Payne County District Judge Phillip Corley reduced a charge Thursday against Doris Sharrane Rigsby, 34, of Waukomis, from first-degree murder to child neglect resulting in death.
Corley also dropped a murder charge against Heather Gaddis, 30, who was accused of selling the drugs the teenager took, during a preliminary hearing Thursday. Now, only one person originally charged last fall in the death of 15-year-old Linda Renee Tucker still faces a murder charge, Rigsby’s boyfriend, Jeffery Alan Phillips, 30, of Enid.
Gaddis’ friends and family cried and hugged when Corley dismissed her charge.
And not a moment too soon — Gaddis is eight months pregnant.
“I have to go get her some clothes. She has no clothes that fit her. She came in wearing a size one jeans,” her mother, Diana Brooks, said after court. Gaddis, Rigsby and Phillips were charged and booked into the Payne County Jail last September.
Gaddis, of Tulsa, ended up wearing clothes from the jail when she left. Her family went into the jail’s garage in a white car and came out with her in tow.
Linda Tucker died after using methamphetamine while at a family reunion at Lake Carl Blackwell in June 2010.
Gaddis may have sold meth to Linda Tucker’s brother, Joseph Tucker, but that sale did not directly kill Linda Tucker, Corley said during court.
State law allows prosecutors to press murder charges if someone dies unintentionally during the commission of another felony, such as possessing meth or distributing meth.
Corley dismissed Gaddis’ charge, then shared some stern words.
“Ms. Gaddis, I do not condone what you did. Your actions did lead indirectly to a death … you should take a long look at that and think about what you’ve done and change your ways real quick,” Corley said.
District Attorney Tom Lee said he will recommend the Washington County District Attorney’s Office press meth distribution charges against Gaddis. According to testimony, Joseph Tucker bought the meth while at his grandfather’s house in Washington County.
Corley refused to drop Phillips’ charge. According to testimony at earlier hearings, Phillips prepared drugs for Linda Tucker to inject. Phillips will appear before Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler May 6.
Before the hearing started Thursday morning, Rigsby waived her right to the hearing, and Corley amended her charge. Rigsby will appear before Kistler on her new charge May 6. Deputies took her back to the jail, and the hearing proceeded without her.
The first witness was Chai Choi, a pathologist with the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office who performed an autopsy on Linda Tucker’s body.
Choi’s report states Linda Tucker’s cause of death was meth overdose and the manner of death was homicide. While answering attorneys’ questions, Choi said homicide is a medical term, but also said she made that determination based on information Stillwater police gave her last summer. Phillips’ attorney, Corbin Brewster, asked if court testimony stating Linda Tucker injected herself would change Choi’s opinion of the manner of death. Choi said yes, but she can’t change an autopsy report without a court order.
She also said she has no way of knowing which injection sites on Linda Tucker’s body took in the meth that killed her. Choi did not carefully inspect injection sites in the fold of Linda Tucker’s arm or on her leg because she believed paramedics were responsible for those.
Paramedic Jory Stanley testified later in the day and confirmed emergency workers tried to inject an IV into her arm, and when it wouldn’t work, they inserted it into her leg.
Joseph Tucker, Linda Tucker’s brother and the prosecutor’s main witness, also testified Thursday. While Gaddis’ attorney Jodie Gage cross-examined him, he admitted he had been using meth until he was arrested for failing to show up at last month’s hearing in the case. Joseph Tucker used meth the day before he testified at a January hearing, he said.
“What I said was the truth but my mind wasn’t right,” he said.
Joseph Tucker also said he was so high the night of his sister’s death, he was “stupid” and doesn’t remember everything that happened.
Rigsby’s sister, Nicole Hux, sat outside the courtroom during the hearing. Linda Tucker lived with Hux for a few months because she and Rigsby had a rocky relationship, Hux has said. Hux wasn’t upset Corley amended Rigsby’s sentence, saying she thinks Rigsby could spend time in prison on her new charge.
Rigsby and Phillips are being held in the Payne County Jail in lieu of $50,000 each.
Joseph Tucker was released. The Payne County District Attorney’s Office has given him immunity from charges in exchange for his testimony.