Oklahoma Tulsa police mistakenly destroy gun in murder case

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Tulsa police say they accidentally destroyed the gun they believe an Oklahoma man may have used to fatally shoot a Tulsa couple.

The Tulsa World reported Monday that the missing gun could allow Phillip Anthony Summers to avoid the death penalty in his retrial.

Officer Jason Willingham said an internal investigation found the gun police believe was used in the shooting death of Shelly and Ples Vann. Jr. had been mistakenly destroyed because of a clerical error.

Summers was originally sentenced to death but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a new trial, saying that Summers should have been able to present testimony about an alternative perpetrator.

Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said the murder weapon's destruction "greatly affects our ability to proceed with a death penalty request" in Summers' retrial.

Summers' lawyer said that developments in cases involving Summers-- who is already serving time on unrelated federal charges -- have led to a possible plea deal in the murder case.

Willingham said the department also destroyed a rape kit but that the defendant in that case was convicted nonetheless. The department has since added extra precautions to avoid destroying necessary evidence in the future, he said.

Published: Tue, Feb 7, 2012