The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

August 30, 2012

Guilty: Man convicted of murder in bathroom stomping death

ENID, Okla. — A Garfield County jury deliberated for nearly two hours Thursday before finding an Enid man guilty of second-degree murder in the stomping death of another man in a bar bathroom earlier this year.

The six-man, six-woman jury found 33-year-old Grady Wayne Lewallen Jr. guilty of the death of 53-year-old Robert Abraham on Valentine’s Day.

Jurors returned to deliberate sentencing after delivering their verdict and returned after 20 minutes with a recommendation of life in prison. Because of four prior felony convictions in Arkansas, Lewallen faced 20 years to life in prison on the second-degree murder charge.

Jurors had the option of finding Lewallen guilty of first-degree murder with malice and forethought, which was punishable by life or life without the possibility of parole.

The trial resumed Thursday with District Judge Dennis Hladik reading jury instructions.

Assistant District Attorney Irene Asai said Lewallen was unable to forget statements made by Abraham that disparaged Gary Lardie and upset Lardie’s brother George, Lewallen’s former father-in-law. Although George told Lewallen to forget the comments, he would not.

“The fact is he let it fester,” Asai said. “It became a scab on top of a wound and he continued to pick at it.”

She said on the night of Feb. 14, Lewallen even called Lardie to tell him Abraham was at the bar and Lardie told him to let it go.

“Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, this defendant didn’t take the advice to let it go,” she said. “Robert Abraham died that night because this defendant hated him.”

Asai reminded the jury of the testimony from the medical examiner and to recall Lewallen’s interview with Detective John Robin-son.

“They weren’t kicks, they were stomps on the body of Robert Abraham,” Asai said, stomping her foot. “All of that combined caused the death of Robert Abraham at the hands of this defendant, at the feet of this defendant.”

Pointing at Lewallen, Asai said, “He’s lying the entire time he’s talking to Detective Robinson.”

She referred to defense attorney Greg Camp’s opening statement, in which he said the state’s evidence would bolster the defendant’s story.

“Did the state’s evidence bolster the defendant’s story? No, it bolsters his lies,” she said.

Asai said Lewallen began by lying to police and continued to do so, changing his story along the way.

“I’d be scared. I’d be nervous,” she said. “But would you have to lie?”

Asai said Lewallen left the bar after stomping Abraham to death, changed his clothes, changed his boots and hid the boots in a vent in his house.

“Are those the actions of an innocent man? Would an innocent man do what this defendant has done?” Asai asked. “He wasn’t scared. He wasn’t nervous. He was making up stories the entire time.”

She said there was no evidence presented to prove Ab-raham was a bully, as Camp has claimed during the trial.

“There is no evidence Robert Abraham is a bully,” she said. “There is no reason for this defendant to snuff out the life of Robert Abraham.”

Camp told jurors when he first got Lewallen’s case, he thought Lewallen was guilty.

“My first conclusion was the state had an open-and-shut case,” he said. “I had to start looking at the details.”

Camp asked jurors to consider the evidence during their deliberations. He said Abra-ham was the one who caused problems, and referred to the victim as “an ass.”

Camp said Lewallen, if he wanted Abraham dead, had ample opportunity prior to Feb. 14 to kill him. He also said Lewallen should have told police, but said speaking to detectives in a small interview room can be intimidating.

Camp said what most likely happened was an intoxicated Abraham went into the bathroom after Lewallen and in an intoxicated state, attempted to push in the stall door where Lewallen was.

“I think this is a tragic incident because two guys had trouble in the past.” he said. “That’s the only thing that makes sense here.”

Camp also pointed to the fact Lewallen had no injuries to his hands and Abraham had a wound to the back of his head.

“There is no injury to his hands. There is no way Grady kicked him in the back of the head,” he said. “It doesn’t look good. I’ll admit it. Until you look at all the minute details.”

Asai countered that despite what Camp said, Abraham’s death was no accident.

“This was deliberate. It was fueled by hate,” she said. “Robert Abraham was murdered Feb. 14, 2012. Grady Wayne Lewallen is guilty of first-degree murder.”

The jury began deliberations at 10:35 a.m. and had a verdict by about 12:40 p.m.

During the sentencing stage of the trial, Asai asked jurors to account for Lew-allen’s past when considering sentencing.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the best predictor of future conduct is past behavior,” she said.

She said Lewallen had been given opportunities to correct his behavior but continued to commit crimes.

“Because this defendant can’t learn from past behavior and goes out and commits more and more crimes, and then he committed the ultimate crime of murder, that I ask you impose life,” Asai said.

Camp asked jurors to remember two things when considering sentencing.

Because of their verdict, he said jurors did not feel Lewallen had intent to take a life when Abraham was murdered.

“I don’t think he went in there (the bar bathroom) to kill Mr. Abraham either,” he said.

Camp also reminded them the crime of second-degree murder requires at least 85 percent of a sentence be served before a defendant can be released.

“I would ask you to reach for the lower end of the scale than life,” he said.

District Judge Dennis Hladik ordered a presentencing investigation and set formal sentencing for 2:30 p.m. Oct. 9.

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