Testimony in Sweeney murder trial

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Updated: 8/22/2012 7:17 pm Published: 8/21/2012 10:03 pm

Testimony continues on Wednesday in a high profile murder for hire trial.

Five witnesses took the stand on Tuesday after prosecutors outlined a complex murder plot over money owed for fuel.

Neal Sweeney was shot death in his East Tulsa business on September 4th, 2008.

Terrico Bethel, 26, is the accused triggerman and the first suspect on trial. He was 24 when the murder happened.

In his opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond told the jury this is a complex case with five suspects involved.

One suspect took his own life and another is testifying against the suspects.

Witnesses who were inside Retail Fuels Marketing and employees from neighboring businesses testified on Tuesday.

"It sounded like hammers, ‘boom boom’ and the receptionist started screaming," said nearby employee, Maribeth Groben.

She spoke to FOX23 News the day of the murder.  

District Attorney Tim Harris showed Groben and other witnesses crime scene photos from the day of the murder.

The receptionist, Deborah Townsend, testified she helped police develop a sketch of the suspect a week after the murder.

The man in the sketch wore a grey hoodie and large sunglasses, with blue jeans and white tennis shoes.

Townsend said the man walked into Retail Fuels and went straight to Sweeney’s office. The suspect didn’t say a word to the receptionist.

"I knew something was getting ready to happen,” testified Townsend.

She told the jury she walked into her bosses office saw the man in the hood with arm stretched out and Sweeney slumped over.

She ran into her coworker Christine Adams’ office.

“I heard the gunshot and started screaming,” said Townsend. “I ran to Christine because I was afraid I would get shot.”

Townsend testified she shut the door and put a chair under the door knob and barricaded herself.

Adams called 911. Prosecutors played the 911 recording for the jury. In the background you could hear Townsend hysterical.

"Someone had been shot,” said Adams. "We need to go check on him.”

When the women believed the gunman was gone, the operator walked them through on how to help Sweeney.

The women wiped away tears as they as they described putting Sweeney on the floor and using his suit jacket to apply pressure to his gunshot wound to his head.

Sweeney’s family was in the courtroom and also fought back tears during testimony.

Sweeney died the next day.

Police said they didn’t believe it was a robbery because nothing was taken and it wasn’t random because the shooter went straight to Sweeney’s office.

Police investigated if Sweeney was targeted for personal or business.

Prosecutors said they questioned convenience store owner Mohammed Aziz the day of the shooting.

They learned Sweeney had filed a lawsuit against Aziz for money owed for fuel delivery.

Aziz denied have any involvement. However, the investigation kept leading back to Aziz. 

Aziz pleaded guilty in January 2012, in exchange for his truthful testimony against the suspects he will spend 25-35 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Aziz will testify that he came up with plan and recruited the four suspects. He owed nearly $400,000 to Sweeney for fuel delivery and Sweeney shut off his gas pumps.

Prosecutors said phone records will show how all the five suspects talked to each other around the time of the murder. When police questioned suspects, phone calls were made immediately after to other suspects.

Prosecutors plan to call 25 witnesses. Jurors will also hear from the inmate who Bethel confessed and the recorded confession.

Terrico Bethel, 26, was 22. Accused triggerman who was recruited by Fred Shields. Charged: First Degree Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Murder. On June 4th, 2009 he was the first person arrested in the 2008 murder-for-hire of businessman Neil Sweeney. He confessed to an inmate who then got a wire and the confession was recorded. Johnson paid Bethel. Since Bethel’s arrest he has gone through four attorneys. Bethel was already in custody on unrelated charges when charged with the Sweeney murder.

