CHICKASHA, Okla. — An Oklahoma man released from prison last year as part of a mass commutation effort has been accused of killing his neighbor and cutting her heart out before killing his uncle and the man’s 4-year-old granddaughter, authorities said.
Lawrence Paul Anderson, 42, of Chickasha, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and a single count each of assault with a deadly weapon and felony maiming, according to Grady County Jail records. He is being held without bail.
Anderson wept Tuesday, at his first court appearance, which took place via video.
“I don’t want no bail, your honor. I don’t want no bail,” he said.
The Oklahoman reported that he wiped away tears with a heavily-bandaged right hand.
“Oh, God,” he muttered. “Oh, God.”
Anderson is accused of stabbing to death Andrea Lynn Blankenship, 41, Leon Pye, 67, and Kaeos Yates earlier this month. He had been visiting Pye and his family, whose home is located down the street from Blankenship’s residence.
“The death penalty is absolutely on the table,” Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks said during a news conference after Anderson was officially charged.
Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic information that may be disturbing to some readers.
According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Chickasha police officers went to the Pye home on Feb. 9 after a 911 call came from the home, but the caller hung up.
“While attempting to make contact at the door, officers could hear someone inside the home calling for help,” officials said in a news release.
It was Delsie Pye, Leon Pye’s wife.
When the officers forced their way inside, they found Leon Pye and his granddaughter dead. Delsie Pye, who was also stabbed, was rushed to a hospital for treatment.
She has since been released.
The only other person inside the home was Anderson, who Delsie Pye identified as the person who had attacked her family, authorities said. Anderson, who was hospitalized for his own wounds, was booked into the jail on Feb. 15.
It was while Anderson was at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center that he allegedly confessed to killing Blankenship. Officers went to her home and found her body.
“Agents have evidence … that Blankenship was murdered first,” SBI officials said. “Then Anderson went to the Pyes’ house, maiming Delsie and murdering Leon and Kaeos.”
Search warrant affidavits obtained by the Oklahoman offer the grisly details of what Anderson told state agents. According to Anderson’s alleged confession, he went to Blankenship’s home across the street from the Pye residence and broke in.
“Anderson stated that he entered the home by using his shoulder to break into the back door,” one affidavit states. “Anderson killed a white female in the home and removed her heart.
“Anderson then cooked the heart at the Pye home and tried to make Delsie and Leon Pye eat the heart before he attacked them.”
The second affidavit alleges that Anderson told agents he cooked it with potatoes “to feed to his family to release the demons,” the Oklahoman reported.
Anderson’s defense lawyer, Al Hoch, indicated Tuesday that he would seek a mental evaluation to determine if his client is competent to stand trial. The newspaper reported that when Anderson pleaded guilty in a previous case, he informed the court that he took medication for bipolar disorder.
An attorney representing the Pye family said that Anderson had listed their address as his home address, but that he’d only visited the home since his release from prison.
“They were surprised to see him just show up, that he was out,” attorney Robert Wagner told the Oklahoman. “They had no prior knowledge that he was being released, and they had never consented to him listing their address as his home.”
Wagner said Anderson had been living prior to his arrest.
Anderson was among more than 800 Oklahoma inmates whose application for commutation was considered in January 2020 as part of a state law that took effect in November 2019. The law changed guidelines for some drug and property crimes, making hundreds of inmates eligible for an accelerated commutation process, according to The Associated Press.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended commutation for more than 520 inmates, the largest such action in U.S. history, according to Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office.
“With this vote, we are fulfilling the will of Oklahomans,” board Executive Director Steven Bickley said at the time. “However, from day one, the goal of this project has been more than just the release of low level, non-violent offenders, but the successful reentry of these individuals back into society.”
Anderson, who had a criminal history dating back to 2006, had been sentenced in 2017 to serve 20 years in prison for probation violations on prior drug charges, the AP reported. The parole board recommended in January 2020 that his sentence be reduced to nine years behind bars.
The AP reported that Anderson was released after serving just over three years of that sentence. Parole board records show that if not for the commutation, Anderson would have remained in prison until at least 2024, when he would have come up for possible parole.
Hicks on Monday criticized the changes in the law that allowed Anderson, who corrections officials had warned was a “high risk to reoffend,” to walk free.
“There’s a reason why we seek those sentences,” the district attorney said. “We know how long those offenders need to be off the street.
“When is enough, enough?”
He urged Oklahoma residents to ask lawmakers if they feel safer in the community today than they did before the state’s criminal justice reform initiative began.
“We have put politics and releasing inmates in front of public safety,” Hicks said. “The goal that we have set in Oklahoma is to decrease the prison population with no thought for public safety. And that’s not fair to the people of the state of Oklahoma, and we have to come to terms with that.”
He indicated that criminal justice reform advocates should try to explain to the Blankenship and Pye families that Anderson was a “low-level, nonviolent offender.”
“It’s not fair to this family. There’s a 4-year-old now that’s no longer with us,” Hicks said. “There are members of a family who are never going to see their relatives again.”
Blankenship’s daughter, Haylee Blankenship, 18, wrote on a GoFundMe page set up for her mother’s funeral that Anderson should never have been let out of prison early.
“My mom’s life was taken too early,” she wrote.
Ashley Valentine, a friend of Kaeos Yates’ mother, Tasha Yates, wrote on Facebook that she could not imagine the pain she was in. She said Kaeos should not have died.
“She was the kindest baby, and she didn’t deserve this,” Valentine wrote. “Please God, pray for her. She needs it.”