 15.
Titsworth told the court Tuesday that Sweat had said during one interview that he and Ashley Taylor had an argument around the fall of 2009 during which she called him a "bastard" and "the Weleetka girls" incident came up.
Ashley Taylor made a statement about "getting (Sweat) in trouble" if they broke up, Titsworth said Sweat told him. Sweat has been ordered to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge in June in connection with Ashley Taylor's death.
Original Print Headline: Judge orders trial
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
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
A truck drives by a makeshift memorial marking where the two girls were killed near Weleetka in June 2008. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World file
Michael Taylor (right), who is the father of murder victim Ashley Taylor, and Faye Taylor (left) walk into the Okfuskee County Courthouse in Okemah before the preliminary hearing for Kevin Sweat on Tuesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World