Tahlequah Daily Press

January 31, 2013

Woman gets life for murder, assault

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — A Muskogee woman who with her husband was accused of brutally killing two people and stabbing another man with knives last August was handed several life sentences Wednesday.

Jessie Renee Leppke-Redford, 46, was given the life sentences for two first-degree murder charges and a separate charge of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. A robbery charge was dismissed under the deal.

Leppke-Redford and her husband, 43-year-old Tracy Lee Redford, are accused of bludgeoning to death Leppke-Redford’s sister, Angela Findlay, and Findlay’s uncle, Jesse Catron. Their bodies were discovered in a home on Louellen Street last August after police were asked to do a welfare check there. Police said the throats of the two victims had been cut.

Authorities were already looking for the Redfords in connection with an assault that occurred hours before the two bodies were found. After the discovery, police began to consider the Redfords as persons of interest, and eventually suspects, in the double murder. The Redfords were later found and arrested at a Tahlequah store.

Affidavits filed in the case allege Leppke-Redford admitted she killed her sister, and said her husband was responsible for Catron’s death.

Leppke-Redford entered a no-contest plea, and in related filings, indicated she did not contest the state’s ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt she “maliciously killed [Findlay and Catron] ... and assaulted and battered Ernest “Lee” Norfleet with a deadly weapon.”

Authorities believe the assault on Norfleet took place at a Tahlequah motel sometime after the Redfords killed Findlay and Catron. Norfleet was allegedly lured to Tahlequah to meet Leppke-Redford, and when he arrived at the motel, the two suspects began to stab him.

Norfleet was able to escape and seek medical attention. Police said the attack was caught on a surveillance camera.

They believe the Redfords wanted to take Norfleet’s vehicle, but were only able to get away with his phone.

District Attorney Brian Kuester signed off on the plea with Leppke-Redford Wednesday afternoon in front of District Judge Darrell Shepherd. Kuester said prosecutors spoke with family of the victims before agreeing to the life sentences, which carry the possibility of parole after she serves 85 percent of her sentence.

“What we considered was that this is an 85-percent crime; she’s not eligible for parole until she’s 85 years old,” said Kuester. “It satisfied the family, which is one concern, and it’s in the best interest of the public, because it protects the public from harm from this defendant. It certainly offers the community a great deal of protection. It’s a guaranteed 38 years she’ll be off the street and can’t do any harm to the public.”

Kuester said Leppke-Redford could have otherwise faced life without parole, or even the death penalty, if she had gone before a jury.

Tracy Redford has been given a court-appointed attorney and is set to be back in Cherokee County District Court March 27. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Kuester said he could not comment on whether an offer has been made in the case against Tracy Redford.