Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 20, 2012

Two held without bond in murder, assault

TAHLEQUAH — Two people being questioned in a Tahlequah double murder appeared in court Friday morning, clad in orange jumpsuits and bound by chains and handcuffs.

Tracy L. Redford, 43, and 46-year-old Jessie Renee Leppke – who was referred to in court as Jesse Redford – stood together in front of Associate District Judge Mark Dobbins as he read aloud the charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Dry told Dobbins the two were arrested Thursday for the stabbing of a Muskogee man. That attack was captured on video at the Cherokee Inn motel on Downing Street around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

The victim, 52-year-old Ernest “Lee” Norfleet, said an acquaintance, Leppke, asked him to meet her in Tahlequah because she needed help and had been in a fight with her sister, Angela Findlay. When Norfleet arrived at the motel, he was motioned inside and later stabbed nearly a dozen times by Leppke and Redford, whom police say is Leppke’s husband.

Norfleet eventually wrested away one of the attackers’ knives, but the assault spilled into the parking lot of the motel until Norfleet was able to get in his vehicle and flee to a local hospital. Shortly afterward, Leppke and Redford packed up their belongings and left the motel room.

Investigators said the couple took Norfleet’s cell phone, and likely wanted to steal his car.

During Friday morning’s hearing, Dry explained to Dobbins that the couple are also considered “persons of interest” in a double murder discovered late Wednesday night at a Tahlequah home. Dry said he’d been told credit cards belonging to the murder victims were found in the couple’s possession when they were arrested by Tahlequah police.

The bodies of the two homicide victims – 49-year-old Findlay and her 64-year-old uncle, Jesse Catron – could have been in the home for “a couple of days” before being discovered, Dry told Dobbins.

The judge then told Leppke and Redford he’d found probable cause to hold them both, without bond, for first-degree murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

“Nobody ever read us our Miranda rights,” Leppke told the judge.

Dobbins explained that her claim should be discussed with an attorney, not during the probable-cause hearing.

Police discovered the bodies Findlay and Catron after being asked to do a welfare check in the 100 block of Louellen Street, east of College Avenue, Wednesday night. The victims’ bodies had reportedly been mutilated beyond recognition.

As investigators worked the homicide case Thursday morning, warrants were handed down for the arrest of Leppke and Redford on the stabbing case. Authorities located the two suspects near West Fourth Street and the State Highway 51 bypass later in the day.

Leppke appeared in court Friday with white bandages wrapped around her right hand and her left forearm. She had reportedly been treated for various injuries before being booked into the Cherokee County Detention Center Thursday.

During her court appearance, Leppke yawned several times and placed her head against the wall, then stared at the ceiling. At other times, she and Redford, who was seated on the opposite side of the courtroom, silently mouthed words back and forth to each other. At one point, Leppke smiled after her husband mouthed something to her and then winked.

Investigators continued to follow up on leads Friday. Tahlequah Police Department Public Information Officer Brad Robertson said investigators are working on a mountain of paperwork, while awaiting results from both the state medical examiner and from DNA evidence collected during the probes.

Documents provided to the Daily Press Friday also revealed Leppke’s recent violation of court-ordered rehabilitation in Muskogee County and raise questions about whether a warrant should have been issued for her arrest before she was arrested in Tahlequah.

One document is an order for Leppke to successfully complete at least one year in the Hope Village Inc. rehabilitation program in Haskell. The program participation was in lieu of a 10-year prison sentence, handed down in 2008 after she was charged with her third case of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The order to participate in rehab is dated June 25, 2012, but wasn’t filed in Muskogee County court until Friday at 3:23 p.m., according to a time and date stamp on the document.

The second document is a copy of a letter sent from Hope Village Inc. Program Director Henry Petree to Muskogee District Attorney Larry Moore, notifying the DA that Leppke failed out of the program. The letter is dated July 30, but wasn’t filed until Friday afternoon, according to a time and date stamp.

In the letter, Petree claims Leppke violated the rules of the rehab program on July 25 by taking a Hope Village truck, picking up her husband, and going to see her 17-year-old daughter without permission.

Despite the alleged violation in late July, a bench warrant wasn’t issued for Leppke’s arrest until Friday, the same day Petree’s letter to Moore and the June 25 order were filed. Court records show an order was also filed Friday revoking Leppke’s suspended sentence.

Formal charges have not been filed against Leppke or Redford for the Cherokee County cases. Dobbins ordered the two to be back in court Sept. 11.

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