Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 18, 2012

Family plea runs deep

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — Tearful words, complete with a plea for forgiveness, came from a defendant moments after he pleaded guilty to causing the injuries that killed his uncle last year in Wynnewood.

The emotional address by 21-year-old Zachary Deitrick came late Monday morning in a Pauls Valley courtroom during what had been scheduled to be the start of a non-jury trial in his first-degree manslaughter case.

Instead Deitrick reversed his plea and now awaits an unknown number of years in prison with a sentencing date scheduled for late January.

Deitrick was initially facing a murder charge after he fought with his uncle, Gregory Cook, and his father at a Wynnewood residence on April 18, 2011.

Cook was airlifted from the scene but died later that same night at Pauls Valley General Hospital.

The criminal charge was later amended to a manslaughter allegation. During Monday’s proceeding Deitrick agreed to put himself at the mercy of the court and his family members looking on in a Garvin County District courtroom.

“There’s not a day goes by I don’t think about it,” Deitrick said while choking back the emotions of the moment.

“I want to ask for forgiveness from my family. I want to do whatever I can to make this better on my family. That’s why I chose to plead guilty,” he said.

A voice from the courtroom spectators gave Deitrick a quick answer for his plea.

“I forgive you Zac and so does God. We love you,” said Larry Landress, uncle of Deitrick.

Tears continued to flow as Deitrick offered more during his plea for forgiveness, while also giving a brief peek into his thoughts about an incident that claimed the life of a family member.

“I’m sorry for what I did; because I did throw the punches; because of the blows from a fight and he died as a result,” Deitrick said.

“It all comes back on me. I never wanted my uncle to die. I didn’t know him that well, but he didn’t deserve to die. It wasn’t what I wanted,” he said.

“I apologize to my family. If I could take it back I would in a heart beat. I’m completely sorry.”

The defendant’s emotional address came shortly after his defense attorney Arlan Bullard announced Deitrick was waiving his right to a trial and was “entering a blind plea,” which means he is changing his plea even without a plea agreement in place with prosecutors.

He then reversed his plea to guilty and will now await the judge’s decision on his punishment.

The completion of a pre-sentence investigation is the next step followed by his sentencing now set for a 9 a.m. start on Jan. 28.

The only real question now centers on the number of years Deitrick will face in prison.

District Judge Greg Dixon explained to the defendant he is facing not less than four years incarceration and will be required to serve at least 85 percent of the term.