- Murder for hire -
collect insurance money
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder:
Date of arrest:
3 days after
Date of birth:
Victim profile: James
Plantz, 33 (her husband)
Method of murder:
Beating with baseball bats - Burn
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA
by lethal injection in Oklahoma on May 1,
Plantz hired her teenage boyfriend Clifford Bryson and his friend
William McKimble to kill her husband for about $300,000 in life
Entering his home after work, he was ambushed by Bryson and McKimble and
beaten with ball bats while Plantz and kids were asleep in bed.
Plantz got up and instructed them to "burn him" to make it look like an
accident. They drove him to deserted location, doused him and his pickup
with gasoline and set it on fire.
McKimble pled to Life and testified. Plantz and Bryson were tried
jointly. Bryson was executed in 2000.
Oklahoma Attorney General
W.A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General - Execution
Date Set for Marilyn Plantz
March 8, 2001
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal
Appeals today set May 1 as the execution date for Oklahoma death row
inmate Marilyn Plantz, who engineered the 1988 murder of her husband to
collect on an insurance policy.
According to Attorney General Drew
Edmondson. Plantz, 40, lost her final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court
on Feb. 26, and Edmondson immediately requested the Court of Criminal
Appeals to schedule her execution. Plantz is one of two women on
Oklahoma's death row.
The other, Lois Nadean Smith, has only a final
appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court remaining. A third female death row
inmate, Wanda Jean Allen, was executed in January.
Plantz was romantically involved with William
Clifford Bryson, and had spoken to him and others about murdering her
husband so she could collect the death benefit from an insurance policy
valued at about $300,000.
James Plantz, 33, who worked the night shift
at the printing plant at the Daily Oklahoman, was ambushed in his home
by Bryson and Clinton McKimble after returning to his Oklahoma City home
from work on Aug. 26, 1988.
Marilyn Plantz was present as the men
severely beat James Plantz with baseball bats provided by his wife.
James Plantz was then loaded into his own pickup truck and driven to the
6500 block of N.E. 50th Street, where the truck was set on fire.
Marilyn Plantz was convicted March 24, 1989, and
sentenced to death March 31, 1989. Bryson also received a death sentence
and was executed June 15, 2000. McKimble received a life sentence for
his part in the murder.
"Marilyn Plantz orchestrated and participated in
the brutal murder of her husband," Edmondson said. "My thoughts are with
the Plantz family, and those who have been deprived of the company of
James Plantz for more than a decade following his untimely and
Marilyn Plantz was sentenced to death for the 1988
murder of her husband, James Plantz, 33.
In June of 2000, William Clifford Bryson, 29, was
executed by injection for his part in the murder.
Thirteen relatives and friends of Jim Plantz,
including his two sisters, father and brother, were at the prison for
After a tour of the penitentiary, Karen Lowery, Jim's
sister, said Bryson's death does not mean a victory for her family. "It's
a no-win situation. Nobody is going to win in the end," Lowery said.
Sharon Cotton, Jim's other sister, said before the execution that his
death would only provide partial closure for the family. "Marilyn Plantz
and Clifford Bryson (have) lived almost 12 years since Jim was murdered;
that is 12 years longer than my brother lived."
She said executing
Bryson would provide her family the justice they have sought since the
killing. "He didn't think twice about taking my brother's life," she
said of Bryson. "He didn't think about the children or my brother's
family and how that would affect us for the rest of our lives."
State Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Jim Plantz
"suffered a horrible, cruel, painful death. Prosecutors said Bryson and
Marilyn Plantz planned to collect an insurance policy of about $319,000
for James' accidental death. Marilyn Plantz was the beneficiary.
On Aug. 26, 1988, after Jim Plantz returned home from
working the night shift as a pressroom supervisor at The Oklahoman,
Bryson, then 18, and friend Clinton McKimble ambushed him and beat him
with 2 baseball bats provided from their son's room by his wife, who
also was present.
McKimble, who received a life sentence for testifying
against Bryson, said they left him on the floor bloody and hurt, then
Marilyn Plantz looked at her husband's head injuries from the beating
and remarked that it didn't look like an accident. "She told us to burn
him," McKimble testified.
