By Melissa Ruby,
Domestic News Writer
On July 22, 2015 the peaceful town of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma was shocked by the brutal mass murder of the Bever family. Broken Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa, is reported by several sources to have only one to two homicides per year. However, on this night in mid-July, five people were stabbed to death in their home by two young family members.
Robert Bever, 18, and his younger brother, Michael Bever, 16, attempted to flee the crime scene, but did not get far. With the assistance of the K-9 unit, police were able to apprehend the two suspects that same night. They were subsequently charged with five counts of first degree murder and one count of aggravated assault and battery with the intent to commit murder.
The brothers were alleged to have stabbed and mutilated their parents, David and April Bever, as well as three of their siblings: Daniel, 12, Christopher, 7, and Victoria, 5. According to The Oklahoman, the autopsy performed revealed the father “was stabbed at least 28 times…The wounds were to his torso, face, neck, and his left arm and hand. He also suffered multiple blunt force injuries all over his body.” He was not just stabbed, but beaten and bludgeoned. The mother was stabbed 48 times, “18 times in the head and neck, 17 times in her arms and hands, and 13 times in the torso. She too suffered multiple blunt force injuries.” At the scene, police found several murder weapons including two knives and a hatchet, according to CBS News.
The fourth victim, their 13-year old sister, was stabbed several times. However, she survived. After being found by first responders, she was taken to a local hospital where she underwent surgery. Their youngest sister, age 2 was also found by the police, but she was unharmed and remanded to the state for protection until she was finally placed with relatives.
The boys were taken into custody and charged. Robert, who is 18 will be tried as an adult and is eligible for the death penalty. However, there has been some controversy as to how the younger brother, Michael Bever, will be tried.
Michael Bever is only 16 and, under a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, is unable to be sentenced to death. However, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler is confident that, under Oklahoma’s Youthful Offender Act, Michael can be and should be tried as an adult. Should he be convicted, his sentence could be as great as life imprisonment without parole in a maximum security facility.
The Youthful Offender Act is an Oklahoma statute delineating offenses and ages for which a minor is no longer granted the status of juvenile. In such cases, according to an Oklahoma Legal Group, normal criminal procedure is followed because the “child or young adult is charged with a serious violation of the law.” “The purpose of the Youthful Offender Act is to better ensure the public safety by holding youths accountable for the commission of serious crimes.” While it is generally accepted that children will act foolishly at times because they have not acquired the discretion to understand the wrongfulness of an action, certain acts are deemed to pose such a great threat of harm that even minors should be aware of their wrongfulness. The act provides for a middle ground action between juvenile classification and adult classification, except in case of first-degree murder perpetrated by those 15 years old or older.
The attorney for Michael Bever, Robert Nigh, however, insists that to try the boy as an adult would be unfair, unjust, and unconstitutional. The Associated Press reports that, at the hearing Monday, Nigh stated Michael is “a child” and should be tried as a juvenile. Further, Nigh states that being charged with first degree-murder “‘doesn’t change his biology.’” His defense for Michael is that he was a child without the mental capability of understanding his actions. However, according to U.S. News and World Report, “according to a search warrants affidavit, one of the brothers told police that plans for the killing were on a thumb drive inside the family’s Broken Arrow home.” With plans recorded on a thumb-drive, there is evidence of pre-meditation to commit murder. According to Oklahoma law, first degree murder is then the charge, and anyone 15 years old or older must be tried as an adult.
Monday, Special Judge Carter found that Michael fit the criteria to be tried as an adult. Attorney Robert Nigh has said he will appeal to have the decision reversed before the January 22 preliminary hearing.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 20th print edition.
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