Woodward, Okla. —
David Lee Yelloweagle has been found guilty of 2nd degree murder in the death of 20-year-old Jon Watkins.
After listening to closing arguments in the case on Friday morning, the 5-woman, 7-man jury was given the case around noon. The jurors deliberated for just a couple of hours before returning the guilty verdict Friday afternoon.
After the jury foreman read the verdict in open court, Yelloweagle's defense attorney Peter Scimeca requested that the jury be polled to verify that it was a unanimous verdict. One by one, Associate District Judge Rick Bozarth asked each juror whether he or she supported the guilty verdict and all 12 answered "yes."
The jury was then asked to return to their deliberations to decide on a recommended sentence.
As part of their sentencing considerations, the jury was informed that Yelloweagle was previously convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon as part of a 2008 case in Harper County. This prior conviction increased the range of possible punishment for the murder charge to between 10 years to life in prison.
After approximately 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury recommended that the 22-year-old Yelloweagle be sentenced to 20 years in jail.
However, Scimeca requested that formal sentencing be delayed until the completion of a pre-sentencing investigation.
The judge will take the results of this investigation into consideration when issuing Yelloweagle's sentence as part of a hearing which has been tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. on Oct. 25 pending no conflicts with the judge's or attorneys' schedules.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Boring began his case on Tuesday with an opening statement in which he promised to tell the story of Jon Watkins.
"It's a story that ends in tragedy because it's a story of how Jon died in a brutal attack and was left for dead," he said.
In his closing on Friday, Boring asked the jury to "end Jon's story with the conviction of the defendant."
When the jury did just that, the ADA said the prosecution was "very pleased with the jury's decision."
"We believe it's the right decision and we believe it's the right decision for Jon's family," Boring said. "We believe justice was served today."
In the defense's closing statement, Scimeca also referenced the story of Watkins' death as a tragedy.
"This is a tragedy where 6 young lives were changed forever," he said.
He referenced how not only did Watkins lose his life, but Dillan Hager has already been incarcerated for that death, Jeffrey Shawn Spencer was also previously sentenced and carries a manslaughter charge on his record, Ashley Carriger "is scarred by this incident," and now "David Yelloweagle is on trial for his life."
Scimeca asked the jury to consider the conflicts in the different testimonies that had been presented in the previous 3 days of trial, which he said called into question Yelloweagle's participation in the beating on Watkins, and not further the tragedy by taking his client's freedom away with a conviction.
Even as the guilty verdict was issued, the defense attorney maintained his client's innocence.
"Certainly Mr. Yelloweagle is disappointed in the verdict," Scimeca said. "But he has faith in the system and will continue to pursue his remedies within the system to be vindicated of this crime he did not commit."
Yelloweagle's family members declined to make a comment to The News. However, his mother and grandmother began crying in the courtroom as they heard the guilty verdict read.
The victim's mother Carol Cannon, of Sentinel, who raised Watkins since adopting him at 8-years-old, also had tears in her eyes when the jury foreman announced that they had found Yelloweagle guilty of her son's murder.
"We're happy with the verdict," Cannon told The News. "And we feel blessed to have the prosecution team that we have been given. They did an excellent job."
She was seen hugging members of the District Attorney's staff, including the prosecutors, and some of the case investigators after the verdict was announced.
"We appreciate the support we've received from the DA's Office and the support we've received from the whole town," Cannon said, noting "we also thank Curt Terry at OSBI for all his hard work."
Terry was one of the primary investigators in Watkins' murder case and was one of the witnesses called by the prosecution to testify about the 20-year-old's death.