Neal Sweeney's convicted killer Terrico Bethel sentenced to life without parole, plus 10 years

TULSA - The convicted killer in a murder-for-hire scheme was sentenced Tuesday to life behind bars.

Last week, a jury found Terrico Bethel guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the shooting death of Tulsa businessman Neal Sweeney.

The jury recommended life in prison.

On Tuesday, the judge followed the jury's recommendation, sentencing Bethel to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 10 years and a $15,000 fine. The sentences are to be served consecutively.

Prosecutors say Bethel was hired by convenience store owner Mohammed Aziz to kill Sweeney in retaliation for Sweeney cutting off the gas to Aziz's store because of unpaid bills.

Sweeney's wife, Jan Sweeney, made a statement in court Tuesday with her daughters Allison and Sarah by her side.

"Neal was a family man," she said. "He was a participant in life, not a spectator. He worked harder than anyone.  But when he got home, his phone was turned off."

Jan Sweeney said young people often tell her how much Neal affected their lives.

"He was the strongest man I ever knew," she said. "Not just physically strong. But spiritually strong. He taught Sunday School at our church for 20 years... He was a man of character, integrity and morality."

Jan Sweeney went to say she believes her husband would forgive Bethel.

"Certainly the state of Oklahoma believes justice has been served," said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris. "We will continue to achieve justice to the best of our ability."

Harris says Fred Shields is expected to go to trial on Sept. 17. Alonzo Johnson will be the last suspect in the case to go to trial.

Aziz accepted a plea deal. He will serve 25 to 35 years prison in exchange for testifying against Shields and Johnson.

Terrico Bethel's attorney Sharon Holmes tells 2NEWS she plans to appeal his conviction. She declined to comment on the grounds for a potential appeal.

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