Plantz was still alive when he was loaded into a
pickup truck and driven to a remote area, where he and the vehicle were
doused with gasoline and set ablaze. The medical evidence showed that he
was alive at the time because of smoke that was inhaled into his lungs.
Bryson told police he and Marilyn Plantz planned to
move out of state and get married. Bryson said Marilyn Plantz told him
her husband had threatened to kill himself and her if she divorced him.
Plantz denied being involved in the killing.
Marilyn Plantz was a homemaker and Sunday school
teacher, and they raised their 2 children in a quiet, Midwest City
Their two children were asleep in a bedroom when the
attack occurred. Lowery said she was stunned when she received the call
that her brother had been the victim of a homicide, and then learned his
wife and her lover were accused. "It's like when you hear people talk
about the perfect marriage -- they never argued, never fought, no cross
words," Lowery said.
Jim was the third of four children and grew up in
the Shawnee and Pink areas of Pottawatomie County. He was remembered as
fun-loving, a punctual and dependable employee and a devoted father to
Trina, 9, and Christopher, 6. "His kids were his No. 1 priority. He was
rarely seen without the two kids," Cotton said.
Death Penalty Institute of Oklahoma
Marilyn Kay Plantz, 40, was executed on May 1, 2001,
via lethal injection at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Plantz
was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of her husband, James Earl
William Bryson, who was executed on June 15, 2000,
was also sentenced to death for this murder. Clinton Eugene McKimble was
also charged with first-degree murder in this case. He pled guilty and
was given a sentence of life imprisonment in exchange for his testimony
against Plantz and Bryson.
Plantz was the second woman executed since statehood
(1907) as well as the second woman executed this year. (Wanda Jean Allen
was executed on January 11, 2001.) Her execution also marked Oklahoma's
climb to number two in executions per capita. Only Delaware has a higher
per-capita execution rate.
Early morning on Friday, August 26, 1988, James Earl
Plantz, 33, was found dead in his pickup. Prosecutors alleged that
Plantz was beaten with baseball bats at his Midwest City home and then
burned in his pickup at a secluded location.
The following Monday, police arrested the victim's
wife, Marilyn Kay Plantz, 27, on a murder charge. Investigators believed
she had paid someone to kill her husband. William Clifford Bryson, 18,
and Clinton Eugene McKimble, 18, were arrested the next day.
Wednesday, Marilyn Plantz, William Bryson and Clinton McKimble were all
charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors announced that they would
seek the death penalty.
Police stated that collection on two life
insurance policies on James Plantz, which were worth $319,000, was the
probable reason behind his murder. Prosecutors stated that McKimble and
Bryson were hired by Marilyn Plantz to kill her husband.
On October 20, prosecutors agreed to let McKimble
plead guilty to murder and be sentenced to life imprisonment. As part of
the agreement, he would testify against Plantz and Bryson.
At a preliminary hearing for Bryson and Plantz,
Roderick Eugene Farris testified that Plantz said the murder would "have
to look life an accident." He also stated that a few days earlier Bryson
had said his girlfriend, Marilyn Plantz, had called and was crying
because her husband had beaten her.
In videotaped testimony, Bryson told police how he
and an accomplice beat James Plantz. Bryson said, "I didn't have no
specific reason why I killed him. All I was thinking while I was beating
him was all the times she came up to me with a black eye and crying. I
didn't like that."
In the videotape, Bryson said that he loves Marilyn
Plantz. He also stated that Marilyn said her husband had threatened to
kill himself and her if she divorced him. Plantz denied any roll in the
killing of her husband. She told police they had a perfect marriage.
Defense attorneys argued that Bryson and Plantz should have separate
trials, because the defendants had inconsistent, mutually antagonistic,
defenses. Oklahoma County District Judge Charles Owens ruled that they
would be tried together.
Joyce Gilchrist, a chemist for the Oklahoma
City Police Department, testified in the trial of Plantz and Bryson.
