By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer
District 27 First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp said Tracy Redford’s guilty plea put a quick, tidy wrap on a brutal double murder that rocked a tight-knit Tahlequah community.
Redford pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
Redford, 43, and his wife, Jessie Renee Leppke-Redford — who pleaded no contest last month to two counts of first-degree murder and one charge of assault and battery with a deadly weapon — will each serve three concurrent life sentences for the murders of Jesse Catron and Angela Findlay.
Thorp said the quick justice — Catron and Findlay’s bodies were discovered Aug. 15 — “probably saved some people some money.” Redford and Leppke-Redford, 46, pleaded to crimes that fall under the state’s 85 percent statute, meaning both would be more than 80 years old before they could be eligible for parole.
“If you can get a life sentence on someone who’s older than 30, that’s a good deal,” Thorp said.
Part of what helped avoid a lengthy, expensive trial, he said, was the quality of evidence pulled from the crime scene and evidence from a later attack on Lee Norfleet of Muskogee, who was stabbed 11 times but survived.
Prosecutors said that attack came in the days after the murders, as Redford and Leppke-Redford were looking for ways to escape town before Catron and Findlay’s bodies were found.
“It was a good case,” Thorp said. “We probably occupied that lab (at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation) for three weeks with just our DNA. We had good evidence, like some of Catron’s blood on Tracy Redford’s shoe. We tested a ton of stuff.”
Thorp said Redford pleaded to a second-degree murder charge Thursday after testifying that Leppke-Redford killed Catron and Findlay following an argument.
“(Redford) gave us a statement during the investigation and said he had gotten into a fight with Catron and punched him, then went outside to cool off,” Thorp said. “He said Leppke got involved at that point, which brought Findlay into it. He went outside to cool off, and then saw Leppke cutting their throats.”
Thorp said the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner report stated that Catron and Findlay died from sharp-force and blunt-force trauma, refuting Redford’s claim that they died from the throat wounds Redford testified he had no part in.
“He stated he didn’t intend for them to die,” Thorp said. “But he started what led to their deaths.”
Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.