The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 12, 2014

UPDATE: ‘It’s a great day for the Behenna family’

Mother: Edmond soldier to be freed next month

EDMOND — When her phone rang at about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and she saw Michael’s number on caller ID, Vicki Behenna momentarily held her breath.

“Your heart stops,” Behenna said of her anxiety at the moment.

Michael’s first parole hearing was Jan. 9 before the Army Clemency and Parole Board in Washington, D.C., and family members were expecting to hear the results within a couple of weeks.

Behenna, 30, was serving a 15-year sentence after being convicted of unpremeditated murder in the killing of an Iraqi national in 2008. The Edmond solider testified that he acted in self defense while on mission in Iraq.

Vicki picked up the phone and said, “What’s going on?”

Then Michael told his mother the words she longed to hear — he had been granted parole. He will be a free man on March 14. He learned the news in a letter delivered to him at Fort Leavenworth.

“I just started crying. I couldn’t stop,” the federal prosecutor said. “He said, ‘I love you. I love you guys.’ He sounded like he was in shock.”

Vicki said they had a 10- or 15-minute conversation. One of the last things he talked about was his concern for others incarcerated under similar unjust circumstances at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

It’s not the first time he has spoken about the subject. Vicki said she is committed to doing what she can to help the others and their families.

During the fall of 2010, the Behenna’s organized a freedom ride for the Leavenworth 10 to raise awareness about their cases. In addition to Michael the members were at the time: Sgt. Evan Vela Carnahan; Pfc. Corey Clagett; Staff Sgt. Raymond Girouard; Master Sgt. John E. Hatley; Spec. William B. Hunsaker; Sgt. Larry Hutchins; Sgt. Michael Leahy; Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo; and Sgt. Michael P. Williams. The Behennas said the men were decorated soldiers and Marines serving sentences between 10-40 years apiece.

Vicki said the family is thankful to all those who have showed various forms of support during the five-year-long legal process. Among them are members of the Edmond community including her church family, other Oklahomans, members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

“I am glad this long ordeal has finally come to an end for Michael Behenna and his family,” Fallin said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Michael went to Iraq to serve his nation and to defend liberty both here and abroad. Instead, he found himself mourning the loss of his friends from the inside of a cell.

“I believe the Army acted appropriately and compassionately in offering him parole.”

Members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation united their efforts on behalf of Behenna and his family by sending letters of support to the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and the U.S. Army Clemency and Parole Board asking for careful consideration of the facts and circumstances surrounding the case, as well as the behavior and progress Behenna made during incarceration.

“I am incredibly relieved that the Behenna family will finally be reunited with their son, Michael, after more than five years apart,” said U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond. “Vicki and Scott Behenna have worked tirelessly to support their son. My staff and I have worked closely with the Army and members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation to ensure that we supported Michael and his family through the long, legal process. I will continue to lift them in my prayers as they move forward with the next chapter of their lives.”

At about 11 a.m. Wednesday, Shannon Whal, Michael Behenna’s longtime girlfriend, was anxiously awaiting to hear the sound of the man she had known since childhood and wanted to build a future around.

“I just lost it,” Whal said of her reaction when she heard the news. “It’s uncontrollable joy right now.”

In July 2008, the U.S. Army charged 1st Lt. Behenna with premeditated murder in the death of a purported Al Qaeda operative. The charge was amended to unpremeditated murder. Whal said the family is hoping to have Michael exonerated.

Without parole or a new trial, Behenna would have been freed when he is 40 years old, according to family members.

Houston attorney Jack Zimmermann, Behenna’s lead defense counsel during earlier portions of the military legal process, said the credit for the action belongs to Michael’s parents who never gave up. Zimmermann said he spoke to Vicki on the phone Wednesday morning. He described her as a very humble person.