Mohammed Aziz, 59 was 55. Accused mastermind who recruited Allen Shields. Aziz owns three convenience stores. Two in North Tulsa and one in Collinsville. A. Shields was a frequent customer and friends with A. Shields. Charged with Soliciting for First-Degree Murder. Police said Aziz owed Sweeney $394,981.00 on fuel delivery. In May, Sweeney filed suit and a $238, 638.72 judgment was placed against Aziz. In January 2012, in exchange for his testimony Aziz pleaded guilty and will testify against the suspects he hired to kill Sweeney. If he truthfully testifies he will spend 25-35 years in prison. 
Fred Shields, 38 was 34. Accused recruiter and set price on murder. Charged with First Degree Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Murder. His brother is Allen Shields and is also a former cellmate with Bethel in Osage County. Police said he set the $10,000 price for the hit. Trial scheduled for September 17th
Alonzo Johnson, 40 was 36. Recruited by his cousin Fred Shields to steal getaway vehicle. Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder. Police said Johnson stole a white van as getaway vehicle from a neighboring business where Johnson did body work on cars in Muskogee. Allegedly received money from Aziz and paid Bethel. He is also charged with a separate murder in Osage County and trial scheduled for September 17th.   
Allen Shields, 32. Accused middleman. A businessman who does body work on cars and illegally dealt drugs. Frequent customer and friends with Aziz. He is Fred Shields’ brother. In exchange for his testimony against the suspects, he pleaded guilty and testified against them in a preliminary hearing. He would have recieved 10 years probation and no jail time. A. Shields took his own life on April 4, 2011. The District Attorney plans to use his transcript testimony in court.

Prosecutors outlined a timeline in opening statements:
*Some of the timeline includes information from FOX23 archives.  

2006-2009-Mohammad Aziz financial problems went downhill.

November 2007-Sweeney sends demand letter of payment to Aziz for $394,981.00).

May 21st, 2008-$238, 6383.72 default

May 2008-Aziz talks to Allen Shields about being angry with Sweeney and wants something done. A. Shields said “I’ll see what I can do.”

May 2008-August 2008-A. Shields recruits his brother, Fred Shields, to take care of the murder plot. F. Shields sets the hit price at $10,000.

May 2008-September 4th, 2008-Alonzo Johnson, Shields’ cousin, is recruited to steal getaway vehicle.

August 2008-Fred Shields and Terrico Bethel meet in Osage County Jail. F. Shields recruits Bethel.

August 30th, 2008-F. Shields girlfriend bonds out Bethel from jail.

Sept. 1-2nd, 2008 Johnson steals van from a Muskogee man near a shop.

September 1st- A. Shields confirms with Aziz to carry out plan.

September 3rd, 2008- F. Shields is arrested on warrants.

September 4th, 4008-Neal Sweeney murdered at Retail Fuels Marketing.

Nov.-Dec. 2008-An employee of Aziz’ told police that Aziz was bitter and angry about his business failing and blamed Sweeney and spoke to her about doing something to Aziz.

February 1st, 2009-White getaway vehicle found abandoned in a Midtown Apartment Complex at 36th & Lakewood. It had been stolen from a Muskogee auto dealer. Prosecutors said the apartment complex was near a Shields’ associate. That associate is expected to testify.

April, 2009-Tulsa Police contacted by Tulsa County inmate who said Bethel confessed to murders. Inmate is wired and records another conversation where Bethel confessed to murders. “I walked right past her. She was … so I just had my head down. I just had my head down and …I walked right past her. Went into dude’s office, hit him (Neal Sweeney) and walked out. She was screaming and everything.
Came this way and I was…then he’s sitting at the desk. I hit him, right? And walk right back up.

June 4th, Bethel charged with the Sweeney murder 
May 12th, 2010-Alonzo Johnson & Mohammed Aziz arrested
June 1st, 2010-Allen & Fred Shields, Alonzo Johnson arrested.
Sept. 2010-Allen Shields pleads
October 26th 2010 . Allen Shields testifies against suspects in preliminary hearing
October 26th 2010 . Allen Shields testifies against suspects in preliminary hearing 
April 4th, 2011-Allen Shields killed himself in a standoff with police. He had held his estranged girlfriend's daughter hostage and let her go and then killed himself. A. Shields had been arrested at least 100 times and never spent a day in prison.
April 10th-DA officially says he'll use Allen Shields transcript testimony in court.

January 30th, 2012-Aziz pleaded guilty. First degree murder charge dropped and faces 25 instead of 35 years for Soliciting Murder.

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