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Joshua Steven DURCHO





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Rape - To eliminate them as witnesses
Number of victims: 5
Date of murder: January 12, 2009
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: February 21, 1983
Victims profile: His girlfriend Summer Rust, 25; her daughters, Kirsten Rust, 7, Autumn Rust, 7; and Evynn Garas, 3; and her son, Teagin Rust, 4
Method of murder: Ligature strangulation
Location: El Reno, Canadian County, Oklahoma, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to five consecutive life prison sentences without parole on September 13, 2012
photo gallery

Joshua Durcho Guilty: Oklahoma Man To Serve Five Life Sentences For Murder Of Summer Rust, 4 Kids

By Tim Talley -

September 14, 2012

EL RENO, Okla. — An Oklahoma man accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend and her four young children pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder Friday during an emotional hearing, thus avoiding a death sentence.

Joshua Durcho sobbed repeatedly as relatives of the five victims described how the killings have affected them. He was sentenced to five consecutive life prison sentences without parole in a plea agreement with prosecutors, who had planned to seek the death penalty at a trial that was set to begin Monday.

The victims' family members agreed to the plea deal.

"The death penalty wouldn't have made me feel any better than him being locked up forever," said Rhonda Rust, stepmother of Summer Rust, the woman who was killed. "I thank God we didn't have to go through a trial."

Durcho, 29, was charged with first-degree murder for the January 2009 deaths of 25-year-old Summer Rust and her children – 3-year-old Evynn Garas, 4-year-old Teagin Rust and 7-year-old daughters Kirsten and Autumn Rust – in the family's El Reno apartment. Autopsies showed Rust and her children died from "ligature strangulation," meaning they were strangled with something that left marks on their necks.

Prosecutors said Durcho also sexually abused the 7-year-old girls.

Durcho pleaded guilty to each murder count, agreeing with details of the killings that Canadian County District Judge Gary Miller read to him from the plea agreement.

"Yes, sir," Durcho said, after the judge asked if he had choked Summer Rust to death followed by her four children.

Rhonda Rust said the victims must have been terrified. "The horror they must have endured," she said.

She and other relatives read emotional statements, leading Durcho to weep himself.

"I never got to hear what she wanted to be when she grew up," said Crystal Franklin, the grandmother of 3-year-old Evynn. "This is a closure to part of my life. But I have the rest of my life to remember this terrible tragedy."

At one point, she spoke directly to Durcho and said, "I do forgive you and may God be with you."

John Echols, one of the defense attorneys, said Durcho met privately with family members of the victims before the hearing. He said Durcho does not remember much of what happened the day of the killings, but apologized to the relatives.

District Attorney Mike Fields said the plea agreement honors the wishes of the victims' relatives and guarantees that Durcho will spend the rest of his life in prison. In pleading guilty, Durcho agreed not to appeal his conviction and gave up all pardon, parole and commutation rights.

Last month, Dr. Shawn Roberson, a forensic psychologist with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, testified that Durcho's mental functioning was "at the low borderline range." Nonetheless, Miller rejected claims that Durcho is mentally disabled and ineligible for the death penalty.

Oklahoma law bars death sentences if a defendant meets the state definition of mental retardation, which includes an IQ of 70 or below and "significant limitations in adaptive functioning," the real-life communications, self-care and work and social skills people need to live independently and function safely and appropriately. In addition, the onset of mental retardation must occur before the age of 18.

Roberson said Durcho has been administered four IQ tests since he was 11 years old and scored between 72 and 78 on the tests. The most recent tests were administered in 2009 and 2010, and Durcho scored 72 on both.


Judge rules El Reno murder defendant is not mentally retarded

A judge has ruled against murder defendant Joshua Steven Durcho, who claimed he was ineligible for the death penalty because of mental retardation. Durcho is accused of killing his girlfriend and her four children in El Reno in 2009.

By Nolan Clay -

August 2, 2012

— A judge has rejected murder defendant Joshua Steven Durcho's mental retardation claim, meaning prosecutors still can seek the death penalty at his upcoming trial.

“This Court finds that Mr. Durcho is not mentally retarded,” Canadian County District Judge Gary E. Miller ruled in a two-page order filed Wednesday.

Durcho, 29, is accused of killing his girlfriend and her four young children inside her El Reno apartment in January 2009. His trial is set to begin Sept. 17.

The judge wrote that problems Durcho had with learning while in school could be blamed on his upbringing.

“It appeared to this Court that no one attempted to teach or instill a work ethic with Mr. Durcho, and there appeared to be no effort to instill a value system in the young man,” the judge wrote.

His attorneys claim Durcho is ineligible for the death sentence because of mental retardation.

Defense attorneys can raise their claim again with the jury at trial, should Durcho be convicted of murder.

Jurors would not be able to choose a death sentence as punishment if they decided Durcho was mentally retarded.

The term mental retardation is still found in Oklahoma law even though it has become offensive in society. It is more commonly known now as developmentally or intellectually disabled.

