A jury sentenced a 19-year-old man to life with the possibility of parole even though prosecutors had asked he be given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The defendant was a juvenile at the time of the stabbing death of an 82-year-old woman.
“His actions are the things you have nightmares about,” Assistant District Attorney Merydith Easter said in closing arguments last month.
But jurors chose just a life sentence for Antione Demontre Thomas for the brutal 2016 fatal stabbing in south Oklahoma City.
Mr. Thomas–now 19–will be eligible for parole in his mid-50’s.
Jurors agreed on the parole option despite evidence introduced at the trial that he killed again in 2020.
Oklahoma has kept life without parole for juveniles on the books even as more and more states abolish it.
For example, Maryland last year became the 25th state, along with the District of Columbia, to ban the punishment for people under 18 at the time of the crime.
Oklahoma once allowed–and has carried out–the death penalty for murderers who killed when they were juveniles.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled capital punishment for juveniles unconstitutional in 2005.
In 2012, that court went a step further.
Justices ruled unconstitutional mandatory sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles.
Jurors last month were instructed to consider Mr. Thomas’ youth in determining his sentence.
“The law regards juvenile offenders generally as having lesser moral culpability and greater capacity for change than adult offenders,” Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong told them.
Jurors considered punishment after finding Mr. Thomas guilty of murdering a neighbor, Ikuko George, at her home in south Oklahoma City in March 2016.
The victim was 82.
She had been stabbed eight times and her throat was slashed.
Police found her under blankets inside the home after a taxi cab driver called 9ll when she didn’t come to the door for her scheduled ride to the doctor.
Police also found the killer slashed her water bed, poured V8 Juice over knives in the kitchen and tried to flush bloody plastic grocery bags down the toilet.
The killer covered a blood trail in the house with spray paint and cat food. The only thing missing from the home was a bottle of whiskey.
Jurors were told the case went cold until another elderly woman was stabbed to death in 2020, 1.4 miles away.
Sara Cleveland, 78, was found dead in her house on May 22, 2020, after it was set on fire.
Mr. Thomas became a suspect in that case because he was seen driving Mrs. Cleveland’s car afterward.
He also traded that victim’s ring to a friend for marijuana, according to testimony at the trial.
He was then tied to the 2016 fatal stabbing by fingerprints found inside one of the plastic sacks recovered from the toilet.
Police asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to check the fingerprints after discovering Mr. Thomas once lived close by.
Prosecutors alleged at trial he used the bags as makeshift gloves during the attack.
Jurors were told 19 fingerprints from inside one sack and one from a V8 Juice bottle matched Mr. Thomas.’
In closing arguments last month, Assistant Public Defender Jacob Benedict asked jurors to give Mr. Thomas hope of getting paroled someday.
“Will Antione Thomas be the same at 70 years-old as he was at 13, at 18, 19?” the defense attorney asked.
An aunt testified at the trial that Mr. Thomas’ mother was 16 when he was born. The aunt said his mother also suffered from mental illness and his father was not in his life.
A forensic psychologist who evaluated Mr. Thomas in November at the jail put his IQ at 79, in the range of borderline intellectual functioning.
Under cross-examination, the psychologist, Dr. Shawn Roberson, acknowledged asking Mr. Thomas during the evaluation how he was sleeping.
“He said, ‘Peaceful,’ ” the psychologist testified.
Mr. Thomas faces another jury trial in October over the 2020 death.
Prosecutors plan to seek life without the possibility of parole again then if he is convicted.
He also still faces a felony charge over a makeshift knife found in his cell in August. He told an investigator he had the shank for protection from rival gang members, according to testimony.