Family Of Murder Victim Wants Oklahoma Law Changed
Adrianna Iwasinski, News 9
WEWOKA, Oklahoma -- A family in Wewoka would like to see Oklahoma adopt a law similar to one in Michigan that would allow pleas and verdicts of "guilty but mentally ill."
The family said Damien Wilkerson was murdered by his longtime friend Stephen Ritter. Wilkerson's family is concerned that Ritter will be allowed to reenter society after a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity.
"Murder, insane or not, is still murder," Amy Sipes said. Wilkerson was Sipes' brother-in-law. "There isn't a day that goes by that we don't wonder how life would have been different."
This week marked the two-year anniversary of Wilkerson's murder. He was shot in the back of the head and his body found in his truck, which had been set on fire.
Ritter was charged with the crime. Sipes said Wilkerson's family agreed to a non-jury trial and to not seek the death penalty in return for a plea deal of life in prison. But she said they were surprised when the defense entered the insanity plea and the judge ruled in their favor.
"We can't appeal or hire some big shot attorney to look the case over," said Sipes. "It's done, it's over. The fat lady has sang!"
That's why this family is on a mission to change the law and add a statute that would allow a defendant to be found guilty but insane.
"They still receive the mental help that they needed but then after that's finished they go back to prison and serve the sentence for the crime. I would like to see Oklahoma change to that," said Sipes.
"I know this won't help our case but maybe it will help others in the future," said Ashlee Wilkerson, Damien's widow.
The family says their biggest fear is that Ritter will be released from treatment at a mental hospital. He has a hearing set for January.
"Stephen Ritter is getting treatment for his ‘illness.' Once he has been treated, he could be released at that time," said Sipes. "He will be released to live his day to day life as if nothing ever happened. I guess according to Oklahoma law, justice was served."