‘Panic Button’ crime podcast releases first episode on 1998 Tulsa murder case

TULSA, Okla. — The virtual airwaves just released the very first episode of a brand new podcast, “Panic Button.”

This true-crime, advocacy podcast dives into the complexity of the State of Oklahoma vs. April Rose Wilkens murder case.

“Panic Button,” is co-hosted by local attorneys Colleen McCarty and Leslie Briggs.

McCarty went to Holland Hall High School and graduated from the University of Tulsa College of Law [T.U.] in 2020. This year, she founded Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, which is a non-profit pro bono law firm.

“We are looking into cases of injustice across the state that are emblematic of larger societal issues so that we can begin a dialogue and seek legal policy change,” said McCarty.

Briggs was born and raised in Tulsa. She also studied law at T.U. Before law school, Briggs worked with the Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform campaign. Following graduation, Briggs went to work for a federal civil rights litigation firm and spent a little over two years on employment civil rights litigation cases.

“Our firm also handled several serious police misconduct cases. Seeing how power corrupts and the system often rallies around itself to shield its members is certainly something that came through in those cases. It has motivated me to continue tackling systemic injustice where possible,” said Briggs.

Around Feb. of 2022, the attorneys met Ashyn Faulkner, a long-time advocate for April Wilkens, and Amanda Ross, Wilkens’ niece who introduced McCarty and Briggs to the Wilkens murder case.

“Most people have no idea this happened. It happened three blocks from my house growing up,” said McCarty.

On April 27th, 1998, Wilkens shot and killed her fiancé Terry Carlton. She is now serving a life sentence at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center.

However, McCarty and Briggs believe this story is anything but an open and shut case.

“April’s story is incredibly nuanced,” said Marty.

“This story is layered. It’s dense. It has a lot of really sticky elements to it.,” added Briggs.

Wilkens went to Kellyville High School. She graduated from Northwestern University with a Master’s in Prosthetics.

In 1995, Wilkens reportedly met Terry Carlton at a car dealership, and soon after they begin dating.

By 1996 and 1997, Wilkens had filed protective orders against Carlton and the relationship had reportedly become domestically and sexually abusive.

”April was in fear of her life daily. She could not feel safe anywhere,” said McCarty.

“April tried so hard to get help from the police. She was very rarely believed. There were very few officers she came in contact with who treated her with the dignity and seriousness her situation deserved,” said Briggs. “In fact, rather than address her allegations of abuse directly with her abuser, the Tulsa Police Department had April involuntarily committed for two and half weeks leading up to the shooting.”

“April’s is a classic case of self-defense, so it is extremely perplexing to me how she would have been sentenced to life by the jury,” said McCarty. “April’s case is every woman’s nightmare.”

The podcast creators say listeners should expect case details in upcoming episodes that the jury in the trial never got to hear.

There are many questions surrounding the investigation. Such as, why wasn’t a rape kit requested by Tulsa police after Wilkens said she had been raped by Carlton.

Episode One details the final hours leading up to the crime.

Episode Two will take the audience back to 1995 to the early stages of April and Terry’s relationship.

Future episodes, released each week on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, will detail the trial and the aftermath. There will be ten episodes with potential updates.

“The podcast is called “Panic Button” because, during the Spring of 1998, April wore a panic button around her neck that would have triggered her home alarm from anywhere, because she did not feel safe even to exist,” said McCarty.