Trials for two men accused in the murder for hire of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney in 2008 are set to begin Monday.
Jury selection is expected to start Monday morning in the trials for Alonzo Johnson and Fred Shields.
Both are accused in Sweeney's death. Fred Shields is accused of recruiting the convicted trigger man, Terrico Bethel.
Terrico Bethel was found guilty of murder and conspiracy for the death of businessman Neal Sweeney on August 24th. A jury recommended he be sentenced to life without parole. A judge upheld that recommendation last month.
Bethel was sentenced to life in prison without parole and a $10,000 fine for the first degree murder charge, and 10 years and a $5,000 fine for a conspiracy to commit murder conviction. The judge ordered those sentences to be served consecutively.
There was little reaction to the sentence inside the courtroom.
But for the first time Neal Sweeney's wife, Jan, addressed the court to give a victim impact statement.
Jan Sweeney spoke passionately, saying the five men charged in her husband's death were on a train speeding toward murder, and none took the opportunity to be Superman and stop it.
"That kind of tugged at my heartstrings," Bethel's attorney, Sharon Holmes, said. "You don't ever like to see anyone lose a loved one."
"We listened to Neal Sweeney's wife talk about who he was as a person, which often times gets lost in the presentation of the due process," Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said.
Jan Sweeney described her husband as the ultimate family man and the strongest man she'd ever known, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
She said he taught Sunday school at his church and mentored young men. He also kept a list of names on his desk, and everyday he would pray for everyone on his list. She said had he not been murdered, Neal Sweeney likely would have put Terrico Bethel on his prayer list.
She even went so far as to say that if Terrico and Neal meet in the afterlife, she pictures her husband putting his arm around the young man and telling him he forgives him.
"I'm kind of speechless about that," Holmes said. "You just don't like to see anybody lose anybody like that."
Before handing down the maximum sentence, Judge Tom Gillert said the jury made it clear they hoped Bethel would never again see the light of day. But the judge also acknowledged that there were no guarantees that would happen, since the state's Pardon and Parole Board has commuted several sentences before the legally-required 85 percent had been served.
But Tim Harris seemed hopeful the judge and jury's wishes would be fulfilled.
"When I tell a jury and the instructions tell a jury that it's an 85 percent crime, I believe the legislature is demanding that that's the kind of sentence that gets served," Harris said.
Holmes said she and Bethel are planning to appeal his conviction and sentence, but could not share any details about on what grounds that appeal would be filed.
Bethel is one of five men charged in connection to Sweeney's death. Prosecutors say Sweeney was killed as part of a murder conspiracy over unpaid bills for a gas station. Mohammed Aziz has confessed to being the mastermind behind the plot. Allen Shields committed suicide in 2011.
For more details on this complex case read this story: Testimony in Sweeney Case.