TULSA - Daniel Arlen Johnson pleaded guilty today to killing a 10-year-old girl.
Johnson, 29, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Elizabeth Wagoner, 10, on March 28, plus 35 years for the lesser charges of lewd molestation, kidnapping and unlawful removal of a dead body, all to run consecutively.
"Justice has been served," said the girl's father, Bill Wagoner.
The possibility of a long trial with a possible death penalty "weighed on us," he said looking toward his wife, Lindsay, sitting nearby and too distraught to speak at an impromptu news conference outside the Tulsa County Courthouse.
"We feel confident he (Johnson) will die in prison, by what means we don't care," Wagoner said.
The Wagoners and about nine family members were all in the courtroom wearing T-shirts bearing a photo of Elizabeth when Johnson made his guilty plea.
"I was vibrating at a pretty high rate" while gripping his wife's arm tightly throughout the proceedings that were punctuated by family sobbing, he said.
Tim Harris, Tulsa County district attorney, said he had been authorized by the family to accept the plea so they would not have to go through a trial involving the death penalty. Harris had not formally sought the death penalty, a decision not generally made in his office until after a preliminary hearing.
Johnson waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Pete Silva, public defender, said he believed the sentence was the best for all parties involved.
Johnson gave only yes, no, yes sir and no sir answers to questions from District Judge Thomas C. Gillert on whether he understood the proceedings, what his rights were, whether he was mentally fit to participate and other procedural questions.