Recently the FBI studied eight cases on which Gilchrist had worked,
finding serious errors in 75% of them.
At the trial in March 1989, jurors took less than
three hours to find Plantz and Bryson guilty of the murder of James
Plantz, of conspiracy to murder, of recruiting others to help, and of
arson. Neither Plantz nor Bryson testified during the trial.
The next day jurors deliberated for five hours before
voting in favor of death sentences for both Marilyn Plantz and William
Bryson. They were each also sentenced to 100 years for recruiting others
to help in the murder, 10 years for conspiracy to murder, and a 15-year
sentence for burning the pickup truck.
Trina Plantz Wells, 21, who is the daughter of
Marilyn and Jim Plantz, pled for the board to spare her mother's life.
Wells was reported as having cried throughout the entire hearing. She
recently reconciled with her mother after having had no contact with her
for 13 years.
In a videotaped statement, Wells said "My father's gone
and we need a mom, whether or not she is in prison. We need to have a
relationship with her. I really don't want my mom to die -- that is my
hope. I've had 13 years to think about it. "I love my father. He was my
hero. But it is not fair to me to have to go to another funeral and
devastating death like this." Karen Lowery, the sister of Jim Plantz,
asked the board to let the execution take place.
She stated that Marilyn
did not show remorse during the preliminary hearing or the trial. She
also stated that she believed the death penalty can deter criminals.
a barely audible voice, Plantz apologized to the families, mentioning
each sibling, parent and child by name. "It's hard to think about living
the rest of my life in prison. But now I have a reason to live. I want
to live for my daughter and, hopefully, for my son."
Call for a Moratorium
On Thursday, April 26, the Oklahoma Criminal Defense
Trial Lawyers Association (OCDTLA) called for an immediate moratorium on
executions in Oklahoma, beginning with that of Marilyn Plantz.
conference was held due to the questionable work of chemist Joyce
Gilchrist, including the capital cases of 10 inmates who have
subsequently been executed. Attorney Jack Dempsey, spokesperson for the
OCDTLA, said "If one juror was convinced to give the death penalty to
Marilyn Plantz due to the testimony of Ms Gilchrist, Marilyn should not
be executed next Tuesday." Also speaking on behalf of the OCDTLA were
attorneys Doug Parr and Catherine Burton.
Vigils were held at approximately one dozen locations
across the state. Around two dozen people attended the prayer vigil held
outside the gates of the penitentiary.
May 1, 2001
Almost 13 years after Jim Plantz was beaten and
burned to death in a murder-for-insurance-money scheme, his wife -
Marilyn Kay Plantz - died by lethal injection Tuesday night for her part
in the slaying.
Marilyn Plantz was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m. after
being injected with a poisonous mix of drugs at the Oklahoma State
Her death sentence came after her plot to kill her
husband and collect a $300,000 life insurance policy unraveled in August
1988. Jim Plantz, a press supervisor for The Oklahoman, was ambushed by
William Clifford Bryson and Clinton Eugene McKimble as he came home from
work. Marilyn Plantz recruited the pair to carry out the killing.
They waited for him inside his Midwest City home and
attacked him with his son's baseball bats. During the attack, he cried
out "Marilyn!" to no avail. She was in another room, waiting for the
assault to end. "For the past 13 years, she's been able to live, breathe
and hope," Clovis Plantz, the victim's brother, said Tuesday afternoon.
"His last hope was when he was being beaten, when he called out to her
After the beating, Bryson and McKimble took Jim Plantz and
his pickup to a rural road in eastern Oklahoma County, put him inside
the truck and set it on fire.
They tried to make the killing look like a
traffic accident. Evidence showed that Jim Plantz was still alive when
the fire started. He tried to get out of the pickup, but quickly
succumbed to the flames and smoke. Marilyn Plantz stayed at the house
and tried to clean blood stains from her carpet.
