October 24, 1996
Tulsa County, Oklahoma
Trisha Stemple (30) is killed on the side of the road, ostensibly after getting a flat tire
According to Trisha’s husband, Timothy Shaun Stemple, the pair argued early on October 24 until Trisha announced she was going to leave to buy something for her headache. Trisha left around 2 a.m., and when she hadn’t returned hours later, Shaun left to find her. He later reported her missing.
Trisha’s body was found at sunrise, off the shoulder of a highway. Her neck, skull, and pelvis had been crushed and 17 of her ribs broken. Trisha’s car was located approximately 200 yards (183 meters) from her body. As the vehicle had a flat tire and was found on the side of the road, it was surmised Trisha had been struck by a hit-and-run driver.
The case was re-examined after a tip was brought to Crime Stoppers in which a witness stated they had seen a red truck parked behind Trisha’s car, and two men and a woman appeared to be arguing. The witness stated the event happened at approximately 2:50 a.m. on October 26. Police used the lead to link back to Shaun as well as to Terry Hunt, the 16-year-old cousin of Shaun’s girlfriend; Hunt had purchased a red truck from Shaun shortly before Trisha’s death. The truck was impounded and found to have blood — as well as fibers matching the clothing Trisha wore at the time she was killed — in the front seat. One witness also stated Hunt had purchased a baseball bat on October 9 and remarked “he had a job to do.” Both Hunt and Shaun were then charged with Trisha’s murder.
Hunt pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Shaun in exchange for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. According to Hunt, Shaun agreed to pay him between $25,000 and $50,000 to assist in Trisha’s murder. He hid among the bushes where he waited for Trisha to arrive, then struck her twice in the back of her head with a cellophane-wrapped baseball bat. Hunt gave the bat to Shaun who then hit his wife 10-14 times. Trisha was next placed in the front of the truck then back on the ground where Shaun ran her over while going approximately 60-70 mph (97-113 km/h). Shaun exited the truck to tell Trisha, “Don’t worry, Trish. The ambulance is on its way,” before he struck her head another 8-12 times with the bat. Shaun and Hunt drilled a hole in one of Trisha’s tires to simulate a flat and infer she had been struck by a vehicle as she stood on the side of the road.
In addition to Hunt’s testimony, the prosecution demonstrated Shaun had taken out a $950,000 (about $1.5 million today) insurance policy on Trisha’s life earlier in the year she was killed, despite the fact Shaun was unemployed at the time the policy was purchased. The prosecution argued Shaun lured Trisha to the remote location under the pretense of car troubles and contended Shaun’s motives behind the murder were for financial gain and due to his affair with Hunt’s cousin.
Shaun denied the accusations and alleged one of his girlfriend’s other relatives had killed Trisha. He was convicted of his wife’s murder and sentenced to death.
Shaun and his family maintained his innocence and organizations, including the Innocence Project, lobbied on his behalf for a stay of execution. They claimed Hunt had provided false testimony against Shaun to protect himself from capital punishment. The attempts were unsuccessful and Shaun was executed by lethal injection on March 15, 2012. He declined to make a final statement.
After Shaun’s execution, Trisha’s sister told the press, “Today is not about Shaun. It’s about justice, finality and closure for my gorgeous sister Trisha and my family.” She also said the execution “put a period at the end of a chapter that held us captive for far too long.”
Aspinwall, Cary. “Tulsa County killer Shaun Stemple executed for wife’s 1996 murder.” Tulsa World. Updated: September 30, 2013. Accessed: October 24, 2020. https://tulsaworld.com/news/local/tulsa-county-killer-shaun-stemple-executed-for-wifes-1996-murder/article_761b117c-3876-51d7-87a6-4845059ec229.html
Aspinwall, Cary. “Family says execution brings justice for victim.” The Oklahoman [Oklahoma City, Oklahoma]. March 16, 2012
“Stemple’s Family Appeals To Oklahoma Governor To Delay His Execution.” News on 6. March 8, 2012. Accessed: October 24, 2020. https://www.newson6.com/story/5e364fdf2f69d76f620675c5/stemples-family-appeals-to-oklahoma-governor-to-delay-his-execution
“Teen-Ager Says He Helped Man Kill His Wife.” The Daily Oklahoman [Oklahoma City, Oklahoma]. December 19, 1997
“Jury asks death for stemple [sic].” Sapulpa Daily Herald. December 17, 1997
Fox, Sam. “Jenks Man Denies Guilt in Slaying.” The Daily Oklahoman. December 12, 1997
Fox, Sam. “Accused Says Wife Slain While He Slept.” The Daily Oklahoman. December 11, 1997
“Jenks Teen Held in Slaying.” The Daily Oklahoman. November 28, 1996
Thornton, Anthony. “Teen Charged in Beating Death.” The Daily Oklahoman. November 26, 1996
Thornton, Anthony. “Traffic Death May Be Homicide.” The Daily Oklahoman. November 2, 1996