Michael Browning, a man who avoided the death penalty in a 2001 Glenpool double-murder case after a federal appeals court overturned his conviction a decade later, accepted a plea deal from the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office on Monday.
Browning was sentenced to 25 years in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections with credit for time served since February 2001 after entering no contest pleas to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of shooting with intent to kill, according to online court records.
Browning was on death row after being convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of shooting with intent to kill at a 2003 jury trial, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his convictions in May 2013.
Three counts of robbery with a firearm against Browning and his co-defendant, Joel Pethal, were dismissed in the years following their 2003 convictions.
Harry Hye, 64; his wife, Teresa Hye, 42; and their niece, Cenessa Tackett, then 21, were bound and shot during an early-morning robbery on Feb. 18, 2001, before their rural Glenpool home was set on fire with them inside.
Tackett, who was then pregnant with a child she said was Browning’s, escaped and survived, becoming a key witness in the case. She later gave birth to a son.
Pethal pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of shooting with intent to kill and first-degree arson, and he was sentenced to life without parole in 2003. Now 43, he recently lost an appeal.
Following Browning’s successful 2013 appeal, a 2018 retrial resulted in a hung jury.
On Monday, prosecutors deemed it necessary to extend Browning a plea offer “based upon evidentiary issues,” the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
“There are no words that can describe the pain felt by the victim’s family; however, we hope that today’s sentence provides a measure of closure for this unspeakable murder,” the release states.
Browning, soon to be 44, has spent more than six years in the Tulsa County jail waiting for a resolution to his case, and he remained there Wednesday night awaiting transfer to Department of Corrections custody.
Lorene Bible on the newly resumed search for her daughter Lauria Bible