The murder of an Oklahoma City bookie's wife, in November 2010, grabbed headlines and unnerved the community. But the buzz generated by the case eventually faded away and, three years later, the killing remains unsolved.
Now, the man who made his living running illicit poker games is showing his cards in hopes of changing that. Teddy Mitchell played the odds all his life. Some bets paid off, but his biggest gamble, operating an illegal business and involving his family in it, did not.
So, as Mitchell, 59, prepares to spend the next 27 months in a federal prison, he's making one more bet; that a public appeal will help motivate law enforcement to put their focus on catching a killer, not a gambler.
Toward that end, Mitchell recently sat down for an exclusive interview, speaking at length about the investigation into wife Julie's murder, his legal troubles, and looming prison sentence.
"There's 100 poker games going on right now," Mitchell stated, "and, to my knowledge, mine is the only one that got stopped."
Tales of Mitchell's lavish, but law-breaking lifestyle were the subject of whispered conversations in Oklahoma City for years.
"I'm just a normal guy that was good at gambling," said Mitchell. "Wish I would have done something else."
Curiosity surrounding the bookmaker's million-dollar earnings and high stakes poker games gave way to shock and revulsion when reports surfaced that, on Nov. 2, 2010, Julie Mitchell, 34, was found beaten to death in the couple's NW Oklahoma City home.
Teddy Mitchell was traveling to California at the time of his wife's death and says he has no knowledge of who killed her.
"No, I don't," Mitchell emphasized. "There's nothing more we all want than to catch whoever did this."
Mitchell is angry. He feels that he was unfairly persecuted by the public following the murder, only to then be prosecuted by authorities. And that prosecution, he believes, just caused more fingers to point to him: 'the bookie whose wife was found beaten to death.'
"I am always going to be a suspect. The husband is always the suspect," said a frustrated Mitchell. "I've heard that a million times."
Mitchell insists he had nothing to do with Julie's death.
"No, I love Julie with all of my heart," said Mitchell, matter-of-factly. "I couldn't possibly hurt Julie."
It's incomprehensible to Mitchell that he is still a suspect.
"I've been under investigation for three and a half years for gambling. They've watched everything I have done," exclaimed Mitchell. "If they had spent that much time on the murder, I think we might be a lot farther down the road."
With regard to the investigation, Mitchell claims he has cooperated fully with law enforcement, submitting to police interviews, DNA testing, and polygraphs. His attorney, Scott Adams, feels investigators shoved all that to the side when they saw a chance to get Mitchell for gambling.
"There was so much attention on the gambling case," Adams said, "that I really felt, and Teddy more than I did, for sure, that Julie was getting lost in all of this."
So Mitchell says he pleaded guilty last summer to the gambling charges, operating an off-shore gambling operation and money-laundering, hoping it would help put the focus back on finding his wife's killer.
"The FBI was working strictly on the gambling," Mitchell complained, "they weren't working on the murder and that's unfortunate."
Mitchell says, with all the manpower at their disposal and leads developed by homicide detectives, the federal agents might have been able to figure out who killed his wife.
"Somebody out there is a horrible, horrible person," said Mitchell. "The only reason I am doing this is for Julie."
In the immediate wake of the murder, there were rumors that it was somehow tied to the dark side of Teddy's business; that Julie had gotten in too deep. Those intimations have never completely gone away and, Mitchell says, that hurts.
"Don't believe that my wife [went] to seedy bars and collected money for me," said Mitchell, breaking down in tears. "She never collected any money for me in my entire life for a gambling debt."
Mitchell says Julie was a good wife and mother, and that her absence has been hard on their 4-year-old daughter, London. He worries his coming absence will make it even harder.
"For my daughter, I will do whatever it takes," said a glassy-eyed Mitchell.
And he says he will do whatever it takes to make his wife's killer do time, as soon as he's done serving his.
"What I would like to do now is get the gambling over with," Mitchell explained. "I'm guilty. I'm going to jail and I don't know what more I can do."
Mitchell hired private investigators to assist in getting pertinent tips to the Oklahoma City Police Department. Eastridge Investigations wants to hear any information in the murder of Julie Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 274-7500.
Oklahoma City Police Tip Line: (405) 235-7300
A $50,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to the prosecution and conviction of Julie Mitchell's killer.
On Friday on News 9 this morning, Mitchell opened up about his expectations of prison. Then he joins us for News 9 at 6, as Lisa Monahan checks in on the status of the murder investigation. Find out who Mitchell and his counsel blame for the killing on News 9 and News9.com on Friday, Feb. 7.