Relatives said they
initially believed the accident story she concocted. They offered to
help her, even after her arrest. "That's how unbelieving we were," said
Karen Lowery, Jim Plantz's sister. "We even tried to get a lawyer for
her. Then the detectives started telling us what they found. "She hid it
well. She acted like she always had." The investigation and trial
changed their minds. "The day they picked her up ... and when they
started finding things out about her, that's when she died as far as I'm
concerned," said Earl Plantz, her former father-in-law.
Marilyn Plantz and Bryson were convicted of 1st-degree
murder and sentenced to die. Bryson was executed June 15. The 3rd co-defendant,
McKimble, testified against the other 2 in exchange for a life sentence.
Jim Plantz's insurance policy eventually was awarded to his 2 children,
Trina Plantz Wells and Chris Plantz. Hanging over the execution were
continuing questions over Joyce Gilchrist, the Oklahoma City crime lab
manager who is being investigated by the FBI amid allegations that she
misidentified evidence and gave improper testimony.
at Plantz's trial, but her testimony was limited and had little impact
on the case, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said. Her death ends a long
vigil for Jim Plantz's family. 12 family members and 3 other supporters
were scheduled to witness the execution.
Forgiveness, Lowery said, is
unlikely. Earl Plantz agrees, but he does have lingering questions. He
said that Marilyn Plantz was readily accepted by the family when she
married his son and that his son's death was like "a stab in the back."
He still is puzzled how a seemingly healthy marriage ended so violently.
"All I want to know is why."
Plantz becomes the 11th condemned inmate, and the 2nd
female, to be put to death this year in Oklahoma, and the 41st overall
since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. Plantz becomes the
28th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the
711th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
Plantz v. State,
876 P2d 268 (Okla. 1994).
Appellant Marilyn Kay Plantz was tried by jury and
convicted for the crimes of Murder in the First Degree (Count I) in
violation of 21 O.S.Supp.1982, § 701.7 ; Third Degree Arson (Count II)
in violation of 21 O.S.1981, § 1403(A) ; Solicitation to Commit Murder (Count
III) in violation of 21 O.S.1981, §§ 701.7 and Conspiracy to Commit
Murder (Count IV) in violation of 21 O.S.1981, §§ 421 Case No. CRF-86-4781,
in the District Court of Oklahoma County. The jury recommended as
punishment the death penalty for Count I; fifteen (15) years
imprisonment and ten thousand dollar ($10,000) fine in Count II; one
hundred (100) years imprisonment for Count III; and ten (10) years
imprisonment on Count IV. The trial court sentenced accordingly and it
is from this judgment and sentence that Appellant appeals.
Appellant and co-defendant Clifford Bryson were found
guilty of the first degree murder of Appellant's husband, James Plantz.
On August 26, 1988, at approximately 4:00 a.m., Mr.
Plantz, a long time employee at the Oklahoma Publishing Company, left
his job and headed home. At that time Mr. Plantz was insured for
approximately two hundred ninety-nine thousand dollars ($299,000.00).
Appellant was the beneficiary.
At approximately 5:15 a.m. that same morning, in the
northeast part of Oklahoma City, the decedent's charred body was
discovered inside his burned out pickup truck. The driver's side door
The decedent's body was slumped behind the steering wheel and
his left leg was outside the pickup, his foot resting flat on the ground.
Identified by dental records, an autopsy later revealed that the
decedent had died from a combination of a blunt force injury to the head
and thermal injuries caused by the fire.
The ensuing investigation into the homicide lead to
Appellant and Bryson. They had an ongoing personal relationship and had
previously attempted to have the decedent killed.
Appellant had indicated to Bryson the decedent was
abusive to her and she wanted to get rid of him and collect on his life
insurance policy. Appellant had approached Bryson and Clinton McKimble
about killing the decedent and collecting the life insurance proceeds.
She suggested the men drive up on the side of his pickup and shoot him,
or catch him coming home from work and beat him.
McKimble was offered forty-five thousand dollars
($45,000.00) for his part. At that time, McKimble indicated he was not
sure he wanted to be a part of the plan. He subsequently changed his
With Appellant's help, he and Bryson stole a car and
waited for the decedent to get off work. The plan was to drive up behind
the decedent, bump his pickup so that the decedent would have to pull
over and exit the vehicle, at which time they would kill him with
baseball bats provided by Appellant.
