McCLAIN COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The sentencing trial is underway for a man recently convicted on two first-degree murder charges in the death of a young pregnant mother and her unborn baby. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Joshua Finkbeiner.
In opening arguments Wednesday, prosecutors told the jury, “She didn’t die easily and she didn’t die quickly.”
In 2018, the body of Shaliyah Toombs was found in the back of a truck in Goldsby. Investigators said the driver, Daniel Vasquez, told a Chickasaw Lighthorse Police officer he ran out of gas.
In late April of that year, prosecutors said Toombs borrowed Stacy Harjo’s Jeep to go to a doctor’s appointment. Inside the car was a backpack that belonged to her boyfriend, Joshua Finkbeiner. He told investigators it contained a hardhat, tools, and a hard drive. Prosecutors estimated the value of the items inside were only a couple hundred dollars.
“He killed Shaliyah Toombs over nothing,” a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Harjo and Finkbeiner believed Toombs stole the backpack.
Jurors saw threatening text messages Harjo sent the nearly 8-month pregnant Toombs. The 23-year-old repeatedly told them she didn’t know where the bag was.
Prosecutors said the couple confronted Toombs at her Oklahoma City apartment, where she was hanging out with Daniel Vasquez. Harjo and Finkbeiner forced Toombs into the truck, at gun point, to look for the bag. Vasquez went with them.
The four allegedly drove around all night searching. Prosecutors said the drive had to have been “terrorizing” for the young mother of two.
Prosecutors said the three suspects tried to figure out how to kill Toombs in front of her.
At some point, Shaliyah sent her mom a text that said “They gonna kill me mom help me.”
Prosecutors said Harjo directed Finkbeiner to strangle Toombs. They said ‘she fought and clawed and begged’ while saying “Please don’t” and “I’m sorry, Josh.”
Prosecutors said Finkbeiner squeezed Toombs’ throat multiple times, but did not follow through. His defense attorneys said Finkbeiner’s humanity stopped him from taking Toombs’ life. They told the jury their client was a big and tall man and could’ve killed her if he wanted to.
Prosecutors said Harjo then told Vasquez to “finish her off.” Vasquez then reached into the back seat and strangled Toombs for five minutes.
After the killing, prosecutors showed a video Finkbeiner shot of Vasquez for “insurance.” In the video, they show Shaliyah’s lifeless body. Vasquez says “I told you I’d get you back.” His motive was allegedly a stolen wallet.
Prosecutors and investigators said the plan was for Vasquez to take the truck and hide Toombs’ body in acid, a hog farm, or Mexico, while the couple drove off to Arkansas.
Vasquez didn’t get very far. Days later he was found with the truck in Goldsby.
Harjo and Finkbeiner were caught in Arkansas.
On Wednesday, Toombs’ mother, Twyla Taylor, told the jury “My life will never be the same. My heart will never be the same.”
The defense brought in several people from his childhood and adult life, attempting to paint a picture of who Finkbeiner was before the crime and who he is now.
A family friend, who babysat him as a child, told the jury Finkbeiner grew up with a physically abusive father. During cross examination, the witness told prosecutors several children are beaten by their parents.
A childhood friend told the jury Finkbeiner was a quiet and kind kid. He said Finkbeiner had no problems saying “no” when it came to breaking the rules.
Fellow inmates testified Finkbeiner would settle fights in jail with his words and never got physically violent.
Correctional officers testified they never had any problems with Finkbeiner acting out in jail.
The sentencing trial starts back up Thursday morning.
In 2021, Vasquez was convicted of two first-degree murder charges. Jurors sentenced him to the death penalty.
Harjo remains in jail.