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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Titsworth pleads guilty to murder

  • The gallery of District Judge Dennis Morris’ courtroom was a striking display of contrasts Wednesday afternoon when Keith Titsworth pled guilty to the gruesome Aug. 2, 2011, stabbing death of a teenage girl at an Ardmore residence.


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  • The gallery of District Judge Dennis Morris’ courtroom was a striking display of contrasts Wednesday afternoon when Keith Titsworth pled guilty to the gruesome Aug. 2, 2011, stabbing death of a teenage girl at an Ardmore residence.
     
    Except for a smattering of courthouse observers in the back rows, the right side of the gallery, directly behind Titsworth who sat at the defendant’s table, contained only three people. Across the aisle more than 20 family members and friends of 16-year-old Madison Nelson filled the benches as they watched the proceedings.
     
    The 32-year-old Titsworth, who confirmed his education ended in eighth-grade, answered Morris’ questions concerning the first-degree murder charge he faced. His attorney, Mary Bruehl, Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, also told the judge she believed her client was sober and competent.
     
    “You said you want to change your not guilty plea to guilty, is that right?” Morris asked.
     
    “Yes,” Titsworth responded in a clear voice.
     
    “There is a plea agreement. What is your understanding of that agreement?”
     
    “Life without parole,” Titsworth answered, his voice carrying throughout the courtroom, as it did when he formally entered his “guilty” plea to the first-degree murder charge seconds later.
     
    But the strength of his voice faded with Morris’ next question — “What did you do?’
     
    Looking down at the table in front of him or avoiding the judge’s eyes by looking to his right, Titsworth finally gave a vague, “I stabbed her,” response.
     
    “Do you have anything else to say?” Morris asked.
     
    “No,” Titsworth said.
     
    But the mother of the victim, Shanna Rue, her father, Carl Nelson, and her aunt, Pam Thompson did have something to tell the judge about the Madill sophomore, who had been living in Ardmore with her mother for just a few weeks before she was brutally slain.
     
    District Attorney Craig Ladd called Rue to the witness stand first. Rue described her daughter as a teenager who loved life, loved her family and friends, loved to dance and loved school.
     
    “She was excited and ready for her driver’s license,” she said, telling Morris she and her daughter were very close.
     
    “She had a good summer — what she got to spend of it,” Rue said, “We miss Maddie everyday. Life is an everyday struggle.”
     
    Rue also read a letter penned by the teen’s father, who is serving a prison sentence. Nelson wrote of his love for his child.
     
    “She didn’t deserve any harm to her whatsoever. I didn’t get to make up all the years I missed. (But) It’s not about me or her mother. It’s time to take your punishment,” he wrote.
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    An emotional Thompson called her niece a “typical teenager,” adding,  “We just miss her. She had a heart of gold and she was always forgiving — she always, always forgave.”
     
    And she had words for her niece’s killer.
     
    “Your life is your choice. You could have chosen a different path, but you didn’t. You messed up. It is what it is and you know it. You didn’t want the death penalty and you got options. You have to live with what you’ve done.”
     
    Following the survivors’ testimony, Morris told Titsworth he was accepting his guilty plea and the plea bargain agreement.
     
    “I order you confined and under the supervision of the Department of Corrections for your life without the possibility of parole,” the judge said.
     
    Titsworth, who had earlier waived his right to a pre-sentence investigation was remanded back into the custody of the sheriff until his transfer to a state prison.
     
    Following the sentencing, Ladd talked about the case in which he had originally sought the death penalty.
     
    “This was a horrific murder case, but hopefully the sentencing today will bring some degree of closure to Madison’s family. The agreement for life without parole was only reached after a thorough consultation with her family and with their approval,” Ladd said.
     
    “The Ardmore Police Department, under the direction of Capt. Eric Hamblin in this instance, should be commended for an exceptional investigation. Their investigative efforts were remarkably expeditious and resulted in a solid case against the defendant.
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