Tulsa Family Searches For Justice After Acquittal Of Murder Suspect

Sunday, February 4th 2007, 8:32 pm
By: News On 6

A not-guilty verdict has two Oklahoma families searching for justice. A Tulsa jury eliminated the only suspect in a double murder, last week. In a News on 6 exclusive, one victim's family shares their heartache with News on 6 Reporter Joshua Brakhage.

"When we get together we always laugh and talk about the funny things he always do," said murder victim Eddie Phenix’s mother Fayrene Cravin.

Eddie Phenix's relatives all called him the life of the party, and say he would have loved to share the food and fun of the Super Bowl with his family. They say his sense of humor was only matched by his work ethic.

"He was such a big help to me,” said Cravin. “I don't care how hard a day he worked, he would come in and say, ‘Mama you want me to do something? Mop your floor? Vacuum the floor or wash the dishes?’"

But Eddie was gunned down, along with Zach Jones, both shot execution-style in the back of a Tulsa hardware store in April 2005.

Police zeroed in on a single suspect, Leroy Smith. He went on the run for almost a month, a witness identified him and his wife says he told her he was involved and didn't want to go to jail. But detectives found no DNA, no fingerprints, no murder weapon. So a jury found no reason to convict.

"What is the first thing that flashed through your mind when you heard, not guilty," asked News on 6 reporter Joshua Brakhage.

"What is this jury thinking about? What did they hear that we didn't hear," said Cynthia White, Phenix’s sister.

"I was shocked. Shocked! I still say I don't know because the evidence was there. I thought everything seemed to be in order," said Cravin.

Phenix’s family is still asking: Who will pay the price for a crime that cost two men everything? For them, the case is far from closed.

"It may be closed with men, but it's not closed with God,” White said. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. So we do believe that he'll reap what he's sown."

While the jury couldn't find enough evidence to convict Leroy Smith, the clues don't seem to point to anyone else. That puts this case in the worst possible spot, back at square one with no leads to go on.

If you have any information in the murders of Eddie Phenix and Zach Jones call Crimestoppers at 596-COPS. You can remain anonymous and could earn a cash reward if your tip leads to an arrest.