MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 11, 2014

Two killers up for parole

Two men convicted of separate first-degree murders are scheduled to be considered for parole this month, according to Oklahoma Department of Corrections records.

•  Johnny L. Hardeman, 53, was convicted of the Dec. 4, 1982 shooting death of Sheryl D. Bennett, 20, of Tulsa. He was sentenced to life in prison.

While Hardeman was convicted in Bennett’s death, he had been accused of another murder. Sam Miller Morgan, 79, was shot and slain outside his home at 2916 Court St., on July 2, 1982.

Bennett was Hardeman’s girlfriend, and she was to have testified at Hardeman’s trial in the Morgan case. Prosecutors said Hardeman told her while they were driving past the Morgan residence that he had been involved in a murder there and lost a T-shirt at the house.

She was slain after her role as a prospective prosecution witness became known. Her body was found in a sparsely wooded area at the base of a cliff 2 1/2 miles west of Taft. She had been shot five times. Hardeman was never tried for Morgan’s death, but was convicted in 1983 of killing Bennett.

• Melvin J. Battiest, 53, of Muskogee was convicted in 1984 of first-degree murder in Wagoner County. He is serving a life sentence that began in July 1985. Battiest was convicted of the beating death of Don Cantrell, a 46-year-old Rogers, Ark., man. A passerby found Cantrell’s body in the Wahoo Bay area of Fort Gibson Lake.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board will meet through Friday at the Kate Barnard Community Corrections Center, 3300 N. Martin Luther King Ave. in Oklahoma City.

Victims or victims’ representatives may testify before the board makes a decision.

Video conferencing is used to conduct personal appearance hearings. A victim or victim representative who wishes to appear at a parole board hearing can notify the Pardon and Parole Board.

Information: Pardon and Parole Board, First National Center, 120 N. Robinson Ave., Suite 900W, Oklahoma City OK 73102 or call (405) 602-5863.

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