The judge heard testimony over four days in June and one day in July, mostly from experts. The judge also heard from Durcho's mother, stepfather, a cousin, a former girlfriend, an aunt, a half brother and an El Reno Public Schools official.

Defense proves 1 of 3 criteria

The judge ruled defense attorneys failed to prove two of the three criteria necessary for mental retardation.

Under Oklahoma law, the first requirement for a mental retardation finding is that a defendant has an IQ of 70 or below. The second requirement is that a defendant has significant limitations in at least two adaptive skills such as self care, home living or communication.

The third is that the mental difficulties showed up in a defendant's youth.

Durcho scored 72 on two IQ tests given since his arrest. One test was given in 2009 by a psychologist hired by defense attorneys. The second was given in 2011 by a psychologist hired by the prosecution.

The judge agreed that Durcho has an IQ of no more than 70 once the margin of error is applied to the tests.

However, the judge found that defense attorneys did not prove Durcho has sufficient limitations in adaptive functioning and did not prove that any mental retardation manifested itself before Durcho became 18.

The judge noted that all of the testing done on Durcho while he was in school in El Reno indicated that Durcho was learning disabled.

“He was never diagnosed with mental retardation,” the judge wrote.

The judge also noted: “Mr. Durcho's mother testified that she did not assist her son in his educational endeavors by such things as reading to him or assisting him with math. She indicated there was no importance placed on education, that Mr. Durcho was free to progress at whatever rate he chose in his formative educational years. Her primary concern was that he play football. He apparently played football for one or two years.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 ruled the death penalty could not be imposed on a “mentally retarded criminal” because of the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments.

What prosecutors allege

Prosecutors allege Durcho strangled Summer Rust, 25, when she picked up the phone to call police on him. Prosecutors say he had vowed he would never go back to prison. Durcho had been to prison in the past for marijuana possession.

Prosecutors allege he methodically strangled Rust's three daughters, Kirsten Rust, 7, Autumn Rust, 7, and Evynn Garas, 3, and her son, Teagin Rust, 4, to eliminate them as witnesses. Prosecutors also allege he sexually abused Kirsten.

The victims' bodies were found Jan. 12, 2009, in the apartment. The children's bodies had been stacked in a bathtub partially filled with water. Durcho was arrested after a car wreck in Texas.

He admitted to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents after his arrest that he had a fight with his girlfriend. He told the agents he blacked out with his hands around her neck.


Fellow inmate says El Reno slaying defendant admitted in jail to killings

Roy George Kuykendall, an inmate at Canadian County, OK, jail, says fellow inmate Joshua Steven Durcho, 28, admitted to killing his girlfriend and her four children and is faking a mental retardation claim to avoid the death penalty.

By Nolan Clay -

November 25, 2011

Prosecutors have a new witness — described as a “jailhouse informant” — in the 2009 case against a man accused of killing his girlfriend and her four children.

The witness claims Joshua Steven Durcho admitted to the killings this year as they talked in jail, sources told The Oklahoman.

The witness also claims Durcho, 28, said he is faking a mental retardation claim, the sources said.

The witness, Roy George Kuykendall, 36, is a fellow inmate at the Canadian County jail who has a widely publicized case of his own. He has been put in protective custody.

Kuykendall is accused of escaping from prison with the help of his girlfriend, a Nichols Hills attorney who represented him in a 2008 drug case. He faces felony counts of escape and conspiracy to escape in Canadian County District Court.

The attorney, Amy L. McTeer, 39, is charged with harboring a fugitive, a felony, in Oklahoma County District Court. She is charged with assisting a prisoner escape, also a felony, in Canadian County District Court. She is free on bail.

The emergence of a new witness is the latest twist in Durcho's case. It comes as the judge and attorneys have stepped up their efforts to get ready for trial.

The murder trial is now set to begin in February.

District Judge Gary E. Miller on Monday agreed to sign an order authorizing Durcho's defense attorneys to have access to relevant information from cases involving the new witness.

The witness is described as a “jailhouse informant” in a court minute on the case's online docket sheet.

Minimize publicity

The judge sealed from public view the defense's written request for information about Kuykendall and McTeer. The judge has been attempting to minimize pretrial publicity because of defense worries about finding impartial jurors.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Durcho.

Defense attorneys say they have evidence Durcho is mentally retarded and — because of that — ineligible for a death sentence.

Prosecutors allege Durcho strangled his girlfriend, Summer Rust, 25, because she threatened to call police on him and he had vowed he would never go back to prison.

They allege he strangled her three daughters, Kirsten Rust, 7, Autumn Rust, 7, and Evynn Garas, 3, and her son, Teagin Rust, 4, to eliminate them as witnesses.

The victims' bodies were found Jan. 12, 2009, in their El Reno apartment.

Durcho has spent time in prison for marijuana possession.

At the time of the deaths, warrants were out for his arrest in a drunken-driving case and a methamphetamine case.

