Man accused of killing lover's husband set to die

Wednesday, June 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) -- There were no outward signs that trouble was brewing in the 11-year marriage of James and Marilyn Plantz.

With him working as a newspaper pressman at The Daily Oklahoman and her being a homemaker and Sunday school teacher, they raised their two children in a quiet, Midwest City neighborhood.

So when Karen Lowery received the call in August 1988 that her brother had been the victim of a homicide, and then learned his wife and lover were accused, she was stunned.

"It's like when you hear people talk about the perfect marriage-- they never argued, never fought, no cross words," Lowery said Tuesday.

She, her twin sister, Sharon Cotton, and their father planned to witness the execution early Thursday of William Clifford Bryson,who was convicted of beating Plantz before setting him on fire in his pickup truck.

The state Pardon and Parole Board denied a request for clemency for Bryson last week. Two appeals -- one for a stay of execution, the other a writ of habeas corpus -- were denied without dissent Tuesday.

Bryson, 29, would become the ninth prisoner executed this year in Oklahoma and the 28th since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1990.

It all started in the spring of 1987, when Mrs. Plantz began an affair with a boy half her husband's age. While Plantz, 33, worked from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., Mrs. Plantz and Bryson hatched their murderous plot to collect $300,000 in life insurance, prosecutors said.

As Plantz was returning from work around 5 a.m. Aug. 26, Bryson and friend, Clifton Eugene McKimble, beat him with Plantz's son's baseball bats, then carried the severely injured man outside.

McKimble, who received a life sentence for testifying against Bryson, said Mrs. Plantz came outside, looked at her husband's head injuries from the beating and remarked that it didn't look like an accident.

"She told us to burn him," McKimble testified.

McKimble and Bryson then put Plantz in the back of his pickup and Bryson drove him to a site. They placed Plantz in the cab behind the steering wheel, doused the vehicle with gasoline and setit ablaze.

Mrs. Plantz also was sentenced to death, and on Friday lost her latest appeal before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Plantz, the third of four children, grew up in the Shawnee and Pink areas of Pottawatomie County. He was remembered as fun-loving, a punctual and dependable employee and a devoted father to Trina, 9, and Christopher, 6.

"His kids were his No. 1 priority. He was rarely seen without the two kids," Cotton said.

Larry Hayer, pressroom superintendent at The Daily Oklahoman,worked with Plantz for much of the 15 years Plantz was employed there. Plantz would talk about taking his children hunting and fishing, his two favorite hobbies, Hayer said. "I said `good night' to him that night and that I would see him tomorrow night. It's kind of strange when I read about it in the newspaper."

Cotton said executing Bryson would provide her family the justice they have sought since the killing.

"He didn't think twice about taking my brother's life," she said of Bryson. "He didn't think about the children or my brother's family and how that would affect us for the rest of our lives."

Since his imprisonment, Bryson's father, a church janitor, has raised Bryson's son, who is now 12.

"He (Bryson) has told me he's telling the boy, `It's my fault I'm here. I'm responsible for what actions I took and it's my fault,"' Bryson's attorney, Don Gutteridge said.

Bryson's father planned to witness the execution.

"People use the word `closure.' Nobody's going to get closure," Gutteridge said. "This is not going to close it up for Plantz's family. It's not going to be closure for William's dad and not for his son.

"There are multiple victims here."