By Jeanne LeFlore
Leon Lee Hollis was found guilty of first degree manslaughter on Thursday in the July death of Danny Bradford.
The jury deliberated for some four hours before deciding on the guilty verdict, according to Associate District Judge James Bland.
Bland said the jury recommended a 30-year sentence for Hollis. A sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 28 in Pittsburg County District Court.
The guilty verdict came about 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the end of a three day trial in which a recorded interview between Hollis and an investigator was played for the jury.
During the interview Hollis changed his story three times while speaking with John Jones, an agent from Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.
District 18 District Attorney Farley Ward said the recording almost didn’t get to be heard during the trial because of an earlier ruling. However when the case was heard in district court, Judge Bland allowed the recording to be played.
The 17-month case began after investigators were called to a Henryetta hospital where Hollis took a critically injured Bradford on the morning of July 5.
Bradford was life-flighted to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, where he was placed on life-support; He died July 12, according to court testimony.
In the recorded interview played for the jury Hollis changed his story three times while explaining how he came in contact with Bradford.
First Hollis stated that Bradford was an unknown man he found lying next to an “off” ramp.
Then Hollis stated he found Bradford walking down West Street in McAlester; that Bradford was just someone he had seen in passing and he didn’t know him.
Next Hollis stated Bradford was a friend of his who came to Hollis’ home and after the two used “meth” together and Bradford “freaked out” and attacked Hollis and his roommate, Arron Stewart.
However Hollis roommate said it was Hollis who attacked Bradford, according to court records filed in the case,.
Stewart told authorities that “Stewart didn’t believe Hollis was ever going to stop hitting Bradford. Stewart was upset by what he had witnessed, so he left his home for a while,” court records state.
When Stewart left, Bradford was lying in the floor, and he was making a ‘snoring’ or a ‘gurgling,’court records state.
“When Stewart returned the next morning, he helped Hollis put Bradford into Hollis’s pickup, so Hollis could take Bradford for medical attention,” court records state.
Meanwhile Bradford’s sister, Jennifer Sherwood said her brother was not a drug user and she felt the testimony during the trial proved that her brother was not a “druggy.” She said her brother was fluent in German and planned to go to school to become a German translator.
“He was a good kid. Sherwood said.
“He texted me every morning. He was always happy.”
She said the family had only lived in the McAlester area for a year when the incident took place.
On Friday the district attorney said the medical examiners report was a “powerful” piece of evidence.
Ward said he spoke to the jury foreman after the verdict and the foreman said the ME report was critical to the verdict.
During testimony Dr. Joshua Lantern, of the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office testified that Bradford died from blunt force trauma to the back of head and his manner of death is listed as homicide.
Lantern’s testimony was used by defense attorney Brecken Wagner who argued that no evidence was presented to prove that Hollis inflicted that type injury to Bradford’s head. However Ward told the jury during his closing argument that there was no proof that Hollis acted in self defense and “there was no evidence that I’ve heard that anyone inflicted the blows other than Hollis.”
Wagner said he was disappointed the verdict and he plans to appeal.
Hollis is being held at Pittsburg County Jail. He was not available for comment on Friday morning.
Meanwhile Bradford’s sister said the verdict did not give her family the peace they were hoping for.
“We thought we would all feel good but we didn’t; it just reopened the wounds,” Sherwood said.
We feel sad for (Hollis’s) family; That they had to go through all of this.”
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at firstname.lastname@example.org.