A man charged with first-degree murder in a beating death in March has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Raymond J. Stewart, 26, Durant, is accused of beating Steven Lee Sessums, 32, Mead, and then dropping him from a bridge into a creek.
During a formal arraignment Tuesday, Stewart entered the not-guilty plea.
Authorities began investigating when a passerby saw a body in Canella Creek off Old Highway 70 east of Durant.
The victim initially was unknown until the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation identified him as Sessums, who died from blunt trauma to the head and neck.
A probable-cause affidavit by Bryan County District Attorney Investigator David Cathey states that authorities questioned Destinee Delozier, identified as Stewart’s girlfriend, and she said she witnessed an altercation between Stewart and another man who had not been identified at the time of the interview.
The affidavit states that a struggle occurred in her home in the 200 block of East Locust Street and that the man who was later found in a creek became incapacitated.
Delozier made statements to investigators that indicated Stewart’s pickup was used to take the incapacitated man to the creek east of Durant, the affidavit states.
OSBI Agent Reanae Childers interviewed Stewart, and according to the affidavit, he admitted to the altercation with the unidentified man and also driving him to the creek, where he pushed the body over the bridge.
The cause of the altercation was not revealed in the affidavit, however, OSBI previously said that it began at a Durant tavern. Stewart has prior convictions for knowingly concealing stolen property and false declaration of ownership in pawn. He was sentenced to five years in prison on these charges in 2009. According to online Oklahoma Department of Corrections records, he was released from prison in November 2013.
Stewart’s next court appearance is on a Dec. 8 disposition docket where a plea bargain can be accepted or a trial date will be set. He remains in jail.
In other crime news, juveniles went on a vandalism rampage inside Robert E. Lee Elementary School. According to Durant Police, four children, ages 10 and under, entered the school Sunday through an unlocked window and put glue on the floor, threw paint on walls, damaged lap-top computers and smart boards, and committed other acts of vandalism.
Police said other children saw them exit the building and they then contacted police. According to a report by Patrolman Jeremy Brooks, children who were riding their skateboards in an alley near the school saw several children leave the school, so they asked what they had been doing. The suspects replied, “None of your business.”
Patrolman Brooks entered the school and observed paint splashed on walls and floors, glue poured onto the floor and desks, a turned over potted-plant, desks turned upside down, and inside the cafeteria, cartons of milk and orange juice had been thrown against the floor.
According to police, video surveillance shows the four juveniles, ages 6, 8, 9 and 10, inside the school. The parents of the children signed written promises for them to appear in juvenile court.