Jurors recommended a 22-year prison sentence for a 22-year-old Tulsa man they convicted of second-degree murder and a related firearm charge in the 2018 shooting of a longtime family acquaintance west of downtown Tulsa.
The jury deliberated for about two hours Wednesday before returning a guilty verdict against Levi Dunkin for the Oct. 5, 2018, death of Jerry Caudill, who was shot in his right leg and died in the 200 block of South 33rd West Avenue.
Jurors recommended a 16-year sentence on the murder count and six years for possession of a firearm while under Oklahoma Department of Corrections supervision.
Dunkin was serving a deferred sentence for two Tulsa County drug-related charges and possession of stolen property at the time of Caudill’s death.
District Judge Dawn Moody will sentence him in the murder case on Sept. 30.
Jurors were able to consider alternative theories of first-degree manslaughter.
Assistant Public Defender Jason Lollman said during his closing argument Wednesday that “Mr. Dunkin has given me permission to concede” guilt of manslaughter and that Dunkin expected he would go to prison. However, he said he did not believe that Dunkin had a “clear disregard for human life” when he fired at Caudill, who arrived at the residence around daybreak while apparently under the influence of methamphetamine.
Lollman also said Dunkin had heard from someone else that Caudill planned to rob him and believed that his unannounced appearance after receiving that information could have caused Dunkin to conclude that Caudill would attempt to commit a crime.
But Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray said Caudill used to date Dunkin’s mother and at one point even lived at the residence where he was killed, meaning he and Dunkin knew each other well.
He said Dunkin’s phone call to a relative of Caudill’s provided a probable reason for why the shooting took place, as he was heard saying he was weighing out drugs and that “I just didn’t want (Caudill) there” while doing so.
Gray said Dunkin fired what the latter described to a Tulsa police homicide detective as a “warning shot” that made Caudill decide to leave the house before Dunkin fired again, striking Caudill in the leg and ultimately killing him. He said “rumors and innuendo” about a possible crime and Caudill’s struggles with methamphetamine use don’t justify Caudill’s dying in the driveway of a residence where he used to live.
“When you point a gun at someone and pull the trigger, bad things happen,” Gray said. “Levi Dunkin didn’t have a right to kill Jerry Caudill. But he did, and it’s a crime.”
Tulsa Police Sgt. Jennifer Murphy talks about the Tulsa Police new reading program and school supply handout at the Darlington Apartments.