Okemah officers nab Tennessee murder suspects
By Ken Childers
Less than 24 hours before 2019 came to an end, Okemah Police officers took two people wanted in connection to a Tennessee man’s murder into custody.
Thirty-year old Sasha Payton and Tyler Carter, 20, were apprehended on Dec. 31 after the Coffee County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Department notified Okemah police that the two were likely in Okfuskee County. Clarence McDaniel, who was traveling with Payton and Carter, was also taken into custody but was eventually released.
At about 4 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, Okemah officers were informed that Tennessee authorities were investigating the murder of 68-year-old Johnny Tesar and had identified Payton and Carter as suspects. The two allegedly took Tesar’s 2003 Chevrolet Trail Blazer after he was killed and drove it to Okemah. Carter was reportedly released from prison three months ago.
Coffee County Deputies found Tesar dead inside a camper in Beechgrove as they made a welfare check at the request of family members. Beechgrove is located about 50 miles southeast of Nashville.
According to Okemah Police Chief Ed Smith, Tennessee investigators pinged Payton’s cell phone and the results showed she was in a pasture near the Golden Pony Casino. “Officers realized she probably wasn’t out in a field, so they started driving around and checking the businesses…the casino, Shell, Love’s and Fiesta Mart,” said Smith.
Smith said Officer Ray Barrett spotted the Blazer in the parking lot of the Days Inn, located just off Interstate 40 on Woody Guthrie Street. As Barrett requested assistance from other officers, Payton and McDaniel left the motel and walked to the nearby Fiesta Mart, where they were arrested by Barrett and Officer John Woods.
According to an affidavit, McDaniel told police that Carter was still in the motel room. Officers obtained a key for the room and as they approached it, they could see Carter standing inside, talking on a cell phone. Barrett and Woods, along with Assistant Police Chief Doug Danker, entered the room and took Carter into custody without incident.
Okemah police returned to the motel Tuesday afternoon to inventory the room where the trio had been staying. Several items, including articles of clothing, were boxed up and turned over to Tennessee investigators. The Blazer was reportedly picked up by authorities over the weekend and taken back to Tennessee.
As of Monday morning, Carter and Payton remained at the Okfuskee County Jail and were waiting to be extradited to Tennessee. Both waived extradition last week, meaning they allowed themselves to be taken into custody and returned to the state where charges are pending.