WELEETKA — Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man who said he shot and killed two girls three years ago near Weleetka because he thought they were monsters.
Kevin Sweat, who was being held for another murder when the new charges were filed Friday, is now charged in the June 8, 2008, shooting deaths of Taylor Dawn Paschal-Placker, 13, and Skyla Jade Whitaker, 11.
Authorities announced the charges during a news conference Friday, bringing a sense of closure to one of the highest-profile unsolved murders in years.
Sweat, who is being held without bail in Seminole County jail, already was facing a murder charge in the death of Ashley Taylor, 23.
Taylor and Sweat, according to family members, were a couple. Taylor's charred remains were found Aug. 4 on property belonging to Sweat's father, court documents show.
Okfuskee County District Attorney Max Cook said prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the slayings of the two girls.
Authorities released an affidavit of an interview Sweat gave Sept. 13 to an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent.
During the interview, Sweat referred to the girls as “monsters” and said he “panicked” when they came toward his car, so he grabbed a Glock .40-caliber handgun out of his glove box, shot them and then grabbed a .22-caliber gun and shot them again, agent Kurt Titsworth said.
The best friends had gone for a walk to Bad Creek Bridge on County Line Road and were shot a combined total of 13 times as they returned.
Investigators were able to match the shell casings because the gun previously was owned by the Baltimore Police Department, which had returned the weapon to the manufacturer for unspecified reasons some time before 2006, according to court documents.
Baltimore police retained a single casing from the gun, which investigators were able to match to casings found at the crime scene.
Investigators were able to trace the gun to Sweat because it was sold to an Oklahoma gun dealer after it was returned by the Baltimore Police Department.
Authorities say they still are seeking evidence in the case, including the .22-caliber gun Sweat told investigators he used that day.
Family, community relieved
Joe Mosher, Paschal-Placker's great-uncle, said the family is relieved and grateful the death penalty will be sought.
“The death penalty is too good for this man. I think they ought to just throw him in prison and let the inmates tear him apart,” Mosher said. “He'll sit on death row for 20 years before they execute him. He needs to die without a moment to think about it like the girls did.
Sweat was acquainted with Paschal-Placker's mother, Jennifer, and his grandfather and father both owned property near the scene of the shooting, families of both girls said when the suspect was first publicly linked to the slayings in November.
“We don't know why he killed the girls,” Mosher said. “We are hoping to find out now.”
Wanda Mankin, elementary principal of Graham Public Schools, where the slain girls attended school, said people in the small town and surrounding areas are “kind of elated” by news of Sweat's arrest.
“It is three years, six months and one day,” Mankin said. “But we all realize this is just Step One in our journey to justice.”
Mankin said she's heard the suspect's name a lot in recent months but didn't get her hopes up.
“But I've heard a lot of things over three years that didn't pan out to be true,” she said. “So, it got to where you just didn't put a lot of stock in rumors.”
Mankin said she spoke with Whitaker's parents but that they weren't ready to talk publicly about Sweat's arrest.
“They're needing time to internalize this information,” the principal said. “I think they were told this morning, and they just need some family time together.”
One of the biggest cases ever
The OSBI has held several news conferences in the years since the girls were killed. The agency attempted to keep the crime fresh in the minds of local residents. A $160,000 reward for information that could break the case has been offered and is supplemented by money from private donors.
Significant developments in the case included a vague drawing of a person of interest soon after the killings, a grand jury investigation in September 2008 that yielded no indictment and an announcement in September that investigators were looking for a .40-caliber Glock pistol with serial number EKG463US.
Authorities said last month they were investigating a man charged with killing his girlfriend for possible links to the case. Sweat, 25, of Henryetta, is charged with murder in Okfuskee County in the July death of his girlfriend, Ashley Taylor.
OSBI Director Stan Florence said his agency conducted nearly 640 interviews, investigated more than 900 leads and performed 19,000 forensic tests on 800 pieces of evidence collected during the course of this investigation.
“I recognize that there are other unsolved cases throughout our state that investigators work on every single day,” Florence said.
“To the families of those victims, please know that every case is a priority for us, and be assured that the OSBI will continue to work thoroughly on these cases as well. As with this case, we will never give up.
“But hopefully one day, like this day, you will have the experience that the families of Taylor and Skyla are having, finally able to experience the first step toward justice for their loved ones.”
Weleetka is a small community about 90 miles east of Oklahoma City.