OKEMAH — An Oklahoma man was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on murder charges in the deaths of two young girls he told an investigator he shot because he thought they were "two monsters" coming at him.
Kevin Sweat is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the June 2008 shooting deaths of Taylor Placker, 13, and Skyla Whitaker, 11. He has pleaded not guilty, and prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.
Associate District Judge David Martin ordered Sweat to stand trial following a two-day preliminary hearing in Okfuskee County District. During Tuesday's hearing, Martin agreed to hear Sweat's videotaped interview with an investigator in 2011, denying a defense motion to suppress it from evidence on the grounds it violated Sweat's constitutional rights because no attorney was present.
"I was scared," Sweat told Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent Kurt Titsworth. "They were still coming at me, so I shot them."
Whitaker was visiting Placker and the two had gone for a walk. Their bodies were found by Placker's grandfather, who went searching for them when they failed to return.
Sweat said on the tape that he had stopped his vehicle on a rural Okfuskee County road when he saw the two girls. He said he "just panicked" and opened fire with a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol — then shot them again with a .22-caliber pistol.
"I'm guessing they were monsters," he said.
Sweat also acknowledged using drugs but said he had not done so the day the girls were killed.
"I was not hallucinating, I was not on anything," Sweat said.
Authorities have not recovered the weapons used in the shooting. Sweat told Titsworth that he discarded them but would not reveal their location, saying that he doesn't know where he tossed them.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation firearms expert Terrance Higgs has testified that markings on .40-caliber shell casings recovered from the scene matched those recovered from Sweat's father's property.
Sweat was charged in the girls' deaths after being arrested in connection to the death of his girlfriend, Ashley Taylor.
Prosecutors suggested a possible connection as they questioned Sweat's mother and her cousin about statements Sweat made about his relationship with Ashley Taylor and his desire to break up with her. Assistant District Attorney Maxey Reilly asked if Sweat had told them Taylor would spread lies about him if he broke off the relationship, including blaming him for the girls' deaths.
But Sweat's mother, Deborah Sweat, and cousin, James McClellan, said they didn't remember Sweat saying Taylor had threatened to tell authorities he shot the two girls.