When the men lost the decedent's
pickup in the highway traffic, the plan was abandoned. Appellant
subsequently gave Bryson a gun to shoot the decedent, but he pawned it.
Clinton McKimble was also charged with the first degree murder of James
Plantz. He pled guilty to the charge in exchange for a life sentence.
Bryson subsequently offered Roderick Farris
($40,000.00) to kill the decedent. Terry Norman overheard Bryson say he
had just talked to Appellant. She was upset because the decedent had
physically assaulted her. When Farris asked why she just did not divorce
Bryson answered that she wanted to collect some money.
Bryson indicated that if he had to kill the decedent by himself, he was
going to catch the decedent coming home from work one morning, beat him
with a baseball bat and set him on fire in his truck.
A week later, Farris again encountered Bryson and
Appellant at a local grocery store. Bryson offered Farris ten thousand
dollars ($10,000.00) to kill the decedent. He then introduced Farris to
Appellant as "the one I was telling you about that would kill your
husband." Appellant told Farris it would have to look like an accident.
Later that night Bryson, Farris, and McKimble met at
the Plantz home where they ate hamburgers and listened to music while
waiting for the decedent to come home from work. When Farris heard
someone at the front door, Appellant told him if it was the decedent to
"take him out now".
Bryson picked up a hammer and McKimble a knife, but
it was not the decedent. Later that night, Farris was arrested and
jailed on an unrelated charge.
Two days later, Bryson and McKimble were again with
Appellant. Bryson picked Appellant up from work, where she had just quit
her job. Waiting for the decedent to go to work at 6:00 p.m., they drove
around, going to a bank where Appellant withdrew money she subsequently
spent on cocaine and beer.
Arriving at the Plantz home later that evening,
Appellant retired to her bedroom at approximately 10:30 p.m. Bryson and
McKimble remained in the living room drinking beer and smoking cocaine
until approximately 11:30 p.m., when they fell asleep.
Hours later, hearing a key in the front door, they
hid on opposite sides of the house. The decedent entered the house
whistling, a bag of groceries in his arms. Bryson struck first, hitting
the decedent with the baseball bat.
The decedent cried out for Appellant,
but Bryson hit him again with McKimble soon joining in. The men
repeatedly struck the decedent because "he would not stay down". Finally,
the decedent crumpled to the floor.
As he lay moaning, Bryson and McKimble picked him up
and took him outside, setting him beside his pickup truck. Appellant
emerged from the house, handed the pickup keys to Bryson and commented
that the decedent's "head was busted open" and that it was not going to
look much like an accident. She told the men "to burn him."
They placed him in the bed of his pickup and Bryson
drove to a deserted location on the route the decedent would have taken
to work. McKimble followed in Appellant's car. The decedent was then
placed in the cab of the pickup, behind the steering wheel. His body
slumped over to the side.
McKimble placed a rag in the gas tank and lit
it. It failed to catch on fire. Bryson then poured gasoline on the
decedent and in the cab of the pickup. He threw a match in and the
pickup caught on fire. As the men drove away, they turned around and saw
the decedent raise up.
Bryson and McKimble returned to the Plantz home where
Appellant was cleaning up the blood. McKimble helped clean the floor and
while Appellant cleaned the baseball bats.
She directed the men to exchange their bloody clothes
for clothes belonging to the decedent. She placed their bloody clothes
in a sack and told them to get rid of the sack.
The men soon left
Appellant's home, throwing the sack of bloody clothes in the river.
After going to a convenience store where they purchased sandwiches and
drinks with money from the decedent's trousers, they went to a friends
home, Michael Kendrick.
Bryson and McKimble told Kendrick about killing the
decedent. When asked about Appellant's two children, Bryson said they
were asleep in their rooms at the time of the murder.
Appellant, asking if she was all right. Kendrick overheard Bryson to say
that they must stay close and that Appellant had purchased a rug to
cover up blood stains.
Marilyn Kay Plantz