A local man prosecutors accused of choking and drowning a relative has pleaded guilty, according to court records.
Oklahoma County First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland filed a first-degree murder charge against Ronald Sparks, alleging that on May 12, 2012, he killed Bernice Daugherty, 89, Sparks’ aunt, by choking her and holding her head under water.
In court, Sparks entered a plea of not guilty.
Instead, that same day, Sparks appeared in court with his attorney and entered a negotiated plea of guilty to an amended charge of second-degree murder. The 48-year-old was sentenced to a lifelong suspended sentence with the first 30 years in prison.
Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong, of Edmond, presided over the case.
Oklahoma County First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland could not be reached for comment.
Taylor McLawhorn, Sparks’ attorney, said after discussing the situation and the options which included the chances of an unfavorable outcome, his client chose to plead guilty and the amended charge was made.
“I think It was fair considering the facts of the case and the evidence,” McLawhorn said.
McLawhorn said the lesser charge will allow the defendant to get help with his mental issues during his incarceration and afterwards. McLawhorn said he was thankful the prosecution humanized Sparks and was agreeable to helping him.
McLawhorn said he hopes the victim’s family agreed with the action, which means they will not have to experience the emotions related to a criminal trial.
During earlier proceedings — after probable cause was found and a defense motion to dismiss due to lack of evidence was overruled — Sparks filed a notice of his intent to assert an insanity defense.
A Feb. 21 pretrial conference had been scheduled in Oklahoma County District Court.
In the affidavit of probable cause, filed by Edmond Police Detective Matt Terry on May 12, 2012, Terry stated he discussed Sparks’ relationship with his mother and the victim during a voluntary interview.
Sparks said they were planning on killing him and he thought they put something in his morning coffee, Terry stated. Sparks said when he was questioning the victim about his beliefs, she acted as if she didn’t know what he was talking about, Terry stated.
Sometime between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Sparks said, he began filling the bathtub with water, Terry stated. Sparks said the victim walked toward the bathroom but probably didn’t make it to the threshold when he came up behind her, choked her and then held her face first in the bath water until she stopped moving, Terry stated.
Sparks said he knew she was dead and left the apartment for a couple of hours before returning and calling 911, Terry stated.
Sparks said in a situation like this involving an elderly person, he had hoped the murder would look like an accident or a medical situation, Terry stated. He said he put a slipper on her foot to make it look like she slipped in the bathroom. He also threw her broken eyeglasses into the bath water, Terry stated.
Terry stated due to Sparks’ confession, he placed him under arrest for homicide.
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