OKFUSKEE COUNTY, Okla. -- A Henryetta man charged with the 2008 murders of two young girls in Weleetka and his fiancee this summer appeared in an Okfuskee County courtroom Tuesday.
Kevin Sweat made his initial appearance in the Weleetka case this afternoon. The 25-year-old pleaded not guilty to the two murders.
Sweat arrived at the courthouse under the protection of a helicopter and a convoy of law enforcement agents armed with assault rifles. The mood in the courtroom was tense as he came face to face with the victims' families.
Sweat, who was reportedly attacked over the weekend by a cell mate at the Seminole County Jail, appeared with a visible black eye.
The courtroom was filled with dozens of family members of Sweat's alleged victims, many of whom shed tears as he entered the courtroom. He never made eye contact with any of them.
Michael Taylor has waited months to see his daughter's fiancee charged with her death and the 2008 murders of 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker and 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker.
Taylor's daughter, Ashley Taylor, was last seem by her family in mid-July. She told them she was traveling to New Orleans to marry Sweat. After she went missing, Sweat was questioned by police who say he admitted to causing his fiancee's death.
Her burned remains were later found at his father's home.
"Today I actually feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, since he's finally being charged with everything," said Taylor.
He went public with his suspicions about Sweat's involvement in the Weleetka murders months before he was charged.
"I just knew that something had to happen," said Taylor. And I don't think I could have carried this on and sat there and held my tongue for another three years. There's absolutely no way I could have."
Whitaker and Placker were gunned down on a rural Weleetka road in 2008.
On Jan. 3, the defense will present a motion for a gag order that would apply to all law enforcement, the district attorney's office and jailers. The defense says pretrial publicity has been damaging.
After Tuesday's hearing, Sweat will next appear in court Feb. 22 for a status update on the Weleetka murders as well as discovery on Taylor's case.
Meanwhile, the prosecution says they are still awaiting forensic reports in the Taylor's case.