Health crisis delays hearings for murder suspects
By Ken Childers
The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in delayed preliminary hearings for two local murder suspects.
Tommy Gouge, who allegedly called police on Valentine’s Day to report that he had killed his wife, and Joshua Green, accused of double homicide and arson, have had their court dates pushed back from mid-April to early June.
The Okfuskee County Courthouse, by order of the county commissioners, has been closed to the public since March 18, and on March 27 the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered courthouses in all 77 counties to close. Under the order, all jury trials are canceled through May 15 and all procedures in civil, juvenile and criminal cases are suspended through that date.
According to court records, preliminary hearings for both men were scheduled for April 16, but in light of the Supreme Court order, Green’s hearing has been rescheduled for June 4 and Gouge will have his hearing on June 11.
Green, 29 was charged in February with two counts of murder in the first degree-deliberate attempt and one count of arson in relation to the deaths of 57-year-old Tina Burleigh and her 22-year-old son, Tim Rush.
On Feb. 5, Okfuskee County Sheriff Jim Rasmussen requested the assistance of the OSBI after reports of an early morning house fire at the 100000 block of North 3840 Road. The bodies of Burleigh and Rush were discovered inside the home, and officials say they had been murdered before the house was set on fire.
Green was identified as a suspect and led authorities on a 16-hour manhunt before being apprehended at a home in Clearview. Authorities say he swam naked through two creeks and trudged barefoot through snow-packed terrain during the manhunt.
On Friday, Feb. 14, Gouge allegedly called the Okemah Police Department and said that he had killed his wife, Stephanie. He told the dispatcher he would be waiting unarmed in the yard of his home on Main Street in Clearview with his three children.
Authorities found Gouge standing in the yard with a 12-year-old girl, an 8-year-old boy, and girl who was about to turn two. The children were placed in DHS Custody and Gouge was arrested without incident and transported to the Okfuskee County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Rasmussen, Gouge admitted to bludgeoning his wife to death after an argument over text messages he had discovered on her cell phone. Court records show that Stephanie had filed a protective order against Gouge on Jan. 10, but withdrew it on Jan. 24, telling the court she did not wish to move forward with the order.
Both suspects have entered pleas of not guilty and remain incarcerated at the Okfuskee County Jail.