Correction: This story originally incorrectly reported that Gina Kepler was with her husband, Shannon Kepler, when Jeremey Lake was fatally shot. The story has been corrected.
Former Tulsa Police Officer Shannon Kepler has been transferred to a state prison, where he will undergo an evaluation that determines how he will serve his 15-year sentence for manslaughter in the shooting death of his daughter’s boyfriend.
Kepler, 57, left the Tulsa Jail around 6:20 a.m. Monday and arrived later in the day at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, the first stop for men sentenced to incarceration in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections system.
Kepler’s updated location appeared on the DOC’s inmate lookup website Tuesday morning, but DOC spokesman Matt Elliott told the Tulsa World that Kepler’s permanent assignment will be kept out of the database in the same way it is for Daniel Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of multiple sex crimes while on duty.
Kepler was in a single cell at the medical unit for the duration of his Tulsa Jail stay, but it’s not clear whether he will be housed the same way during his prison term.
The DOC said at the time of Holtzclaw’s intake that his location would be concealed for security reasons. However, former Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates’ facility assignments were not withheld from the public during his imprisonment from May 2016 to his release in October.
Jurors on Oct. 18 found Kepler guilty of manslaughter in the heat of passion, a lesser-included offense to the original charge of first-degree murder. Off duty at the time, Kepler shot 19-year-old Jeremey Lake outside the house of the teen’s aunt in the 200 block of North Maybelle Avenue on Aug. 5, 2014.
District Judge Sharon Holmes upheld the jury’s recommendations of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on Nov. 20.
Kepler is appealing his convictions and sentences for the manslaughter count and two related misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct with a firearm. The latter two convictions came in 2016.
Defense attorney Richard O’Carroll contends his client did not have a fair trial, at least in part because of Holmes “putting her thumb on the scale” in the state’s favor when she made various pretrial rulings about the admissibility of evidence.
Lake had just begun dating Kepler’s daughter, Lisa Kepler, when he was slain. They had recently met at the nearby Day Center for the Homeless, where the Kepler family had dropped her off amid issues in their home.
Shannon Kepler was a 24-year Tulsa Police Department veteran who worked at the Tulsa Police Academy at the time of the shooting. He retired from the TPD later in 2014.
His wife, Gina, who was also a TPD officer, was arrested on an accessory complaint but was never charged. She no longer works for the department.
Kepler was tried for murder four times after three of his trials ended in Holmes declaring mistrials due to hung juries, though the first jury returned guilty verdicts for misdemeanor firearms charges.
Holmes allowed jurors in Kepler’s third and fourth trials to consider first-degree manslaughter as a lesser-included offense. The fourth jury’s foreperson told the World that jurors believed the situation was a crime of passion rather than a killing in cold blood.
During those trials, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray argued that Kepler violated TPD protocol when he used the department’s investigative tools to obtain information about Lake. The information included Lake’s address, which allowed Kepler to drive to his home to initiate an altercation, shoot him and flee the scene without calling for help, the prosecutors said.
Kepler testified in his own defense four times, saying he went to the house because he was worried for his daughter’s safety.
Kepler said he shot Lake in self-defense after seeing that he had a firearm. However, all officers involved in the investigation and witnesses to the altercation said they did not see a gun on or near Lake’s body.
Unless his appeal is successful, Kepler must serve at least 85 percent of his manslaughter sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.
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