Staff and Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Payne County prosecutors on Wednesday filed three counts of first-degree murder and anticipate seeking the death penalty against a man who allegedly shot three people to death in Cushing.
The charges were read during an initial court appearance in Stillwater for Robert Chad Lansford-Barela, 20, who remained in custody without bond, District Attorney Rob Hudson said.
An attorney for Barela will be appointed during a court hearing on Thursday.
Hudson said he couldn't discuss a motive for the killings because the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is still looking into the case, but he did say a handgun recovered from a partially drained retention pond in Stillwater was identified as the murder weapon.
Hudson didn't release the victims' names, but an affidavit filed in the case listed them as Albert Cernas, 21; Elizabeth Hueser, 19, and Douglass Mason Peck, 27.
"Chad is a good kid, he really is," Chad Berela's brother, Matt Berela said.
Cushing Police Chief Terry Brannon said a "significant witness" called police after finding the bodies.
According to the affidavit, two police officers performed a welfare check at 814 E. Moses about 5:20 a.m. Tuesday and confirmed there were bodies at the residence.
Nearly six hours later, Oklahoma State University police took Barela into custody without incident near Oklahoma Highway 51 and Western Avenue in west Stillwater, university director of communications Gary Shutt said.
Barela left his car in a Wal-Mart parking lot and walked east about two miles before he was captured, Shutt said.
"We don't have a clue and I can't believe it," Matt Berela said. "I can't believe it."
In the document, OSBI agent Kevin Garrett wrote that while he and a Cushing police officer were interviewing Barela, Barela admitted to "... shooting Peck, Cernas and Hueser at Peck's residence...."
Hudson said his office anticipates filing a bill of particulars to seek the death penalty against Barela.
"We believe the facts warrant that," Hudson said.
For Hudson, who has been district attorney for Payne and Logan counties since 1996, it was hard to say whether this was the worst case he'd ever worked.
"Every homicide has it's own aura of absolute horror," he said. "I can say this is the most victims I've had in a single homicide case.
"I think heretofore the most was two, and so from that standpoint, the shear number of victims and number of people affected makes it one of the more serious, memorable homicides we have dealt with."