‘Panic Button’ podcast, Episode 3: Evidence of rape, physical abuse, stalking, control and fear

TULSA, Okla. — “Panic Button” is a true-crime, advocacy for justice podcast unraveling the case of April Wilkens.

Wilkens was found guilty of First Degree Murder in 1999.

Tulsa attorneys and co-hosts Colleen McCarty and Leslie Briggs believe this is more than an open and shut case.

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

In episode three, McCarty and Briggs focus on incidents from December 1997 up to April 27, 1998, the day she shot and killed Terry Carlton, her ex-fiancé.

McCarty and Briggs talk to their audience through the Demonstrative, Documentary and Testimonial evidence of the case, some of which they say the jury in Wilkens’ trial never saw or heard.

The podcast opens on a day in early December. Wilkens and Carlton end up at Carlton’s house where Wilkens has locked herself in a guest bedroom. The co-hosts then warn the listeners that they are about to go into details of sexual assault and the details may be too extreme for some listeners.

McCarty says that according to April, “Terry is furious and breaks down the door to his own guestroom. He comes in and shoves a valium pill wrapped in bread down [her] throat.”

“Terry violently raped April and caused vaginal injuries as well as injuries to her lower back. Her neck was also injured. She was drugged, she blacked out,” says Briggs.

McCarty goes on to describe Wilkens gaining consciousness and being terrified because she couldn’t move; she thought she was paralyzed.

Wilkens pleads with Carlton to call 911, which he eventually does. Police arrive at Carlton’s home and handcuff Terry.

“We are at a critical moment where things might have gone differently. Terry’s in handcuffs for the first time after all of April’s reporting to the police. He’s going to be taken in a booked for raping April. Finally, the system is going to work for her. Finally, law enforcement has the bad guy,” said McCarty. “Except that’s not what happens.”

Over the radio, Sergeant Rick Hellberg orders his officers to uncuff him and just make a report.

Carlton is released, officers make a report, and photos are taken of the bedroom and of April’s injuries to her chin and neck.

Wilkens is also driven to the hospital where she gets a S.A.N.E. exam.

“S.A.N.E. stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Exam. The exam showed signs of rape and sexual abuse including bruising, redness, and a laceration,” says McCarty.

Following the attack, Wilkens in her own words describes what Carlton did next.

“He came and got me he had this form on supposed to sign this form that it was not raised that it was consensual sex and you know, like when I’m not signing this wasn’t consensual and so he was keeping me with him until I was signing this form,” says Wilkens.

During another sexual assault incident, we learn about in the episode, April is able to grab a nearby gun and point it at Carlton who is on top of her.

“April pulls the trigger but the gun doesn’t fire. Terry actually tells April at this time. ‘I’m God and I am Satan. And April is frankly starting to believe it. Terry is furious, and he attacks April again,” says Briggs.

Briggs then references the law 21 OS section 733.

“Most legal scholars agree that the law of self-defense allows you to use deadly force to protect your life or to protect yourself from being raped. A potential rape victim can use deadly force if she reasonably believes her rapist will cause great bodily harm or your death,” says Briggs.

This law went into effect in Oklahoma in 1990.

By late Feb., the abuse and stalking had become an “almost daily terror” for Wilkens.

Wilkens also begins to spend time with a friend Luke Draffin. She says he made her feel safe. It’s not long until Carlton interjects himself into Draffin and Wilkens’ relationship.

On the stand at the trial, Draffin admits that Carlton offered him $5,000 to stay away from Wilkens and he says didn’t take it, but agreed to stay away from April.

During this time period Wilkens notices that Carlton has a police scanner and that anytime she calls the police, he is easily able to evade them by listening to their responses on the scanner.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 22, 1998, Carlton calls Wilkens in the middle of the night.

“‘I’m coming over,’ he spits into the phone and hangs up. April immediately calls 911. Terry pulls into April’s driveway and runs up to her side garage door. April can hear him beating on the door with something metal. She’s terrified. Officer Troy DeWitt of the Tulsa Police Department pulls in behind Terry’s car as he is trying to get in to escape. Terry Carlton is arrested and booked in the Tulsa County Jail,” says Briggs. “Even though stalking was a misdemeanor crime at this point in Oklahoma history, Terry is only booked into the jail for the misdemeanor of transporting a loaded firearm.”

In Officer DeWitt’s report, he writes, “I was radio assigned to 1341 East 35th Street in Tulsa in reference to a domestic with a gun call. Upon arrival, I could hear the suspect Terry Carlton yelling behind a large eight-foot fence. This residence has a history of domestic violence and threats. Although April Wilkins could not say whether he had threatened her tonight, Wilkin said he had in the past and she felt very threatened. Officers contacted Judge Hogshead and an emergency protective order was issued. Carlton was arrested and booked.”

“Officer DeWitt is the only police officer who ever really takes decisive action against Terry Carlton on behalf of April. I know we’ve been really critical of the police throughout this podcast and I think we have good reason to. But officer DeWitt really is a true hero in this story,” says Briggs.

On the 25th of March 1998, Terry fails to appear in court on his misdemeanor-loaded firearm charge. The judge issued a bench warrant for Terry’s arrest.

In early April 1998, Terry takes April to his house at gunpoint and holds her hostage.

“We don’t have a lot of detail about what happened while Terry was keeping April as a prisoner during this time. We know she could not leave and that he was repeatedly attacking her,” says McCarty. “April describes Terry as deranged during this time seeing things that weren’t they’re somewhat fading in and out of reality.”

At some point, Wilkens escapes and runs to a neighbor to call 911. Police arrive.

“They don’t just take Terry to Parkside for being suicidal. They take both Terry and April to Parkside and they civilly commit both of them for being dangerous to themselves and others.

Terry was released a few hours later, but they hold April at Parkside until April 23,” said McCarty.

According to the co-hosts, McCarty and Briggs, this podcast episode is filled with far more detail and it is the longest one released to date. In the third episode, “Hostile State,” the listener should expect to free fall into an unraveling of violence and fear and gain more of an understanding that Wilkens was truly drowning in a powerless state of no protection.

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