Family Fears Cold Case Murder Suspect Will Be Paroled
Jennifer Loren, Oklahoma Impact Team
OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma woman fears she'll never see the day when a suspect will finally be charged in the brutal rape and murder of her great grandmother. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is currently working on the case, but she fears the cold case investigation could be too little, too late.
Lauren Layman and her family never knew exactly what happened the day Ola Kirk was murdered in 1983. They never knew there was a suspect either. That is, until recently, when the OSBI started a cold case unit. That's when they met investigator Kyle Eastridge and learned there was a suspect all along, but he was never arrested or charged with Kirk's death.
In a 2010 interview with the Oklahoma Impact Team, Former OSBI agent Kyle Eastridge said, "This isn't one of those just we speculate he did it. This is one you got witnesses and DNA evidence that says he did it."
Eastridge, who's now a private investigator, said the OSBI dropped the ball in the initial investigation. Before leaving the agency, he tracked the suspect to Phoenix, Arizona.
Last year, federal marshals arrested Lester Blackbear on an unrelated charge, failing to register as a sex offender. They sent Blackbear back to an Oklahoma prison. That's where he is today.
Since Blackbear has been imprisoned in Oklahoma, Lauren Layman has taken on her great-grandmother's case as if it happened yesterday. She's relentlessly pushed the OSBI to continue working on it, hoping fresh eyes and a new district attorney would find enough evidence to charge Blackbear with murder.
"I think that she would probably like for the people to know the truth," said Layman. "And for the person that did it to actually have to be reprimanded or to take blame for what they did."
The OSBI responded, testing key pieces of evidence from Ola Kirk's death for DNA. But there's a chance those test results will be inconclusive and the results are not back yet.
Blackbear is up for parole in three weeks.
"I'm just worried that they'll let him out," said Layman. "And if they do all of my chances probably diminish."
Layman has written countless letters to the OSBI, state legislators and to Governor Mary Fallin, pleading for help keeping Blackbear in prison. But, she said, she's preparing for the worst.
"I actually feel so much closer than I've ever felt through the whole time that we actually have a chance for resolution," she said. "And yet in less than a month he could have a chance to just walk out and just be gone."
District Attorney Mike Fields said he's expecting the DNA test results from the OSBI any day now. In the meantime, OSBI investigators are working to obtain other evidence in the case.