The grandfather of one of two young girls killed more than four years ago testified Monday that he didn’t hear gunshots but screamed in terror upon discovering the girls’ bodies alongside a rural Oklahoma road.
Peter Placker testified Monday on the first day of a preliminary hearing for Kevin Sweat, who’s charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the June 2008 killings of Placker’s granddaughter, 13-year-old Taylor Placker, and her friend, 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker of Weleetka.
Sweat has pleaded not guilty and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Peter Placker testified that the girls had taken a walk along the rural road only moments before he went looking for them. Placker said he found Taylor lying in a ditch while Skyla’s body was on an embankment above her. Both girls had been shot to death.
Placker said he checked for a pulse then “started screaming my head off.”
Placker testified that Skyla’s mother was en route to pick up her daughter when he found her bodies. He said he refused to allow Skyla’s mother to go further down the road.
“I didn’t want her to see what I saw,” Placker said.
More than three years passed without an arrest when investigators said they’d linked Sweat to the deadly shootings after he was arrested in a separate killing.
Sweat was already in custody in connection with the death of his girlfriend, Ashley Taylor, when he was charged in the killings of Skyla and Taylor. An affidavit filed in the case says Sweat told an investigator he saw “two monsters come at him” and fired at them with .40- and .22-caliber handguns.
Sweat’s attorneys have filed a motion to throw out Sweat’s statements, but a judge has not yet ruled on that request.
Ashley Taylor’s father, Michael Taylor, attended Monday’s hearing. He said he plans to attend as many hearings as possible in the two criminal cases.
“I just feel it’s necessary,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of questions that haven’t been answered yet.”
He said he wants to know if his daughter’s killing is connected to the deaths of the young girls.
A judge has set aside three days for Sweat’s hearing, which will determine there’s enough evidence to legally justify putting Sweat on trial for the murder charges. He is to be tried in the Taylor case this summer.