“It’s a great day for the Behenna family,” Zimmermann said.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

1
Text Only
Local News
  • MS_prisons 1.JPG DOC action could save $36.8 million annually

    The Oklahoma Department of Corrections expects to avert more than 2,100 offenders by 2021 saving more than $36.8 million annually, an audit states.
    Tuesday, State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones  released the results of a performance audit of the DOC that was requested by Gov. Mary Fallin. The audit for the period July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2013, distinctly focused on governance, financial management and capacity management.
    Audit recommendations included:

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • food bank.jpg Regional Food Bank receives donation

    At a special celebration event Wednesday, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced that over the last fiscal year they gave more than $30 million in cash and in-kind contributions to charitable organizations throughout Oklahoma. Additionally, the retailer and its Foundation have partnered with local food banks to provide more than 15 million pounds of food to residents.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man allegedly assaults officer on Tinker AFB

    A metro man faces an assault complaint after he allegedly nearly struck a federal officer with a vehicle during a pursuit that began as a traffic stop on Tinker Air Force Base, court records show.
    Sanford C. Coats, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, said Wednesday a criminal complaint was unsealed charging James Williams, 60, of Del City, with assaulting a federal officer with a dangerous weapon.

    July 30, 2014

  • NAMI classes begin in September

    NAMI Edmond North-OKC, the local organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will offer its Family-to-Family Education Program beginning Sept. 2. It will contine Sept. 4 and 8-9. Classes will be at Crossings Community Church, Quail Springs United Methodist Church, Francis Tuttle Technology Center (Portland campus), Tinker AFB Chapel and the Thunderbird Club House in Norman.
    NAMI Family-to-Family is a free 12-session education program for family caregivers of adults living with mental illness. The sessions are offered once a week for a few hours each.

    July 30, 2014

  • drugs 1.jpg K9 hot on drug trail

    An Oklahoma County deputy and his K9 partner have logged another impressive drug seizure, records show.
    Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mark Myers said Monday a deputy noticed a car weaving and straddling lanes on I-40 near the Meridian Avenue exit. Myers said the deputy stopped the vehicle and spoke with the two people inside.
    The driver and passenger told conflicting stories about their trip, Myers said. The deputy also smelled marijuana inside of the vehicle, Myers said.

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • City spends $1.7 million on ITS

    Public safety will benefit by the Intelligent Transportation System with its implementation by the City of Edmond, said Steve Commons, assistant city manager.
    More vehicles are added to traffic volume as Edmond’s population grows. ITS connects all of the city’s traffic signals in order to improve traffic flow in present time with greater efficiency, Commons said Wednesday.
    “Some of that can be done through computer automation that tracks how traffic is changing,” Commons said.

    July 30, 2014

  • clinic 1.jpg Edmond church to host free eye clinic

    An Edmond church and Feed the Children are partnering to provide a free eye clinic.
    Individuals will be able to receive a free vision test and free prescription eye glasses from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Waterloo Road Baptist Church, 3100 E. Waterloo Road. All ages are welcome and registration is not required.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • weather 1.jpg July could be coolest in weather record books

    With chances for soaking rains and unseasonably cool temperatures becoming frequent, a weather expert is increasingly convinced Oklahoma will end up with a historic July.
    At mid-afternoon Tuesday, the National Weather Service forecast for Edmond called for the high Wednesday to be near 73 with a 90 percent chance of heavy rain, followed by the high Thursday near 78 with a 30 percent chance of showers.
    Highs are expected to remain in the 80s into Monday.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Downtown Master Plan accepted by council

    The 2014 Downtown Master Plan Study was accepted by a 3-0 vote Tuesday evening by the Edmond City Council.
    Fort Worth-based consulting group Freese and Nichols presented their final update to the 1998 Downtown Master Plan. The city hired the group at a cost of $300,000 to make recommendations for future development of Broadway in the central business district.
    “There are clearly some short-term (parking) options that we feel should move forward,” said Cody Richardson, of Freese and Nichols consultants of Fort Worth. “Better signage at existing parking lots.”

    July 29, 2014

  • UCO forensic volunteer wants to aid more agencies

    A four-person group of forensic investigators who volunteer their time to help smaller Oklahoma police departments isn’t enough to meet demand, a member said.
    Kama King, who recently completed her graduate research and will be a member of the faculty at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Forensic Science Institute, said outside of full-time jobs, members of the group volunteer to assist these agencies.
    As her career progresses, King hopes to help establish a permanently funded organization available to any agency in the state to assist in remains recovery as well as related training.

    July 29, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show'
Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results