(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News Some of the information is repeated from previous Turner Report posts.)
It only takes a split second for a life to be changed forever.
That split second occurred Jan. 10, 1994, for Velta Ball, Jasper. She was in the passenger side of a car driven by her granddaughter, Sheila Mayfield, with another granddaughter, Shelly Wells, in the back seat.
Sheila Mayfield was driving the three down the Will Rogers Turnpike, returning to Missouri after visiting her mother, who was recovering from surgery in a Miami hospital.
Before they reached the state line, a rock thrown from an overpass crashed through the windshield, killing Sheila instantly. Velta Ball had the presence of mind to reach over, take hold of the steering wheel and save the life of her other granddaughter, as well as her own.
Velta Ball, whose quick thinking saved two lives that day, died Nov. 17 after a long illness....hopefully never knowing that the man who tossed the rock through the window had been freed from an Oklahoma state prison a few weeks ago- and has already been arrested again for driving under the influence, assault, burglary, and larceny.
Murray, one of two juveniles responsible for Sheila Mayfield’s death, is being in held in lieu of $100,000 bond in the Ottawa County Jail.
This was the second time that Murray had been released from prison well before his parole date.
Oklahoma online court records do not indicate what it was that Murray did to bring about his return to prison in 2008, though he was charged with threatening someone with violence in December 2007. Those charges were dismissed in March 2008, according to Ottawa County records.
More than five years passed after the 1994 murder before Paul Murray, who was 16 at the time of the murder, finally pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree. He was initially charged with first degree murder after Oklahoma officers found a notebook in his school locker, which depicted the same scenario, which had claimed Sheila Mayfield's life. Later, the charge was downgraded to second degree murder, to get Murray to enter his plea and to finally bring the case to a close.
Murray entered an Alford plea, meaning he conceded there was enough evidence to convict him, but he was not saying he was actually guilty. As a part of the plea agreement, as The Carthage Press reported in John Hacker's story in the Feb. 2, 1999, issue, Murray's sentence was to be reviewed in 120 days and if he maintained good behavior during that time, his sentence would be reduced from 15 to only five years in prison. He was freed after that four-month period. No five-year sentence, just the four months. Murray was released after four months despite a pre-sentence investigation which said he remained a "danger and a threat to the community and himself."
As of mid-summer 1999, Paul Murray was a free man. His brushes with the law did not end. On March 12, 2002, he pleaded guilty to a public intoxication charge. Four months later, he was stopped and charged with not wearing a seat belt. On March 10, 2003, it was failure to pay child support. Finally, and no information is available from court records as to what ended up sending Murray to prison, it was determined that he had violated the terms of his parole.
Murray's original sentence was scheduled to last until 2013. It would probably be too much to expect Sooner State officials to actually keep him behind bars for more than a few days.
Anything less would be an insult to the memory of Sheila Mayfield and Velta Ball, as well as a slap in the face to their family.