Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Cathouse Murders

David Allen Tyner

David Allen Tyner
David Allen Tyner
Aware that he was being hunted as a suspect for six murders, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, a week after the slayings, David Allen Tyner surrendered to authorities in Mayes County, northeast of Tulsa, near the Missouri and Arkansas borders. He was taken into custody without incident, and was brought back to the Oklahoma County Jail where he was held pending charges. Detectives indicated that they did not believe he had acted alone, and acknowledged that they had identified a second suspect but were not yet ready to release his name.

"We don't believe [Tyner] acted alone," Knight said. "We've identified the one suspect, but that doesn't yet tell us what his motive is for doing this....Often times these investigations are like a big puzzle to solve, and certainly that can present a challenge, but not a challenge that we can't overcome."

A major reason that detectives did not believe that Tyner had acted alone was the fact that bullet casings from two different guns had been found at the crime scene, typically indicating that at least two shooters had been involved.

There was also speculation that Tyner, for reasons not yet ascertained by police, may have been gunning for Barrientos and that the others had been taken out because they had been witnesses who could identify Tyner to the police if allowed to live.

Investigators learned that Tyner, a member of the Cherokee Nation, was a member of a gang known as the Indian Brotherhood. According to Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetzel, a number of altercations at three prisons between American Indian and Hispanic inmates had followed Tyner's arrest, and Whetzel and others in Oklahoma law enforcement believed these had been deliberately coordinated and were related somehow to Tyner and to Barrientos, who had been Hispanic. A number of inmates from the correctional facilities affected were hospitalized with stab wounds before corrections officials tightened security and stopped the violent outbursts. No reasons were given as to why authorities believed the violence had been deliberately coordinated.

Tyner had been an All-American wrestler in high school, and it was reported that he had wrestled at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga prior to joining the Marines. He was characterized by his high school coach, Johnny Cook, as having been a "good kid" and that the charges against him did not fit his character.

"He obviously had a strong work ethic and a strong will to succeed, being a two-time All-American and a state runner-up," Cook said in an interview with the Cherokee Phoenix. "But he was very kind-hearted, too. If someone was being bullied or picked on in school, he would take up for that individual. That's the David I knew...he would give you the shirt off his back."

Tyner was subsequently charged with six counts of murder, but investigators still did not propose a definite motive for the killings, although they continued to theorize that the murders may have been motivated by a drug operation or drug deal gone bad. Tyner has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Bolstering the potential drug operation theory, in addition to the drugs, paraphernalia, and money found inside the house after the fire had been extinguished, was the fact that Casey Barrientos had felt the need for a bodyguard. Barrientos had also been known to wear a great deal of jewelry, had been present at a location where it appeared that drug deals had been conducted, and an estimated $10,000 in jewelry that Barrientos was believed to have been wearing was mostly missing when his body was found. According to published reports, police believed the shooters had stolen the jewelry: a white gold cross necklace with diamonds, matching white gold and diamond earrings, and a white gold bracelet adorned with diamonds.

A friend of Brooke Phillips maintained that Brooke was not involved with drugs directly and that she had likely been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Brooke never used drugs," her friend said. "She barely even drank. But she did date a drug dealer on and off."

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