EL RENO — Admitted murderer Joshua Steven Durcho was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after he apologized for choking to death his girlfriend and her four young children.
In a deal that had the support of the victims' family members, prosecutors dropped their request for the death penalty in the 2009 case.
“The death penalty would not have made me feel any better,” said Rhonda Rust, stepmother of the murdered woman, Summer Rust, 25. “I thank God we did not have to go through a trial.”
Jury selection for the trial was to have begun Monday.
Durcho, 29, pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and agreed to serve five consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. Durcho also agreed he would not appeal and he would never seek a pardon or sentence commutation. He wept in court as he listened to statements from relatives of his victims.
He met privately with his victims' families before his sentencing. He apologized in the private meeting but did not offer any explanation for his actions, according to those who were there.
“It was extremely emotional. It was very, very emotional,” defense attorney John Echols said of the meeting.
“He told them he was responsible for these crimes and he was sorry. ... A lot of it was for them to talk to him ... and express to him how much pain he caused. ... I can tell you he told the family members that he doesn't have any recollection of anything after the first awful moments.”
Prosecutors alleged Durcho strangled his girlfriend in her El Reno apartment in January 2009 when she threatened to call police on him. Prosecutors said he had vowed he would never go back to prison. Durcho had been to prison in the past for marijuana possession.
Prosecutors allege he methodically strangled Rust's three daughters, Kirsten Rust, 7, Autumn Rust, 7, and Evynn Garas, 3, and her son, Teagin Rust, 4, to eliminate them as witnesses. Prosecutors also allege he sexually abused Kirsten.
The victims' bodies were found Jan. 12, 2009, in the apartment. The children's bodies had been stacked in a bathtub partially filled with water. Durcho was arrested after wrecking his girlfriend's car in Texas.
He admitted to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents after his arrest that he had a fight with his girlfriend. He told the agents he blacked out with his hands around her neck.