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Muskogee Man Charged In 2006 Death Of Stepdaughter Pleads Guilty

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Jerry Raney [File photo] Jerry Raney [File photo]
Sara Smart [File photo] Sara Smart [File photo]
Christene Smart-Leader, Sara's stepmom. Christene Smart-Leader, Sara's stepmom.

MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma – A Muskogee man charged in the murder of his stepdaughter in 2006 pleaded guilty to a lesser charge Tuesday, the Muskogee County District Attorney's office said.

Jerry Raney was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his stepdaughter, 19-year-old Sara Smart, in 2006.  Raney was accused of strangling Smart and stuffing her body in a 55-gallon barrel.  Her body was found in a pond near Haskell.

On Tuesday, as part of a plea deal, Raney pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter.  He will be sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

Muskogee County DA Larry Moore said Smart's family approved the deal.

Raney was awaiting trial after the longest preliminary hearing in Muskogee County history.

9/8/2009 Related Story: Raney's Attorney Wants Trial Moved From Muskogee County

"It was a hard decision, but with so many factors involved, it was the best decision to make at the time," Christene Smart-Leader, Sara's stepmom, said.

"We know that there is some justice served for Sara, which was the ultimate goal," Christene added.  "It's not exactly what we had planned, it's not what he deserves, but it is something tangible that we have right now."

"I was in sixth grade when it happened, so I've been going through this for a long time and I'm just glad I don't have to deal with it anymore,"Ivy Smart, Sara's sister, said.

Sara's family said Tuesday's conviction will someday lead to closure for them, but not yet.

"I'm glad that he is behind bars and he will be for some time so that he is incapable of being able to molest another child or murder somebody else," Christene said.

The Smarts plan to start a Northeast Oklahoma Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children to help the families and friends of those who have lost their lives to violence.

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