Sixteen Years Later, Tulsa Murder Victims' Families Get Justice
TULSA, Oklahoma - Sixteen years after their loved ones were murdered, two Tulsa families finally have justice.
Two different juries found Victor Miller guilty of the murders of Mary Bowles and Jerald Thurman, and both sentenced him to death; but years of appeals overturned those sentences.
Tuesday, the families said they weren't happy Miller was off death row, but, were relieved the case was finally over.
For 16 years, the families have had to deal with appeals and new trials, but Tuesday’s sentence of life in prison without parole for Miller is bringing the case to a close.
It was a moment the Bowles and Thurman families were waiting for.
Bowles’ niece, Sara Mooney said, "It's an ongoing stressor. It doesn't go away.”
"I'm just glad we've finally gotten to a point that we can all put this behind us and pick up our pieces and move on," said Jerald Thurman’s son, Jacob.
In August 1999, Miller and John Hanson abducted Bowles from a mall parking lot. They took her to north Tulsa County and killed her. Thurman tried to help, but he was also killed.
Jacob Thurman said, "We were really hoping for the death penalty in this case, but it ain't a perfect world."
Miller beat the death penalty twice; the victims' families hoped the third time would send him to death row, indefinitely.
Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney John Luton said several things factored into going for life in prison instead.
"With him representing himself in a death penalty case, one of the factors would be, he would have the option or the ability to question jurors in the case - ask them their opinions as to death, life, without a life, to him specifically, and he would be the one asking those questions," he said.
Luton said since the initial trial witnesses have died, are too ill or can't be found. That, combined with two sentences overturned and the scrutiny that goes with a capital murder trial, life in prison was the sure thing.
Miller is already serving a life without parole sentence for murdering Bowles, and a federal sentence for more than 100 years for robbery cases.