Longform

Living a Dream of Murder

Page 7 of 7

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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Jake Rossen