Carter County jurors took just one hour Wednesday before returning to the courtroom and delivering three guilty verdicts against Dakota Stewart.
District Judge Dennis Morris formally read the verdicts and accompanying sentence recommendations:
• Count 1, first-degree manslaughter in the death of Gerald Letkiewicz — guilty — 25 years
• Count 2, first-degree manslaughter in the death of Justin Skinner – guilty – 25 years
• Possession of methamphetamine – guilty – 10 years.
Stewart’s attorney, James English asked the jury be polled. Each of the six men and six women who had heard evidence in the trial that began Monday individually confirmed their guilty verdict. Following the poll, Morris dismissed the jury thanking them for their time and service and excusing them of further service during the continuing jury term.
Continuing with trial business, Morris ordered a presentence investigation and set formal sentencing for June 7. English asked the judge to overturn the jury’s verdict based on lack of evidence. Morris denied the defense motion. English then asked the judge to allow his client to remain free on bond pending formal sentencing. That motion was also denied.
“Mr. Stewart you are remanded to the custody of the sheriff,” Morris told the defendant.
Stewart allowed himself to be handcuffed but then struggled with deputies as he was removed from the courtroom.
Meanwhile emotions ranging from smiles to tears emitted an atmosphere of relief and gratitude as the families of the two victims expressed their thanks to District Attorney Craig Ladd, who prosecuted the case. In what was described as an “impassioned closing argument,” the DA not only reviewed the evidence presented by the state but pointed to Stewart’s lack of remorse when he took the stand in his own defense Tuesday afternoon.
“It wasn’t my fault,” Stewart had testified, “Well it was, but not really.”
Stewart, who admitted he had consumed methamphetamine just hours before the accident, was the driver of the 2004 Chevrolet pickup that went left of center around 9 a.m. May 28, 2015, on U.S. Highway 77, 5 miles south of Ardmore, causing the deadly crash that extinguished Letkiewicz’ and Skinner’s lives.
Ladd told the jurors Stewart’s testimony had vacillated between “woe is me” and an apparent belief he was the victim due to the injuries he sustained. Then he took another avenue in which he chose the “super hero” claim that he had managed to dive from behind the wheel of the truck into the back seat of the pickup to shield the bodies of the three children who were also passengers.
Following the verdict Ladd talked about the trial and the verdict, telling The Ardmoreite, “I want to commend the jury’s diligent service in this case on behalf of the victims’ families. They were very engaged and attentive throughout the trial. Their verdicts and recommended sentences were certainly warranted by the law and evidence.  
“Myself and the victims’ families are extremely pleased with the outcome of the trial. I also want to express our appreciation for the efforts of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Ardmore Fire Department which were instrumental in ensuring that the defendant was held accountable for his actions.”