A jury has found accused gunman, Terrico Bethel, guilty on two counts in a murder for hire plot to kill a Tulsa businessman.
The jury deliberated for less than two hours Friday before reaching a guilty verdict. They recommend life without parole for murder and 10 years for conspiracy. Formal sentencing will take place Tuesday morning.
Bethel was on trial for the 2008 murder of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney. Four others were charged. One committed suicide, two are awaiting trial and on Thursday the accused mastermind Mohammed Aziz, who pleaded guilty, testified against Bethel in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Prosecutors showed Mohammed Aziz a photo of Neal Sweeney and Aziz admitted to putting the murder plot into action.
“When the lion gets in the habit of drinking blood and eating meat. You have to find someone to kill him," said Aziz.
On Wednesday, Sweeney’s business partner testified Aziz failed to pay for fuel deliveries and Sweeney had the pumps cut off. Aziz’s testimony concurred saying, “Mr. Sweeney did it to me. He screwed me and didn’t promise me one penny.”
Aziz testified that’s when he laid out a plan and spoke to Allen Shields about having Sweeney killed. Aziz said Allen Shields talked to his brother, Fred. Aziz testified that Fred Shields set a $10,000 price for the murder and asked for money to bail the shooter out of jail.
Aziz testified this was all planned between May and September of 2008 at his convenience store and that his communication was all done through Allen Shields. After confirming that Neal Sweeney was to be murdered Aziz did not know when the murder was going to take place until someone knocked on his window at the store and told him to “watch the news.” That man was later identified as Alonzo Johnson.
Aziz testified after the murder he was scared for the people and was hounded and threatened by the suspects to pay up for the murder. Aziz said Fred Shields started charging interest on the agreed $10,000 price and needed drug money. Aziz said he paid in installments and ended up paying $11,100.
The defense questioned Aziz about the deal he is getting in exchange for his testimony. Aziz is also expected to testify against two other suspects, Fred Shields and Alonzo Johnson.
However, a wrench was put in the murder plot the day before the murders. Another witness close to one of the suspects testified on September 3rd
, Fred Shields was arrested on warrants. Shields’ didn’t have Bethel phone number so he called his girlfriend and relayed directions to “Rico’s house for Johnson.
Rico was later identified as Terrico Bethel. Jail recordings between Shields and his girlfriend were played in the courtroom.
The girlfriend said she didn’t know about the plan.
Aziz’ employee also testified on Thursday. She said before the murders, Aziz was angry with Sweeney and said he wanted to kill him by putting ten rattlesnakes in Sweeney’s jeep.
“I didn’t believe him. I thought he was mad,” said the employee. She said Aziz told her about Sweeney being shot and she asked if he died.” “No, but that son of a (expletive) will die,” said the employee of Aziz.
The employee said she Aziz never told her he had Sweeney killed but it was understood. She said Aziz told her it was a black man and he would never get caught.
At the end of the November in 2008, the employee said she was scared Aziz would hurt Sweeney’s business partner so she quit and went to police.
Other witnesses called to the stand included, the victim of the white van stolen. Prosecutors argue Bethel used the van Johnson stole to commit the murder. Also the owner of the lot where the van was at, a neighboring business where Johnson had associates, law enforcement, emergency room doctor and a forensic pathologist.
Late Thursday afternoon the prosecution rested their case after calling 28 witnesses. The defense also rested after Bethel agreed not to testify. When the defense said they were not calling any witnesses, someone from Sweeney's family said in the back of the courtroom, "Wow."
For a complete timeline on this complex case read this story