EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated.
Morgan Lane Eller, 20, was charged Friday with robbery in the first degree of a Dollar General Store in Longtown, according to documents filed in Pittsburg County District Court.
Eller is the son of Pittsburg County Court Clerk Cindy Ledford, who is running for reelection.
She reflected on the charge filed against her son.
“As a mother, this situation is heartbreaking,” Ledford said. “His father and I tried to be the best parents we could. We raised him to know right from wrong and tried our hardest to instill in him a moral compass to lead him in the right direction.”
The court clerk said her son has never received special treatment in the court system for previous convictions.
Ledford said she’s never used her position “to persuade leniency or special treatment” for Eller.
“Lady Justice must remain blindfolded, no matter who is being tried in court,” Ledford said.
District 18 District Attorney Chuck Sullivan said he sent a letter to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office asking for a recusal in the matter and for the AG's office to assign a different district attorney to prosecute the case "to avoid potential impropriety" since Sullivan is the legal advisor for the court clerk.
When asked if it was the first time he recused himself against Eller, Sullivan said it was.
“I have prosecuted Morgan before,” Sullivan said. “To avoid any appearance of impropriety, I just think at this time it’s appropriate to recuse.”
Numerous investigators with the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Department wrote in an affidavit that deputies responded to a burglary call May 17 at the Dollar General Store in Longtown.
Deputies were told a black man, later identified as Eller, shopped around the store before coming to the register with $278 worth of merchandise and saying he had to get his wallet from outside, the affidavit states.
Eller returned and acted like he was reaching for his wallet when he pulled a gun and asked for the money in the register, the affidavit states.
A total of $488 was taken in the robbery, the report states.
Haskell County Sheriff Tim Turner told investigators Eller was recently arrested for drug possession after receiving a call of a man sitting outside of an Enterprise gas station “as though they were casing the store,” the affidavit states.
Investigators wrote that they showed a photo lineup including Eller and three other men to the Dollar General employees, who identified Eller as the suspect.
Deputies wrote that during the investigation they explained to Ledford that Eller was identified as the suspect in an armed robbery and they showed her a screenshot from the surveillance video.
The report states Ledford “said the individual looked like it could be Morgan based on his skin color and the way he stood” but she couldn’t be positive it was him. Ledford said Eller always wore black socks similar to the ones worn by the man in the surveillance footage, the affidavit states.
Deputies said they told Ledford on May 19 not to contact Morgan and she said she would not, the report stated.
The affidavit states Eller told investigators on May 20 he was going through a McAlester fast food restaurant drive-thru around the time of the robbery and he provided a name of a possible suspect. During the interview, Eller gave deputies consent to search his truck and his cell phone, the affidavit states.
Investigators wrote that they obtained a search warrant on May 21 and found messages on the phone between Ledford and Eller.
Ledford sent a text message on May 19 with a photo of the surveillance photo telling Eller “I hope to hell this is not you,” the affidavit states. Eller responded that it wasn't him, the report states.
Ledford told the News-Capital that she waited to contact Eller until after she was notified that deputies reached out to him.
Investigators wrote that Ledford texted Eller that a deputy came and talked to her. Ledford texted her son that his father told her Eller came home at 10 p.m., the affidavit states.
Eller asked Ledford when the robbery occurred and she responded 10 p.m. before sending another message saying “you were home right after 9:00,” investigators wrote.
Ledford told the News-Capital the text was referring to information she had received from another person.
Investigators then spoke with Eller's girlfriend, who admitted she was driving him the night of the robbery with their 1-year-old child in the backseat, the report states.
Eller was later taken into custody without incident, the affidavit states.
“We are praying that our justice system will assist our family in getting Morgan the treatment he needs to make positive changes for himself and his young daughter,” Ledford said. “We are praying for those individuals who have been affected by this incident.”
Contact Derrick James at firstname.lastname@example.org