State executes man for 1987 murder

Oklahoma prison officials executed a man Tuesday for a 1987 murder that went unsolved for more than a decade until police compared the DNA from a second murder for which he was also convicted.

Police say Frank Duane Welch (pictured), 45, strangled to death Jo Talley Cooper, 28, at her home in Norman in 1987. Police said Welch gained entry to Cooper's home by posing as a cable repairman, a job from which he had just been fired. Once inside the home, police say Welch tied Cooper's body with leather straps, strangled her, and then sexually assaulted her after death.

"Tracy Cooper arrived at his Norman home around 1 p.m. and found his wife, Jo Talley Cooper, lying dead in their living room," the court records show. "She was nude and had leather straps forming a ligature around her neck that also went down her back binding her hands. She had a piece of duct tape covering her mouth and one of her seven-month-old child's toys inserted in her vaginal area. The Coopers' seven-month-old child was unharmed and in his crib in his room."

Wounds on Cooper's body showed it had been raped after death, according to the court.

Although Welch had been an early suspect in the murder, a laboratory mislabeled Welch's sample, leaving the crime unsolved for more than 10 years. Welch was convicted after police matched his DNA in another murder, that of Debra Anne Stevens, 32, of Tuttle, who died 2½ months after Cooper. Stevens, too, was found bound, gagged, and raped after death, police said.

Welch was denied clemency in a recent hearing before Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole board. Cooper's son, now 21, who laid in a crib near where his mother was murdered, asked the board to deny Welch clemency.

"It would be different if my mother would have died of natural causes," he wrote, according to the AP. "It would be different if it was God's will, but the truth is that an evil man named Frank Welch took her life"¦And the unspeakable things he did to her, my mother, is what fills me with anger, the pain, and the loneliness that I feel to this day."

At his execution, Welch's last words were, to his family, "I just want y'all to know that I love you."

To observers at the execution, Welch said, "For the Cooper and Stevens family there is nothing that can change the horrible thing I done. There is nothing that can change that. I take full responsibility for what I done. I am truly, truly sorry for all the hurt and pain I have caused you. I love y'all, God bless you all. I'm ready."

Officials said Welch died at 6:21 p.m., eight minutes after officials injected him with lethal chemicals, a prison spokesman said.

 Welch's last meal was a large, super supreme pizza and a two-liter bottle of Coca Cola. -Ben Fenwick

  • or