OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new federal lawsuit is blaming Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for a 2021 triple murder. The plaintiffs state that if Stitt hadn’t approved the parole board’s decision to release Lawrence Anderson from prison, he would have never gone on his alleged killing spree.
The families of victims Andrea Blankenship, age 41, Leon Pye, age 68, and Kaeos Yates, age 4, are calling the release of Anderson grossly negligent, reckless, and intentional.
“A tragedy could have really been prevented if people would have done their jobs and followed proper procedures,” said Kaeos’ mother Tasha Yates.
The Monday court filing is accusing the governor and parole board of “improperly” releasing Anderson from prison, and therefore, demanding they take accountability in the triple murder he allegedly committed afterwards.
In February 2021 – three weeks after his release – investigators said Anderson broke into Andrea Blankenship’s Chickasha home, killed her, and allegedly carved out her heart.
They report Anderson then walked to his aunt and uncle’s home, cooked the heart, and tried to feed it to them before he allegedly attacked the two and their visiting granddaughter, 4 year-old Kaeos.
The child and her grandfather would die from their injuries.
“Because no one did their job, our little girl don’t get to ever come home,” Tasha told KFOR.
In the new lawsuit, Tasha and her co-plaintiffs say that in an effort to save money by reducing the incarceration rate, Governor Stitt “planned to push as many prisoners through the pardon, parole, and commutation process so as to release as many as possible, as quickly as possible.”
The plaintiffs state that Anderson was denied commutation in 2019, but that with “deliberate indifference” the governor and parole board commuted Anderson a year later in violation of a required three-year waiting period between commutation applications, a policy that is supposed to “protect the public from violent offenders.”
In a statement on Monday, Stitt spokesperson Carly Atchison told KFOR:
“What happened to the victims in this case is inexplicable and a product of absolute evil. The governor mourns alongside of and prays for the victims’ families. To be absolutely clear, lawyers’ decision to name the governor as a defendant is a political stunt. Under the Governmental Tort Claims Act, the lawsuit could have been filed as early as May 10, 2022. If it were a serious lawsuit, they would have filed it then instead of waiting 4 days within a political election. Courts routinely dismiss lawsuits based on pardon and parole decisions, and we expect a dismissal in this case.”
Tom Bates, the director of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, told KFOR, “The Pardon and Parole Board has no comment on pending litigation.”
In September at the Grady County Courthouse, Anderson waived his right to a preliminary hearing which means the case will head to trial.
His formal arraignment is set for November 22 at 9 a.m.