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Investigators tackle cold case, the murder of Brian Todd Roberts

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Brian Todd Roberts a couple of years before his murder.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
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SHAWNEE, Okla. – It was a murder that held all the promise of a swift arrest, but in just two years a case hot with several witnesses and physical evidence went cold.

Brian Todd Roberts, a 26-year-old father of two, was gunned down at the corner of Kickapoo and 9th on September 28, 1991 around 1 a.m. When police arrived shortly after, they found Roberts slumped over in the cab of his truck, dead. He had been shot in the head and right shoulder. Several shots had been fired, riddling his 1990 blue Dodge pickup.  

The narrative

Numerous witnesses interviewed by police piece together what appeared to be the result of a heated argument. At least one witness placed Roberts at Cowtown Bar on Highway 177 and Benson Park Road, south of Shawnee.

There, Roberts and a black male in a dark colored pickup entered into an argument which continued in the parking lot. As Roberts drove away, the man and a white female drove after him heading north on 177 toward Shawnee. 

From there, a witness saw the suspect and Roberts racing in an apparent chase. The suspect kept hitting his brakes, trying to force Roberts’ vehicle to stop.

A cab driver and other witnesses saw what followed. The suspect’s vehicle, a dark colored Nissan pickup, and Robert’s vehicle collided at 9th and Kickapoo in downtown Shawnee.  

The suspect exited his truck with a gun, approached Roberts’ vehicle and shot “from a standing position outside,” former Detective Greg Gibson reported in an early news article. The suspect returned to the pickup, got in the passenger side and a white female drove them away from the scene. Witnesses provided a sketch of the suspect and the female passenger which ran in the Shawnee News-Star for a week after the murder.

The news clip images are the earliest known sketches of the male and female suspects believed to be seen with Roberts at a bar and leaving the scene of the murder. (Photo provided)

The original investigation

Two years later, police reported conducting 300 interviews. Then Detective Johnny Moody presented the case to a group of 25 homicide detectives at an investigator’s convention; no new developments emerged.

An early news article said investigators were trying to steer clear of rumors in the case and focus on the facts of the investigation. All the evidence seemed to point to a heated argument that ended in murderous road rage.

The investigation may have been complicated by Roberts’ drug abuse. A bag of marijuana had been found in his truck when it was processed for evidence, but there may have been more to his drug involvement than casual use.

Although Roberts was a hard worker, holding down a job at a manufacturing plant and roofing houses on the side, close friends and immediate family members all said Roberts admitted to them that he was selling cocaine for Gary Jay. Jay was a Shawnee attorney convicted in 2008 for cocaine and marijuana possession and lewd acts with minors.

Brian’s sister, Christa Roberts, said he told her on July 4, 1991 that he wanted “out.” She said Gary Jay had been successful in getting a DUI charge dropped for Brian and that he was simply selling drugs to pay him back for attorney fees.

“He said he was scared, that he knew too much about this town. He was trying to get his life together. He was going through a divorce and he wanted joint custody of his kids. He was a great dad. He loved those girls,” she said.

According to early news reports, the investigation may have been further complicated by problems with witnesses. Three witnesses reportedly refused to testify until they were served with grand jury subpoenas and one witness testimony was considered unreliable.

In a strange twist, less than a year after the murder, then Detective Johnny Moody reported to the Shawnee News-Star and the family that a witness had been run over and killed in an auto pedestrian accident. According to court records, however, that witness is alive.  

Christa Roberts said Moody told their mother the cab driver had been run over and killed in Oklahoma City. Robert’s uncle Jimmie and aunt Debbie Roberts said Detective Moody told them the cab driver “had stepped off a curb on Reno at a truck stop and been run over by a truck.”

Red Dirt Report learned the identity of the cab driver and found no record of this accident. According to several court records, he was living in Shawnee in 1998 until at least until 2009. Red Dirt Report contacted Moody, now an investigator for the Oklahoma Medical Examiner Office. When he returned the call, he said he didn’t remember the case, saying all inquiries should be directed to the Shawnee Police Department, and immediately hung up. 

Current investigators had no comment regarding this discrepancy, but said the cab driver has been re-interviewed and there is no new information.

The case today

Shawnee Detective Charles Swantek believes they have a case that can be solved, saying he was “very optimistic” about finding Roberts’ killer.

The three witnesses who reportedly refused to testify were later served with grand jury subpoenas and provided their statements. All evidence collected from Roberts’ truck and the scene is intact, including several spent shell casings from the gun used to kill Roberts.

No arrests have been made in the case, but Swantek said they have a list of suspects who haven’t been ruled out. They are seeking information.

The family is hopeful justice can still be done. Jimmie and Debbie Roberts said he was like a son to them. “He was always at our house,” said Debbie. “He was a great father, very sweet and loving. We want it solved,” she said.

Jimmie Roberts said justice has waited too long for some in their family. “It bothers me that my brother died not knowing who killed his son,” he said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Shawnee Police Department at 405-273-2121.

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About the Author

Mindy Ragan Wood

Mindy Ragan Wood is a freelance writer and editor with a special interest in investigative and...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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