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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Defendant's own words describe killing of college student near Asher

  • While listening to the chilling words on tape of a murder defendant describe how he killed a college student in Asher, the victim's father stood and interrupted the court hearing Friday, prompting deputies to escort the father out of the courtroom.
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  • While listening to the chilling words on tape of a murder defendant describe how he killed a college student in Asher, the victim's father stood and interrupted the court hearing Friday, prompting deputies to escort the father out of the courtroom.
    The incident unfolded in the Pottawatomie County courthouse, where Jerrod Murray, 18, of Asher, appeared for his preliminary hearing to determine if there's sufficient evidence for the first-degree murder case to proceed to trial.
    Murray, who was handcuffed and wearing jail oranges, is accused in the December shooting death of Generro Sanchez, 18. Both Murray and Sanchez were freshmen at East Central University in Ada.
    Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty in this case, played an interrogation video recorded while Undersheriff Travis Palmer questioned Murray just hours after the homicide.
    Murray, quiet and stoic in the courtroom, looked forward or down to a notepad as Special District Judge David Cawthon viewed the video on a laptop, with the audio on speaker for the entire courtroom to hear.
    The video revealed Palmer's questioning of Murray about the statements he allegedly made when Palmer arrested him on the side of the road about 3:12 a.m. the morning of Dec. 6, with the taped interview occurring about 6 a.m.
    "In summation that I'm guilty of murder," Murray responded on that video, with his polite responses followed by "sir" for Palmer's questions, with him revealing what happened to Sanchez that morning.
    "I shot him in the head twice," Murray said. "Three shots were fired…one missed."
    Faint echoes of sobbing could be heard in the courtroom gallery as the victim's family sat on one side and Murray's on the other.
    Speaking matter-of-factly, Murray, on the tape, described where the incident occurred in Asher and explained how he knew Sanchez "only by his first name."
    Murray, on the tape, explained to Palmer that he and the victim lived in the dorms at ECU in Ada and they met in the room of a mutual friend, where they played video games.
    The tape revealed details of how Murray offered Sanchez $20 gas money for a ride from the dorms to the Walmart in Ada, which Murray said was 1.7 miles from the college campus.
    When they pulled into the parking lot, Murray explained he pulled a gun on Sanchez and forced him to drive to Asher, with Palmer asking, "Why Asher?"
    There was silence and a long pause before Murray answered.
    "Because I was planning to take him out into the country and kill him," Murray responded.
    "Had he done something to you?" Palmer asked.
    "No, sir."
    Page 2 of 3 - The shooting occurred on Substation Road, prompting the pickup to crash into a tree. The victim's body was found in a ditch along that road, which is located south of U.S. 177 and SH 59. As deputies worked that scene, Palmer, also responding to the overnight call, found Murray walking in the area of U.S. 177 near Sing Road.
    According to testimony, he allegedly told Palmer he didn't have a gun and said, "I'm the one you're trying to find…I'm the one who shot a guy and put him in a ditch on Substation Road," Palmer testified.
    The tape further revealed that Murray had made a plan three weeks beforehand to kill someone, and that he had attempted to kill Sanchez two days earlier, but Sanchez wasn't in his dorm room.
    The victim's relatives, some wearing photo buttons with his picture on their shirts, appeared to be struggling with what they were hearing.
    Two deputies in the back of the courtroom moved and stood closer to the front, and as the tape continued and Murray claimed during the interview he chose to kill Sanchez because he didn't have many friends, there was a reaction by one of those in attendance.
    A man sitting in the front row, later identified as the victim's father, stood up during the hearing, stared at Murray and mumbled something toward him. Deputies, who were standing nearby and one beside him, immediately escorted the father out of the courtroom and the courthouse and Smothermon stopped the video.
    Judge Cawthon, who reminded those attending that they were in a court of law, told them there are rules that would be enforced, as he asked anyone who couldn't handle the hearing to go ahead and leave.
    One person did.
    Smothermon restarted the video, where the discussion resumed with Murray telling Palmer he tried to calm Sanchez during the drive from Ada to Asher by telling him he wasn't going to kill him.
    "The entire time was conversation," Murray said.
    With more sobs heard in the courtroom, Smothermon, while the video continued to play for the judge, walked to the front row in the gallery to console Sanchez's mother. The taped interview got to a point where Murray was telling Palmer he pulled Sanchez from the pickup after he shot him but still heard Sanchez "gurgling."
    "I shot him again and pushed him in the ditch," Murray's words from that interview revealed.
    Smothermon then approached the laptop, stopped the video and told the judge, "I believe we have met the burden of probable cause."
    Palmer took the witness stand for a few questions from Murray's defense attorneys, where Palmer said Murray's responses were "cold, callous," and to the point, adding, "He has no emotion whatsoever."
    Page 3 of 3 - The full tape, although not played, was admitted into evidence, along with the medical examiner's report. Pathologists revealed Sanchez's cause of death was gunshot wounds to the head, with manner of death ruled homicide.
    Judge Cawthon ruled Murray should be bound over for trial on the first-degree murder count and set his arraignment for June 12. Prosecutors have filed a Bill of Particulars seeking the death penalty as punishment in this case.
    Murray, who was escorted back to the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center, remains jailed without bond.
    Persons attending, whether they were there on behalf of Murray or were related to Sanchez, declined to comment about the case following the court hearing. Sanchez, who was from Stuart, Okla., was studying engineering at ECU at the time of his death.
    Smothermon, who afterwards addressed the issue of the father having a reaction at the hearing and being escorted out of the courthouse, said while Friday's hearing was emotional, at this point, the father may not be allowed inside future court proceedings.
    "It was very emotional and difficult for them to hear from the defendant's own mouth the moments leading up to their child's death," Smothermon said.
    Murray, last month, initially waived his right for a preliminary hearing, but Friday's hearing was required after District Judge John Canavan remanded the case back because of the death penalty being sought in this case.
    Murray is being represented by his attorney of record, Gary Henry. Attorneys Bobby Lewis and Shay Smith also appeared on his behalf for Friday's hearing.
    Watch for updates.
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