RELATIVES of slain couple say they support life without parole terms - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

RELATIVES of slain couple say they support life without parole terms

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Relatives of a slain Glenpool couple support life without the possibility of parole terms for two men charged with killing the husband and wife, but prosecutors have not agreed to that recommendation.

Michael Allen Browning and Joel Shane Pethel waived their rights to a preliminary hearing Monday on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Harry and Teresa Hye.

On Friday, private attorney Cynthia Garrett filed a ``victims' motion for a life without parole plea agreement,'' specifying that it reflected the wishes of nearly 20 relatives of the Hyes.

But Assistant District Attorney David Iski said ``there is no plea offer from the state of Oklahoma.''

The men relinquished their right to a hearing ``without any promise'' regarding how the case will be resolved, Iski said.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond called the situation ``delicate'' and said the input of family members will be considered, but the eventual decision about whether to pursue death sentences rests with prosecutors.

``Our options are still open,'' Drummond said. ``Let us do our job.''

Investigators said the Hyes and their niece, Cenessa Tackett, were shot during a robbery Feb. 18 at their residence, which was set on fire. Teresa Hye, 42, was found dead at the scene. Harry Hye, 64, died March 12 at a hospital.

The motion Garrett filed on behalf of family members said the relatives ``do not want to suffer the time and trauma of any hearings or trials.''

That victims' motion also stated that defense lawyers Richard O'Carroll and Wayna Tyner have said that Browning and Pethel are each willing to be sentenced to life without parole, as long as the co-defendant accepts that outcome also.

O'Carroll, representing Browning, said that accurately reflects his client's position. Tyner declined to comment on that point on behalf of Pethel but did not dispute the contents of Garrett's motion.

Based on the waivers, Tulsa County Special Judge Clancy Smith ordered Browning, of Sand Springs, and Pethel, of Sapulpa, held on two murder counts plus five other felonies linked to the crime.

Smith said the men, both 25, can still assert their rights to a jury trial. Browning and Pethel are scheduled to be arraigned July 27.

The men also are charged with shooting with intent to kill linked to wounding Tackett and with one count of arson and three counts of robbery.

Tackett, who was then seven months pregnant with Browning's child, is living in Indiana with her healthy 2 1/2-month-old son, Garrett said.

Tackett and 11 other family members signed affidavits that were filed Friday as court documents, stating that they did not want to go through a preliminary hearing or trial and ``I would not want the death penalty for these men if they would agree to life imprisonment without parole.''

The desire to spare Tackett's infant future pain _ by avoiding the trauma of many years of appeals through his childhood in the event that his father was on death row _ is a motivating factor, Garrett indicated.

Iski said Garrett ``shouldn't be involved'' in the plea negotiations. Drummond said prosecutors have an ``ethical and professional obligation'' to evaluate the evidence thoroughly and confer with survivors and family members of victims about their wishes before deciding whether to pursue death sentences.

Garrett said prosecutors have not kept family members sufficiently informed about the case.

Kenneth K. Jackson, 52, of Tulsa, is separately charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly helping Pethel conceal items taken from the Hye residence.

Jackson's preliminary hearing was postponed Monday until July 30.
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