Living a Dream of Murder

An ex-Marine spun elaborate fantasies about being a hit man. One day they came true.

Blocks away, Fierro was at his grandmother's house phoning a lawyer. He didn't speak with police for two days. When he did, he told them about a man he knew only as Hooligan.

Stanton awoke that morning to find Tyner gone, but she didn't consider it unusual: He normally worked out early. She saw him around noon that day and for most of the next week. He was acting normally. Neither he nor her car smelled of petroleum. Nothing incriminating was present.

At 1511, police established that Barrientos was wearing $10,000 worth of jewelry the night he was murdered. It was now missing. And for a house typically stuffed with thousands of dollars, only $221 remained.

Casey “Diablo” Barrientos
Tim Lane
Casey “Diablo” Barrientos
Denny Phillips
Tim Lane
Denny Phillips

Tyner made several phone calls that week. Speaking with Perry Sanders, Karine's father, he said he would be seeing the incarcerated man "very soon." He talked to Nicholson, who had U.S. marshals at his door looking for Tyner, the man they now knew to be Hooligan.

At first, Tyner played dumb, asking what they wanted. "You can't run from the law," Nicholson said. "Waste of time, waste of energy."

On November 17, Tyner walked into the Pryor police station, 10 miles from Salina. "I'm David Tyner," he announced. "I hear you guys are looking for me." He refused to speak to detectives. Nicholson tried to get some money together for a lawyer.

"Don't you stress about that," Tyner told him. "I got this public defender."

On November 24, coordinated attacks broke out across three Oklahoma prisons, with Mexican inmates attacking members of the Indian Brotherhood: blood for Barrientos' blood. Six were hospitalized.

Days later, two American Indians took a hatchet to two Hispanic gang members, wounding both. The prisons were in lockdown for months.


Denny Phillips was described as a "person of interest" in the case, but evidence was scant. He remained below the radar until January 2010, when he was arrested for possessing a weapon as a convicted felon. He had the audacity to rob the home of Tulsa homicide detective Mike Huff, stealing a police uniform, guns, family heirlooms and even Huff's Chevrolet pickup. Police feared he was desperate and organized a task force to hunt him down.

With Tyner incarcerated, Symantha Stanton began dating Phillips. She was pregnant with his child when both were cornered in a Tulsa Motel 6 in April 2010. Phillips brandished a gun he had stolen from Huff and hopped around in a fighting stance; police opened fire, careful not to shoot into the windows behind Phillips that may have obscured guests. He suffered bullet wounds to his torso and crotch; his testicles were unsalvageable and his penis partially severed. He also lost a toe in the melee.

Phillips was sentenced to seven years for the Huff burglary and assorted weapons charges: Oklahoma District Attorney David Prater built his case glacially, but finally indicted Phillips in August 2012 for the six murders and one count of conspiracy. He's currently awaiting trial; witnesses have paraded the court room during preliminary hearings to detail how proud he seemed of the crime.

Prosecutors allege that he plotted the murders but have not ascertained whether he was in the house or simply nearby; inmate Michael Mease testified that Phillips, locked up after the Tulsa shootout, told him of the murders and that Brooke "just wouldn't die." (Prater, Tyner's defense attorneys and Oklahoma City Police Department detectives did not respond to requests for comment; Phillips has pleaded not guilty.)

In May 2012, after several years' worth of hearings and testimony from Fierro, Sanders and Stanton, Tyner pleaded guilty to six counts of murder: four adults and two fetuses. If he had gone to trial, he would have faced the death penalty. The plea afforded him life in prison with no option to appeal.

"He was a competitive wrestler," Cindy David says. "It's hard to believe he'd lie down and not fight."

Tyner received his sentence as members of the victims' families looked on, chastising him in written statements. The man who once never shut up would not say a word.


Tyner has not responded to requests for interviews, nor has he provided any testimony regarding Phillips, likely out of fear that the Indian Brotherhood will retaliate against his family. When he was arrested, his attorneys told the mother of his youngest child to leave town immediately. She didn't return for months.

Before he was sentenced, Tyner was visited in jail by Justin Wren, a mixed martial artist turned prison minister who was addressing inmates about his own tumultuous past with drugs. An official took him to see Tyner, who, according to Wren, was surrounded by four to six guards and "looked like Hannibal Lecter without the mask." Chains and buckles tethered him to his bed. A previous visit had not gone well, a guard said, and Tyner had threatened violence.

He and Wren talked for hours: Tyner remembered they were supposed to fight once. He told Wren he wanted to pursue fighting as a career but had instead made "an awful choice." Now, he said, he just paces, reads and writes, in isolation for 23 hours a day.

Wren noticed a stack of journals 2 or 3 feet high in his cell. "Dreams and prayers," Tyner said. A well-worn Bible was nearby. His hands chained, he wiped tears from his face with his knee.

It was like this, he said. His girlfriend was pregnant, on drugs. He walked in on her with another man and just snapped. It was one last tall tale for Byrd, who finally fell out of the tree.

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3 comments
scerinjen3
scerinjen3

Just another story about dopes on dope.

casiepierce
casiepierce

Why I always say that nothing good comes from Oklahoma...

1dailyreader
1dailyreader

I sat down yesterday and read this article two times.  I found these characters really fascinating and bizarre at the same time.   I thought about this story for a while and wondered why every town regardless of size, has these same people.  Names are different but the personalities and insecurities are the same.  Dallas is no different than Oklahoma, NM, or any other state.  Crime, drugs, prostitution is everywhere. 

 
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