Longform

Living a Dream of Murder

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Fierro may have been a dealer of ill repute who once met with Mexican cartel members while his children played in the backyard and who was barely two hours removed from selling cocaine to a pregnant woman, but he was not stupid. He continued to run until he smashed into a horse kept in a neighbor's yard. Dazed, he climbed up a tree, where he waited for a thought to come into his head as to what to do next.


Barrientos was the primary target: big, fearless and known to be armed. He took four shots to the torso and one to the head. Barrera was most likely the second kill; as with Barrientos, shots to the back indicated she had been trying to flee. Clean and easy.

At this point, it's possible that Tyner heard the garage door open and went to chase Fierro. But Brooke and Ermey remained, and after seeing their likely fate, the cocaine in their systems provoked a different answer in the fight-or-flight response.

They fought. Fiercely.

Ermey was bruised and battered, hit with fists or feet that fractured her femur and broke her rib. Both were shot in the hand as they tried to shield themselves from bullets. At this point, the killer or killers may have run out of ammo — or Tyner, the one with the firearm, ran out to chase Fierro. In either case, both women endured stab wounds: Brooke's larynx was slashed and her abdomen stabbed. When the shooting resumed, Brooke's bullet wounds indicated a struggle, the shots not grouped together, but spread out as the target squirmed. Both were then shot in the head, ending the fight.

The massacre probably took less than three minutes total. Bodies were splayed out in virtually every side of the room: four adults, two fetuses. Petroleum was splashed around and a match was lit.

Stanton's PikePass was used again on the turnpike at 5:30 a.m. and at the exit toward Salina at 7:30. Phillips' Grand Prix was captured that morning on a nearby business surveillance video but was never seen again. At 5:37, the fire department responded to a neighbor's phone call reporting a blaze at 1511.

The findings of the medical examiner later indicated that attackers had left behind one survivor: Ermey, who did not suffer a fatal gunshot wound but instead died of smoke inhalation.


The gas company employee who arrived at the scene told a police officer he believed the house belonged to Jose Fierro, a former worker for the company who was recently fired for failing a drug test. The initial suspicion was that Fierro was one of the four charred bodies found in the home.

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.

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.

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Jake Rossen