He told his half-brother, Dallas Due, that he choked his girlfriend when she picked up the phone to call police in an effort to get him to leave, according to testimony at a hearing in June.
In court Friday, he admitted that he choked to death his girlfriend and the children. He said, “God bless you,” when Rhonda Rust said she was praying for him.
Canadian County District Judge Gary E. Miller ruled the plea agreement was fair.
After the sentencing, Evynn's grandmother, Crystal Franklin, of Oklahoma City, told reporters: “Justice is served as far as I'm concerned. ... The death penalty is not automatic. ... Do I want to have to come to court every time he appealed? No. That's why I personally agree with what has happened today. I want it done so I could get on and try to pick up the pieces that I can.”
Critical of the deal was Canadian County Sheriff Randall R. Edwards.
“I don't believe a crime so heinous as the one Durcho is accused of committing should be pled out,” the sheriff said. “There is overwhelming evidence that shows he committed this horrific act and then ran like the coward he is. I believe he had ought to stand before a jury of his peers so at least if he is found guilty, the death penalty will be, should be, an option.”
Canadian County District Attorney Mike Fields told reporters the victims' relatives he spoke to unanimously supported the plea agreement.
“The sentence today does three things,” he said. “First and foremost, it honors the wishes of the victims' families. Secondly, it guarantees that Mr. Durcho will spend the remainder of his life in prison. And, third, it provides a definite and certain ending to an important aspect of this tragedy and that is the court case.”
Complicating the case was that defense attorneys contended Durcho was ineligible for the death penalty because of mental retardation. Durcho scored 72 on two IQ tests given since his arrest.
The judge ruled in August that Durcho is not mentally retarded. Defense attorneys, though, could have raised their claim again to the jury if Durcho had been convicted.
The mental issue also would have been a key part of the appeal if jurors had chosen death sentences.