Durcho's attorneys could not be reached for comment for this story. Kuykendall's attorney, Paul Faulk, declined to comment.

Plans to marry

Prosecutors allege Kuykendall escaped July 9 from the Union City Community Corrections Facility where he was serving a sentence for the 2008 drug offense.

He was arrested at lunchtime July 10 at a restaurant in Bricktown with McTeer, Oklahoma City police reported.

McTeer told Oklahoma City police she did not know he had escaped and that the two planned to marry the next day, according to a police report.

Nichols Hills police reported finding Kuykendall's inmate identification card hidden in a kitchen cabinet of her home.

Police also reported finding men's clothes and nine personal letters from Kuykendall to McTeer in the master bedroom.

Tattooed finger

Photos of McTeer and Kuykendall together were posted on her Facebook page. There also was a photo of her ring finger with “ROY” tattooed across it, as well as statements about their love and plans to marry.

Corrections officials said they listened to recorded conversations between Kuykendall and McTeer after discovering his escape.

In the conversations, the two discussed her picking him up on the side of the road, a Corrections Department internal affairs agent reported.

During the calls, McTeer acknowledged she was committing a crime, the agent reported.


Man Charged With Strangling Girlfriend and 4 Children, Motive Sought

January 14, 2009

A man charged with strangling his girlfriend and her four young children was in jail in Texas early Wednesday awaiting extradition to Oklahoma while investigators searched for a motive.

Joshua Steven Durcho, 25, was arrested Tuesday night in Texas' Hamilton County after his car hit a guard rail on state Highway 36 and then struck a tree, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said.

"They passed each other, our trooper is watching him in the rearview mirror, he sees him weaving, and he turns around to investigate," Vinger said. "That's when the suspect's vehicle crashed."

Vinger said Durcho's concerns about being followed by a trooper may have caused him to focus on the rearview mirror instead of the road, leading to the crash.

Durcho's identity was checked and it was determined he was wanted by Oklahoma authorities.

He was treated for minor injuries at a Hamilton, Texas, hospital and released to a state trooper who took him to the county jail, where he was being held without bail. The DPS did not have information on whether Durcho had an attorney.

Prosecutors charged Durcho with five counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday afternoon, a day after an El Reno police officer conducting a welfare check found Summer Garas, 25, and her children dead in their apartment in the Oklahoma City suburb. Each of the charges listed strangulation as the cause of death.

The children ranged in age from 3 to 7, and each had ligature marks around the neck, according to an OSBI affidavit.

Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, said investigators haven't determined a motive for the killings.

"We don't know if it's a domestic that went terribly wrong," Brown said. "I know they had their ups and downs in their relationship."

Besides Garas, daughters Kirsten Rust, 7; Autumn Rust, 6; and Evynn Garas, 3; and son Teagin Rust, 4, were killed.

Susan Rust of Carson City, Nev., Garas' mother, said her daughter had planned to end her relationship with Durcho this past Sunday.

"She said it was over and it was done, and apparently that didn't go over very well," Rust said Wednesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

"I hope he gets the slowest, most painful death, because that's what he has earned. Hell is too good for him."

After the killings, Durcho reportedly drove to Edmond and told a friend that he had "choked" Summer Garas and that he planned to flee the state, according to the affidavit. When the friend asked Durcho about the children, Durcho told her the children were with Garas' mother in Nevada.

According to the affidavit, Durcho also visited a cousin in Oakwood about 6:30 p.m. Monday and tried to get her to swap vehicles with him.

Durcho's arrest came about 24 hours after surveillance video from a truck stop in Clinton, about 60 miles west of Oklahoma City, captured his image and that of a white car authorities believe belonged to Garas.

According to court records, Durcho was convicted of car theft as a juvenile and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2003 for unlawful possession of marijuana. He was released in February 2007, records show.

"He has been in and out of jail most of his adult life," Brown said.

Durcho's page on the MySpace social networking Web site includes pictures of him in a sleeveless shirt, flexing his tattooed arms. He lists interests including tattoos, bodybuilding and the gory "Saw" film series. It includes a warning:

"Danger many illegal activities in progress. Enter at your own risk."

Summer Garas was a student at nearby Redlands Community College, where she was studying to be a legal assistant, school officials confirmed.

"From what I have heard, she was a very intelligent young woman and very well liked by her peers," college spokeswoman Meg Cannon said. "Obviously, we are going to miss her, and her family is in our thoughts and prayers."

Court records show that Summer Garas and her ex-husband Jason Garas were divorced on Dec. 10.

Crystal Franklin, Jason Garas' mother, said she was devastated by the killings.

"I'm just numb, just not knowing what to think," she said. "The kids were just wonderful."

Franklin said Summer Garas rarely locked her door and helped neighbors when they were in need.

"Summer never met an enemy," she said. "She didn't have an enemy, just loved everybody."

Teagin was fond of monster trucks and had planned to go with his grandparents to a truck show in Oklahoma City, Franklin said.

"They were just full of life, a joy to be around," she said.



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