Tulsa County DA: Sweeney Murder Trial To Continue Despite Death Of Key Witness


Tuesday, April 5th 2011, 11:33 am
By: News On 6


Lori Fullbright, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- A key witness in a high profile murder case died after committing suicide Monday night.

Allen Shields held his girlfriend's daughter hostage during a standoff with police Monday night. He let her go, and then killed himself.

4/4/2011 Related Story: Witness In Tulsa Murder-For-Hire Case Dead After Holding Girl Hostage

Shields' was the star witness in the murder for hire case of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney.

Shields' death is a body blow to the Sweeney case, but prosecutors say it's not a fatal blow and they can overcome it because Shields already testified at a previous hearing. They'll ask the judge to let them use that testimony at the trial.

But, you can expect defense attorneys to fight that all the way.

By his own admission, Allen Shields helped in the killing of Neal Sweeney, a beloved and respected husband, father, church member, TU supporter, a man dedicated to his family and his community.

Prosecutors say the case is the most complex in Tulsa County history, so they had to offer Shields a deal in order for him to rat out the others involved. 

For this truthful testimony against the shooter, the man who hired the murder and the others, including his own brother, would get 10 years probation, no prison time.

10/26/2011 Related Story: No Jail Time For Tulsa Man Accused In Murder For Hire Case

District Attorney Tim Harris says he cut the deal only after much thought and prayer.

"Weighed heavily on my heart, on my mind, on my soul," Harris said. "Had to explain it to the victim's family, but difficult decisions often have to be made to take a step forward, one we thought was absolutely necessary to move this case forward and get justice for the Sweeney family and the community."

Even after the deal, Shields was no boy scout. He pled guilty to drug trafficking last fall, but hadn't been sentenced yet.

Before that, he was charged with holding his girlfriend and her 10 year old daughter at gunpoint. Those charges were dropped because the girl's mother said the gun was hers and they were never in danger.

Listen to Harris' explanation of why the charges were dropped in the clip above

That was the same little girl Shields' held at gunpoint Monday night until he released her, then killed himself.

"I don't have a crystal ball that tells me the future of any given case. We try to make the best decisions with the evidence we have at the time," Harris said.

Harris believes the Sweeney case can still go to trial in the fall; that the law will allow him read Shields's previous testimony to the jury. But, it's not easy for Sweeney's family to be dealt another setback.

"Put yourself in their shoes," Harris said. "Their heart is breaking. Neal Sweeney was murdered at his desk, doing business. We don't accept that in our community."Some people are angry that Shields was out of jail at all, but Harris said everything was being done to keep Shields from committing new crimes.

He was checking in regularly with the Sheriff's office, his home and office were searched frequently, he wore an ankle monitor for awhile and he was ordered to appear in court every two weeks.

Monday was the first time he missed his court date.