Living a Dream of Murder

Page 4 of 7

"Let's do something about it," Phillips said.

"Well, let's do it, then," Tyner said.

Tyner and his girlfriend separated that summer. She disliked Phillips and correctly suspected that Tyner wasn't being faithful. While attending beauty school, which hosted a barber's course, Tyner had met Symantha Stanton and the two moved into Salina's only apartment complex, a converted motel with a handful of units. It was just a short drive to Tahlequah, where Phillips lived.

Tyner soon abandoned his barber plans and made regular treks to Oklahoma City, where Barrientos had set up a bedroom for him. He returned to Salina once a week to visit Stanton and his daughter. Stanton would later testify that she saw bullets and knives in their apartment.

The times she accompanied Tyner into Oklahoma City, she noticed that people there would refer to him as "Hooligan," a reference to the tattoo he'd gotten splayed across his chest. But back in Salina, Hooligan was unknown — he was Byrd.

Sanders was present for two more conversations about Barrientos, who had recently relocated from his place on Springfield Drive to a single-story brick house at 1511 SW 56th St. in Oklahoma City. He had taken over the lease payments from childhood friend and fellow dealer Jose Fernando Fierro, age 30. While Sanders perceived Barrientos as generous, often giving his lieutenants money for gas, meals and rent, she said Tyner was adamant that he was being screwed out of money.

It would be easy. Barrientos was always on painkillers, his guard down. And he would soon let Tyner go, having been told by Phillips that he was complaining about pay. It was further incentive for Tyner and further subterfuge by Phillips: It would later be alleged that the latter owed Barrientos more than $30,000 for drugs and a dark-blue Dodge Charger procured in a private sale between the two.

It was decided that Barrientos would be robbed. And murdered.

Tyner and Phillips discussed their options in the presence of Sanders. Both had reason to trust her: Sanders, 20, had known Tyner since she was 4 years old, their families close, and he often babysat her. Phillips knew Sanders' father, Perry, a fellow member of the Brotherhood: The two had once escaped Mayes County Jail together.

Sanders remembered being on the rural back roads, the smell of marijuana in the air, Phillips driving his ex's white Pontiac Grand Prix. They offered her $10,000 to man the getaway car. It was the same amount they knew Barrientos kept in a safe earmarked for bail money.

"If we're going to do this, then we have to do it," Phillips said, egging Tyner on. "We can't just talk about it."

"Man, I'm real," Tyner said. "You know I'm real. You know I'll do it."

According to Sanders, Phillips would be the one to kill Barrientos. Intoxicated by the idea of a real "hit," Tyner told them they could leave no witnesses behind to identify them.

By this time, Phillips had swayed Tyner with the promise of a "prospect patch," a tattoo meant to symbolize entry into the Brotherhood, which was normally open only to convicts. But if Tyner were to do something big on the outside — to help rob and murder Barrientos — Phillips would vouch for him.

Sanders was chilled. She pleaded with Tyner to walk away from the situation; he did the same, telling her to get away and pursue her dreams of being a writer.

It was Sanders who blinked. Frightened, she left town in September and never went to police with the story until what happened had happened.

Tyner reconnected with some of his old wrestling buddies that summer, taking out a boat and going fishing. They drank and joked about hell-raising in the old days. He gave his friend Austin David a turquoise ring set in a bear's claw and said his grandfather, a medicine man, had blessed it. He also said his grandfather had once turned into an owl, then woke up naked. He talked of moving to Norman, where David was, and being roommates.

As the night wore on, he began to share stories about an Indian mafia. David laughed it all off — Tyner and his tall tales.

"Man, I'm telling you," Tyner said. "It's real."

In late October 2009, Tyner told Stanton he was quitting his job as a bodyguard for Barrientos to go back to school. She noticed he had gotten a new tattoo on his left forearm.

Jennifer Ermey's family thought she was a waitress. Ermey, 25, seemed to be titillated by keeping her life as an exotic dancer a secret from her well-off parents, the twilight culture unknown to them.

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Jake Rossen