Records unsealed for material witness held in Fairmont Terrace killings
BY ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor & JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2013
2/15/13 at 10:20 AM
Correction: A Friday Tulsa World photo caption misidentified Tulsa attorney Mark Cagle. This story has been corrected.
Get the background: Read past stories and view documents related to the Fairmont Terrace killings and the area where they occurred.
Read court records, including orders sealing and unsealing records related to a material witness.
A woman has been jailed as a material witness in a quadruple homicide case for more than a month, and all records related to her case were sealed until Thursday, a Tulsa World investigation shows.
The woman was arrested Jan. 11, but no public records were available that identified her or showed that she was being held in jail until Thursday. She has not been charged with a crime.
Tulsa County District Court records identify the woman as Susie Pauline Canady, 25, and state that she is "a witness to material facts associated with an ongoing homicide investigation."
First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said the case was sealed to protect the integrity of the investigation and to protect the material witness. Drummond filed a request Thursday to unseal the records, and that request was granted by Tulsa County Associate District Judge Dana Kuehn.
An arrest report that was among the released records shows that witnesses implicated Canady "as being present during the crime and as a possible participant in the ... murders."
When interviewed by police, Canady told detectives she was in the apartment when the homicides occurred, and she described items that the assailants searched through, according to the arrest report.
She also shared details of the attack, including how the victims were bound, the exact location inside the apartment where they were shot, the locations of bullet wounds and the type of firearm used, according to the report.
State law allows officials to hold a person who is a material witness to a crime if the witness is believed to have information and is not cooperative or is a flight risk. Such witnesses must be informed by a judge of their constitutional rights within 48 hours, but there is no apparent limit in state law on how long they can be held.
Canady is being held as a material witness in the killings of four women in the Fairmont Terrace apartment complex, near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue, on Jan. 7. Rebeika Powell, 23; Kayetie Powell Melchor, 23; Misty Nunley, 33; and Julie Jackson, 55, were the victims.
Two brothers have been arrested in the deaths, but charges have not been filed.
Several officials attended a closed hearing in Kuehn's chambers Thursday to discuss whether to unseal records in the case.
The hearing was not listed on Thursday's docket for Kuehn, a former Tulsa County assistant district attorney. She normally hears civil cases but has handled some criminal matters.
Also at the meeting in the judge's chambers were Tulsa County Undersheriff Tim Albin and Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler. Kuehn did not allow a World reporter to attend the hearing.
Canady's name did not appear on records of prisoners being held in the Tulsa Jail after her arrest. Jail records still did not include her name as of late Thursday afternoon.
Tulsa attorney Stephen Lee confirmed that he is representing Canady. Lee said he does not think she will be charged and said he doesn't have specific information about why records in the case were sealed. He said there could be a threat to her safety due to the nature of the crime and the violent area in which it occurred.
Canady listed an address in Vinita in her application to obtain a court-appointed attorney, the released records show.
Her criminal record shows that she was most recently charged in Craig County with bail jumping in October 2011, although the charge was later dismissed. Other charges against Canady in Craig County go back to 2006 and involve burglary.
She also was charged in 2010 with knowingly concealing stolen property, but that charge was later dismissed.
Lee said he doesn't know when Canady will be released.
Joey Senat, a board member of FOI Oklahoma Inc., said there is a trend in state courts toward sealing records with no chance for the public to object. FOI Oklahoma is a nonprofit group that advocates for government openness.
"It is scary that someone can be locked away in a jail almost with complete secrecy. ... It sounds like Guantanamo Bay in Tulsa," Senat said, referring to the U.S. military base in Cuba where potential terrorists and others perceived to be enemies of the United States have been held without charges or public records.
A state Senate panel approved a bill Tuesday that would limit the sealing of court records in Oklahoma. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 1041 by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, which says court records could not be sealed unless authorized by the Oklahoma Constitution or state law.
Drummond said such cases are rare and that any request must be approved by a judge.
"I have been here 16 years, and it has been done very sparingly," he said. "Given the fact we have filed an average of (5,000) to 6,000 felony cases a year, we only make that request a very small percentage of time. Our decisions are based on the facts of each case."
Filing requests sealing: A docket in the case shows that prosecutors made a "criminal miscellaneous initial filing" - State of Oklahoma vs. SPC - Jan. 11 and filed an application to seal the records.
In the application, Kunzweiler wrote: "The Tulsa Police Department has expressed that there are significant concerns for the protection of this witness as well as preserving the integrity of evidence associated with the ongoing investigation."
Kuehn agreed to seal all records in the case that day and set a hearing for Jan. 14 to appoint an attorney for Canady, records show.
On Jan. 22, Kuehn granted a request by the Public Defender's Office to withdraw from the case and appointed another attorney, records show.
A "pauper's affidavit" was filed Feb. 4, indicating that Canady had no money to hire an attorney. Kuehn held a status hearing that day with only Canady's attorney present and scheduled another hearing, records show.
In a filing related to the killings, prosecutors indicated that police had discussed the case with a witness who had not been publicly identified.
"Detectives are still working to determine the veracity of this particular witness' statements to police," states the Feb. 7 filing, in which prosecutors said they did not object to a bond decrease for Freddie Allen Hayes, who once was suspected of involvement in the case but was later cleared.
It is unclear what prompted the case to be unsealed. A World reporter had contacted Kuehn and other officials before Thursday to ask about the sealed case. The next hearing in the case was set for Tuesday, records show.
Kuehn's order states: "Upon presentation of information and argument this date, the Court determines that it is no longer necessary to seal the arrest record of Susie Pauline Canady as a material witness, as well as the records associated with this case."
Drummond told the World: "We felt like we no longer had a legitimate reason to keep the records sealed. At the time we sealed the file, the investigation was not as far along. The investigation has progressed to the point where we felt it was appropriate to request to unseal the file."
Fairmont Terrace: The slayings at Fairmont Terrace have focused attention on rampant crime and related issues in publicly funded housing in the area. The deaths bring the number of people who died violently in the complex in the last two years to eight.
James Stanford Poore, 32, and Cedric Dwayne Poore, 39, are in the Tulsa Jail on complaints that include four first-degree murder counts each. Charges have not been filed.
The Poores were staying at Fairmont Terrace but were not on the apartment lease and were not registered as visitors.
Oklahoma's material witness law
Here is an excerpt of the state law allowing police to hold material witnesses with knowledge of crimes:
"If a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a person is a necessary and material witness to a felony and that there is probable cause to believe that the person would be unwilling to accept service of a subpoena or may otherwise refuse to appear in any criminal proceeding, the officer may detain the person as a material witness with or without an arrest warrant; provided, no person may be detained as a material witness to a crime for more than forty-eight (48) hours without being taken before a judge."
Source: Oklahoma State Statutes, Title 22, Chapter 3
Original Print Headline: Material witness still held in killings
Ziva Branstetter 918-581-8306 Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond filed a request Thursday to unseal the records of a detained material witness. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World
Attorney Mark Cagle walks away from Associate District Judge Dana Kuehn's chambers at the Tulsa County Courthouse after a conference that was closed to the public Thursday. Cagle represents a woman who has been held as a material witness for more than a month. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World