Oklahoma authorities said Lawrence Paul Anderson — after being released early from prison in January — killed a woman, cut out her heart, took it across the street to his aunt and uncle’s Chickasha home, cooked it with potatoes “to feed to his family to release the demons,” and then killed his uncle, badly injured his aunt, and killed their 4-year-old granddaughter, the Oklahoman reported.
Anderson, 42, faces three counts of first-degree murder, one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, and one count of maiming. Grady County Special Judge Regina Lowe denied bail.
He is accused of killing his uncle, Leon Pye, 67, and attacking his aunt, Delsie Pye, at their home in Chickasha on Feb. 9. He also is accused of killing their granddaughter, Kaeos Yates, 4, and a woman who lived across the street. He was arrested at the Pye home after police responded to a 911 call for help.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation identified the neighbor Friday as Andrea Lynn Blankenship, 41.
FIRST-DEGREE MURDER IN OKLAHOMA
In Oklahoma, first-degree murder is punishable by death in the following circumstances:
- The defendant was previously convicted of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person;
- The defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person;
- The person committed the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employed another to murder remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
- The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel;
- The murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution;
- The murder was committed by a person while serving a sentence of imprisonment on conviction of a felony;
- The existence of a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society; or
- The victim of the murder was a peace officer or correctional employee of an institution under the Department of Corrections’ control, and such person was killed while in the performance of official duty.
Popularly known as “the death penalty,” capital punishment is a legal sentence under Oklahoma’s criminal statutes for certain crimes. Oklahoma has executed a total of 111 people since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, giving the Sooner State one of the highest rates of executions per capita. There are pending constitutional issues regarding the administration of the execution.
Given the circumstances of this case, defense counsel will likely raise an insanity defense.
Oklahoma uses the M’Naghten Rule (or test) that was established by the English House of Lords in the mid-19th Century and stated that:
“Every man is to be presumed to be sane, and … that to establish a defense on the ground of insanity; it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from a disease of the mind, and not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.”
Basically, this test focuses on whether a criminal defendant knew the nature of the crime or understood right from wrong at the time it was committed. Thus, in order to be declared legally insane under this test, a defendant must meet one of these two distinct criteria.
In applying this test, courts may differ as to whether the “wrong” in question refers to moral or legal wrong (or both). Additionally, some states have eliminated the criteria which define a defendant as legally insane for not fully understanding what they’ve done.
Example 1: A man murdered his wife and daughter and then waited calmly for the police to arrive. Three mental health experts testified that he was too psychologically ill to understand that his criminal acts were wrong. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to 10 years in a mental health facility.
Example 2: A woman with severe schizophrenia is charged with assault and battery after attacking her next-door neighbor with a shovel. She claims the neighbor was actually a demon who was trying to harvest her soul. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity after the court determined that she failed to understand the nature of her actions.
The above examples show the two different ways that a defendant may be declared legally insane under this Rule: Partial Source: Findlaw.com.