OKEMAH, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma inmate was sentenced Friday to three life prison terms without parole in the killings of two girls and his fiancee, but his punishment was delayed about an hour because he attacked one of his defense attorneys with a razor blade.
Kevin Sweat cut attorney Peter Astor, causing a minor neck wound, said Okfuskee County District Attorney Max Cook. It's not clear how the 28-year-old convicted killer smuggled the weapon into the courthouse in Okemah, about 65 miles south of Tulsa.
Sweat, who sustained an injury to his nose, was brought back into the packed courtroom and sentenced in front of dozens of family members and friends of his three victims.
"Today is judgment day," Judge Lawrence Parish told Sweat, who was wearing a bulletproof vest over his rumpled orange jail uniform.
Before being sentenced, Sweat told the judge that he wanted to withdraw the three guilty pleas he made in July when he admitted he shot 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker and 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker in 2008 as the girls walked down a road near Weleetka in eastern Oklahoma. He also admitted slaying his fiancee, 23-year-old Ashley Taylor, in 2011.
Parish refused to let Sweat take back the guilty pleas, but set a hearing next month regarding the request.
People in the courtroom applauded as Parish read out each of the life prison terms. Prosecutors and Sweat's attorneys had previously agreed to allow Sweat to waive his right to a jury trial, sparing him a possible death sentence.
Family members of the victims hugged, cried and prayed aloud as they lingered around the courthouse.
"No matter what, my daughter's still gone," Michael Taylor said of Ashley Taylor. "The pain is always going to be there, and that's something you can't take away."
Peter Placker — who found the bodies of his granddaughter, Taylor Paschal-Placker, and Skyla Whitaker in a ditch — left the courthouse without speaking, his head held low.
Wanda Mankin, principal at the school where the girls were students, attended the sentencing.
"Now he can't do this to someone else," said Mankin, who sat in the back row in the courtroom.
The ground was hardly disturbed Friday at a memorial near the patch of backcountry road where the girls' remains were discovered. Only a couple of cars passed by. Faded bouquets of plastic flowers, a weather-worn crucifix, an angel statue and a music box were among the items that remained there.
Associated Press photographer Sue Ogrocki contributed to this report from Weleetka.