Oklahoma County jury convicts man in migrant worker slaying

Friday, February 25th 2005, 6:43 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ After an hour of deliberation, an Oklahoma County jury convicted Zjaiton Wood in the stabbing death of a Montana migrant worker.

Wood, who took the witness stand during his brother's trial last year for the stabbing death of Ronald Reuban Wipf, admitted to killing him in 2002.

The penalty phase in Wood's trial is expected to begin Friday. Jurors will decide whether Wood should join his brother on death row.

The brother, Termane Wood, was convicted at the earlier trial and sentenced to die for his role in the killing.

Prosecutors allege Zjaiton Wood, Termane Wood and two female accomplices lured Wipf and a friend to an Oklahoma City motel so they could rob them.

A struggle ensued and Wipf, 19, was stabbed in the chest while his friend, Arnold Jonathan Kleinsasser, escaped his attackers.

The female defendants, Lanita Sue Bateman and Brandy Lynn Warden, both 23, set up the robbery, acting as prostitutes and luring Wipf and Kleinsasser to the motel the morning of Jan. 1, 2002, according to court records.

The two men belong to the Hutterites of the Riverview Colony, a religious sect. They had stopped in Oklahoma City to celebrate New Year's Eve, records show.

Bateman was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison plus 101 years. Warden pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Part of her plea agreement included testifying against the Wood brothers.

As Zjaiton Wood, 27, was led out of the courtroom Thursday, he turned to family members of Warden and said, ``Tell your sister I'll see her in hell.''

Seven Oklahoma County sheriff's deputies escorted the defendant in and out of the courtroom. Officials said Zjaiton Wood had made several threats.

``Apparently he had assaulted some of our detention officers and made statements to some of our deputies that he was going to make a point of people remembering him before this case is over with,'' Sgt. Rochelle Thompson said.