Tahlequah Daily Press

February 12, 2013

Jury hands Watie life sentence

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — An Adair County jury recommended a life sentence Friday for Tonya Watie, who was accused of murdering Vergie Murphy on Christmas Eve in 2011.

The trial lasted all week, and jurors deliberated for three hours, District Attorney Brian Kuester said in a press release.

Kuester and First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp tried the case against Watie.

“I am hopeful that this verdict will allow some closure for Mrs. Murphy’s family and friends,” said Kuester. “This has been a very difficult process for them. In addition to providing a sort of closure for the family, I also believe this verdict should give our communities a sense of relief that a violent murderer will not be on the street to commit additional crimes.”

Kuester said evidence presented at trial revealed deputies responded to Murphy’s home south of Stilwell early on Dec. 24, 2011.

Deputies then saw Watie hitting Murphy with a fireplace poker inside the home. Murphy later died from the injuries.

Attorney Scott Hickman, who represented Watie during trial, called witnesses who claimed Watie had consumed vodka and other liquor on Dec. 23 and early Dec. 24, and that she was too intoxicated to have formed an intent to kill Murphy.

Kuester said the jury could have found Watie guilty of a lesser charge, had they believed she was too intoxicated to form an intent to murder.

“Justice has most definitely been served,” Kuester said. “Oklahoma law requires that people convicted of first-degree murder serve 85 percent of their sentence. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections considers a life sentence to be 45 years. That means that Watie will not be eligible for parole for over 38 years. She will not kill again.”

Formal sentencing is scheduled for April 23 before District Judge Jeff Payton, who presided over the trial.

Prior to sentencing, the Department of Corrections will conduct a pre-sentence investigation, Kuester said.