A 25-year-old Oklahoma man has been charged with first-degree murder in the 2008 shooting deaths of two young girls as they walked along a rural road, authorities said Friday.
Kevin Sweat, of Henryetta, Okla., was charged with the murders of 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker and 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker, who were both shot and killed as they walked along County Line Road in Weleetka in eastern Oklahoma in June 2008.
The two friends were shot multiple times as they played close to Placker’s home near Weleetka, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
"We were always hopeful that we would come to this point," Okfuskee County District Attorney Max Cook said. A bill of particulars has been filed in the case, a first step toward seeking the death penalty against Sweat, Cook said.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents pored over 900 leads, performed 19,000 forensic tests on 800 pieces of evidence and conducted hundreds of interviews in the high-profile case, OSBI director Stan Florence said. He thanked the victims' families for their patience.
"They have endured a terrible ordeal," Florence said.
Authorities earlier identified one of two weapons used in the murders as a .40-caliber Glock model 22 with serial number EKG463US. They released the serial number of the weapon in the hope that someone would come forward with it.
They say Sweat may have tried to sell the gun at a gun show in Tulsa this March.
Stan Florence, Director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, said during a press conference Friday that investigators are still searching for the weapon. A reward of $5,000 is being offered for the firearm.
Florence said Sweat is already in custody in connection with the death of his girlfriend, Ashley Taylor.
The arrest comes more than three years after family members discovered the girls along an unpaved road less than a half-mile from Placker's home. They had been headed for Bad Creek Bridge, where they planned to wade through waist-high weeds to the river bank to collect shells and pebbles.
Their deaths were one of a series of tragedies to strike the town of barely 900 people.
Weleetka residents also have been shaken in recent years by a house fire that killed six people; the death of a beloved youth minister in an oil tank explosion; and a fire that tore through several downtown buildings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.