Robert Bever and his brother Michael Bever plotted for at least a year to kill their family in their Broken Arrow home. They intended to then take their parents' vehicle and flee Oklahoma to perpetrate mass shootings in other states, Broken Arrow police detectives testified during a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
Tulsa County Special Judge Martha Rupp Carter bound over Robert Bever, 19, and Michael Bever, 17, for trial on five counts of first-degree murder in the July 22 stabbing deaths of their parents, David Bever, 52, and April Bever, 44; and their siblings, Daniel, 12, Christopher, 7, and Victoria, 5.
They also must face trial on one count each of assault and battery with intent to kill in the attack on their 13-year-old sister, who survived.
The slayings occurred when the defendants were 18 and 16.
Robert Bever appeared in court for the first time in person. He was wearing a black and white striped inmate uniform and seemed to smirk as he entered the courtroom.
Michael Bever, clad in a navy jail uniform used by juveniles housed at the adult facility, mostly looked at the ground as he walked behind his brother to enter and leave the courtroom.
Carter heard testimony from three Broken Arrow police detectives who recounted their interviews with the brothers and their 13-year-old sister, who survived numerous stab wounds.
The brothers' defense attorneys did not call any witnesses of their own, but they asked the detectives, who were testifying for the prosecution, multiple questions about the brothers' isolation from people outside their immediate family, their lack of friends, their homeschooling, and physical and verbal abuse in the home.
The surviving sister did not testify Tuesday, but in an interview while still in the hospital, the 13-year-old girl told Detective Chane Cothran that Robert Bever said that "there were too many people in the world" and that he and Michael began stockpiling body armor and knives.
She told Cothran that she expressed concern about their weapons collection to their mother, but she, according to Cothran, "marked it up to 'That's just what boys do.'"
Detectives said Robert Bever worked at a Broken Arrow call center long enough to save enough money to buy the equipment and had about $1,300 left over.
The mother "said it was for attention," Cothran told Assistant District Attorney Sarah McAmis. "The dad complained that the kids were wasting their money."
The girl, to his knowledge, did not talk about her suspicions to anyone outside their immediate family before the killings.
On cross-examination by defense attorney Cheryl Ramsey, Cothran testified that the 13-year-old had said her father would throw the children and verbally abuse them. The sister also said she heard her parents discuss having perhaps been too rough on Robert and Michael when they were younger, Cothran said.
Ramsey also cross-examined witnesses regarding Robert Bever's allegations that his parents beat him and told him he was worthless, which included an account of his mother telling him it was "hilarious" that her slaps left marks on his face.
Although the Bever brothers' younger siblings hid in various rooms in the house during the attack, they reportedly revealed themselves after Michael Bever told them he needed to be let into the room because Robert Bever was trying to stab him.
Detective Rhianna Russell told the court that when the 7- and 5-year-olds, Christopher and Victoria, opened the door to a bathroom for Michael, he stabbed them.
The 12-year-old, Daniel, hid in his father's home office and used Michael's phone to call the police, but he opened the door partially for Michael after being told Robert was looking for him, Russell said. She reported that Michael then stepped aside and told Robert Bever, "He's all yours," and that Robert stabbed Daniel in the stomach and shoulder.
Russell also said Michael Bever took the phone from Daniel and broke it in the kitchen.
Russell and Detective Eric Bentz, who both interviewed Michael Bever, testified that he and Robert killed nearly all of their immediate family at least in part because they wanted to "outdo" famous mass killers.
A 2-year-old sibling was found unharmed in the house, and Russell said the girl was spared because the brothers "forgot" about her.
"(Robert) expressed wanting to have some sort of fame or notoriety for being a serial killer," said Bentz, who also interviewed Robert Bever. "He said that if he killed more than one person, it made him like a god."
The detectives said the brothers told them they originally planned to put their plan in action in September but chose late July because Robert Bever had ordered a shipment of ammunition and did not want their parents to find out. The shipment arrived July 23 — the day after the slayings, according to previously filed search warrant affidavits.
