Clemency denied for Oklahoma death row inmate

Saturday, August 6th 2005, 2:35 pm
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ An Oklahoma death row inmate convicted of killing his estranged girlfriend is scheduled to be executed Thursday after his request for clemency was denied by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.

The board unanimously denied clemency Friday for Tulsa County killer Kenneth Eugene Turrentine, 52. He was sentenced to die for the 1994 killing of his estranged girlfriend, Anita Richardson, who was shot at her Tulsa home.

He also received a no-parole life term for fatally shooting his sister, Avon Stevenson, in Tulsa on the same day. A federal appeals court threw out his convictions and death sentences for the shooting deaths of Richardson's children, Tina Pennington and Martise Richardson.

Prosecutors said Turrentine believed Richardson was seeing other men and that his sister was helping her deceive him.

The clemency denial came after tearful pleas from Turrentine's family members, who said the murders were out of character for a man who held the family together and repeatedly came to the aid of financially troubled relatives.

Turrentine's mother, Dorothy Vinson of Tulsa, said her son was under the influence of antidepressants and alcohol when the murders were committed. Vinson is also the mother of Avon Stevenson.

``I am just begging you, please,'' she said to the five-member board. ``It wasn't the Kenneth that everyone knows.''

Turrentine's daughter, Tani-sha Billingslea, said Turrentine was 17 when she was born and joined the military after high school to support his family.

``He's my father, and I couldn't imagine life without him, even behind bars,'' she said. ``He's my support, and I just need him to continue to support me.''

No one from Richardson's family spoke at the hearing. But in an earlier interview, her husband, Jerry Richardson, said he did not support clemency for Turrentine. Jerry and Anita Richardson were separated at the time of the murders.

``I love my family very much, and he took them away from me,'' Jerry Richardson said. ``They can never be replaced.''

Turrentine, who turned himself in immediately after the murders, apologized for the deaths but couldn't answer several board members' questions about the motive for his crimes.

``I've been struggling with that for years,'' he said. Turrentine said he drank and took the antidepressants in the hope that it would help him fall asleep following bouts of insomnia.