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Broken Arrow killings: Not guilty plea entered for brothers accused of stabbing family

Broken Arrow killings: Not guilty plea entered for brothers accused of stabbing family

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A Tulsa County judge on Monday entered a not guilty plea for two brothers accused of fatally stabbing their parents and three of their siblings — and if defense attorneys for the Broken Arrow teenagers have their way, many of the documents in the case could be ordered sealed.

Robert Bever, 18, and Michael Bever, 16, are each charged with five counts of first-degree murder, as well as one count of assault and battery with intent to kill involving their 13-year-old sister, who survived the July 22 attack.

Neither was present inside the Tulsa County Courthouse but had a video arraignment — a common practice — at 9 a.m. that lasted less than five minutes. Special Judge Deborrah Ludi Leitch read the charges against them.

One of the siblings was wearing an orange jumpsuit, while the other wore a navy jail-issued uniform. Neither commented when asked if he had anything to tell his attorney, and they went separate directions while handcuffed when removed from the video area.

Although younger than 18, Michael Bever will be treated as an adult throughout the proceedings, as state law dictates that 16- and 17-year-old first-degree murder defendants are not subject to provisions of the Youthful Offender Act or Juvenile Code for certification as a juvenile. But because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Michael Bever’s age renders him ineligible for capital punishment if convicted.

Neither Cheryl Ramsey, who represents Robert Bever, nor Chief Public Defender Rob Nigh, who represents Michael Bever, commented after exiting the courtroom. The brothers are tentatively set to appear in court again Oct. 28 to finalize a preliminary hearing date, Leitch said.

Court records show Nigh and Ramsey appeared in court for their defendants on Friday after filing motions for protective orders regarding pretrial statements and sealing of police reports and other documents in the case. The documents appear to have been filed before Robert and Michael Bever were charged; in addition to requesting discovery material be sealed, they request that the state and attorneys for both sides be ordered not to make statements either orally or in writing to the public, press, media or others who are not a party to the matter.

Both motions are the same and cite a Tulsa World article that reports the city of Broken Arrow is set to release information, including the 911 call that led police to the crime scene, by Tuesday. A hearing on the motions is set for Wednesday.

“The protective order is sought to preserve any possibility that Mr. (Robert) Bever can receive a fair trial and impartial trial from a jury that is not tainted by the media,” states Ramsey’s motion, which mirrors Nigh’s. “ ... Intense publicity surrounding a criminal proceeding — what (late U.S. Supreme Court) Justice (Felix) Frankfurter referred to as ‘trial by newspaper’ {span}— poses significant and well-known dangers to a fair trial.”

When asked about the motions, neither Nigh nor Ramsey offered comment. Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said Monday that he was aware the motions had been filed and that his office’s interest is and will continue to be maintaining the integrity of the prosecution.

“We will abide with any order issued by the court which bears upon this issue,” he said.

Broken Arrow police officers allege Robert and Michael Bever killed their parents, David and April Bever, as well as their siblings Daniel Bever, 12; Christopher Bever, 7; and Victoria Bever, 5, inside their Broken Arrow home. Officers reported receiving a phone call around 11:30 p.m. July 22 from one of the children, believed to be Daniel Bever, who said their brother was attacking their family.

Sgt. Thomas Cooper said last week that a dispatcher was able to obtain an address from the caller before the line went open and then disconnected, which prompted police to go to the home. Initial information filed in the case alleges the Bever brothers used knives to stab the five family members and their 13-year-old sister, who, according to Robert Bever’s arrest report, identified her brothers as the people who attacked her and her family.

A 2-year-old girl was found unharmed in an upstairs bedroom, and she has since been placed with relatives after initially being taken into Department of Human Services custody.

Cooper said the child’s 911 call likely saved his sisters’ lives and potentially others.

Related story: Bever siblings charged with first-degree murder in stabbings of family members

Related story: Broken Arrow residents hold vigil for slain, surviving Bever family members

Related story: Information about Bever family remains scant after stabbing deathsSamantha Vicent 918-581-8321

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