After the killings, the brothers intended to take their parents' GMC Yukon and drive to Washington state, Russell said. They reportedly planned to attack around midnight because they knew most of the family, except their mother and their oldest sister, would be asleep.
"They intended to go on a mass-killing spree," Russell said, adding that the siblings discussed their plans "nightly." "They wanted a Wikipedia page. They wanted media coverage."
Bentz said the older brother told him he was able to order firearms and ammunition online by lying about his age and that he knew he could do so because there "wouldn't be any checks" by the websites he used.
A Broken Arrow gun shop employee called Robert Bever to tell him a shotgun and two Glock pistols were ready for pickup, and he intended to retrieve them the day after the stabbings, Bentz said.
While traveling across the country, the brothers planned to kill five people each while stopping at various "highly populated" locations such as restaurants or malls, Bentz testified. He said they intended to use Molotov cocktails to ensure that they wouldn't be followed from crime scenes.
Bentz testified that Robert Bever told him he did not believe that killing — which he called "a hobby" — was a bad thing.
"He was laughing or chuckling on several occasions," Bentz said of his interview with Robert Bever at the Broken Arrow Police Department. "He appeared calm and relaxed and mildly excited when telling the story (of the killings)."
Russell, in her testimony, said Michael Bever seemed "a little bit sad" about what had happened to his family and that he had become physically ill during questioning.
Bentz said Robert Bever told him the brothers planned to go to a Wal-Mart after the stabbings to buy eight containers, which would be used to store their family members' bodies in their attic after they dismembered them.
"Robert wanted to make a video with him in the living room with the bodies visible, which would be seen by attorneys and law enforcement," Bentz said. "He also wanted to make a second video that he said was less 'horrific' so it would go public (on YouTube). … He called it a G-rated video."
Russell, Bentz and Cothran each said the brothers lured their 13-year-old sister to their room on the night of July 22 so they could tell her to look at something on their computer a little before midnight. When she was looking at the screen, they said, Robert Bever put his hand — covered with a black glove — to her mouth and attempted to slit her throat.
Although severely injured, the girl managed to flee the brothers' bedroom and said she told Victoria Bever to lock herself in a bathroom, even though she knew the 5-year-old likely would open the door if Robert asked her to because "she trusted him very much."
Cothran said the 13-year-old girl tried to go to a neighbor's home for help but ran out of energy and that Michael Bever dragged her back into the house.
Before Michael Bever did so, he strangled his sister outside until he heard a "gurgle," which he apparently took to mean she had stopped breathing, Bentz said Robert Bever told him. Robert then went back into the house to lure his father into his bedroom so he could stab him, Bentz said.
"He said that he hated to have to do this in front of the neighbors," Bentz said of the struggle with the sister.
Police arrived at the residence soon after Michael Bever took his sister back inside, the detectives said. The brothers fled through a back door to a wooded area behind the home, where a police dog found them early July 23, according to their arrest reports.
"Robert said (to Michael) that the plan didn't go like it was supposed to," Bentz said. "Everyone didn't die like they were supposed to. He said (the attack) was 'harder than they thought.'"
Before Carter bound the brothers over for trial, Michael Bever's attorney Rob Nigh tried unsuccessfully to get the court to admit three exhibits that he said would show that his client shouldn't be prosecuted as an adult.
In January the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals had affirmed Carter's October decision on his adult status, but Nigh expressed continuing concerns with the designation multiple times Tuesday.
The Bever brothers are set to appear in Judge Sharon Holmes' courtroom Monday morning for trial court arraignment.
From Tulsa World archives:
Dec. 31, 2015: DHS: No contact with Bever family before slayings
Aug. 7, 2015: Broken Arrow mayor: ‘This will not define our community’
Samantha Vicent 918-581-8321
Arianna Pickard 918-581-8413