A preliminary hearing is underway in Oklahoma City for two Mayes County men charged with murder in 2009.
David Tyner, 31, Locust Grove and Denny Phillips, 34, Salina, were charged with six counts of first degree murder.
One victim was Brooke Phillips (no relation), who was a prostitute featured in the HBO series “Cathouse,” about a legal brothel in Nevada, Moonlit Bunny Ranch. The case has come to be known as the “Cathouse Murder.”
In addition to Phillips, the men are charged with killing Casey Mark Barrientos, Milagrous Barrera and Jennifer Ermey. Phillips and Barrerra were pregnant, which brought the total to six.
Reports at the time showed the victims were found inside a burning home in southwest Oklahoma City. A witness at the time said the house was the center of a drug distribution and prostitution ring operated by Barrientos. It was reported that each of the victims was repeatedly shot and stabbed and their bodies were set on fire.
Now, during the three-day preliminary hearing, witnesses are testifying for the prosecution. A preliminary hearing determines if the state has enough evidence to take a case to trial.
Michael Mease first met Phillips when they were housed in the same penitentiary.
“He said he wasn’t there at the scene, but he was watching closely,” said Mease. He told me that he and Tyner were in the car and he told Tyner how he wanted it to go. Tyner would kill the people, and torch the house. Samantha Staton was going to take Tyner out of the state as an alibi.”
Mease said Phillips have shown no public remorse for the deaths of the women in the house.
According to testimony, Tyner and Phillips planned to kill Barrientos because they weren’t happy with the amount of money they were being paid from the drug and prostitution ring.
Another witness identified as Phillips’ girlfriend, Kelsey Day, testified against him.
“He liked to brag. When he was describing the murders, it sounded like bragging,” said Day.
Day, of Pryor, testified that she overheard a conversation between Phillips and Tyner in which they plotted to kill Barrientos.
“David Tyer wasn’t happy. He wasn’t getting paid,” said Day.
She said she didn’t report the threat because she didn’t take it seriously.
Court records report that she changed her mind a couple of days after the shootings when Phillips told her “they were all dead.”
“He told me that Diablo (Barriento) was dead and that I needed to watch the news,” said Day.
She testified Phillips said he ordered the victim’s death and that Tyner actually shot them. She said Phillips provided details of the murder that made her suspect he was there.
“He described what it felt like to stab Barrientos and how Brooke wouldn’t die. He said Brooke was shot, stabbed and burned and she was still screaming,” said Day.
Phillips has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege Phillips orchestrated the murders, but have yet to determine if he was present.
Phillips is under heavy security becuase of his leadership role in a prison gang. He is the “war chief” of the gang called the Indian Brotherhood.
Tyner, who also pleaded not guilty, has been sentenced to consecutive life sentences in prison with the possibility of parole. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.
Both have prior records and are serving time in federal prison.
The preliminary hearing began last week and will determine whether there is probable cause that Phillips was involved in the shootings and should be tried for murder. Prosecutors said Tuesday they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
According to court reports, the trial is scheduled to resume Feb. 26.