Dan Triplett, a former Guthrie city councilman, was back in court on Friday morning for a preliminary hearing in the murder case of Brent Mack, who was found buried under a septic tank in northern Logan County in 2021.
Daniel Joseph Triplett, now 68, of Guthrie, is charged with first-degree murder and desecration of a human corpse. He was booked last October into the Logan County Jail and is accused of shooting Mack and burying him under a septic tank near Mulhall.
Mack worked for Triplett’s septic tank installation business.
The two-hearing prelim took place inside the Logan County Courthouse in front of Payne County Judge Katherine E. Thomas with a heavy presence of law enforcement both inside and outside of the courtroom. The courtroom was divided with 10 family members and friends of Triplett sitting on one side of the courtroom, and 15 people on the other side with the Mack family.
A preliminary hearing occurs early on in a criminal case. At this hearing, the prosecutor needs to convince a judge that enough evidence exists to keep the case moving and make a defendant stand for trial. A preliminary hearing (also called a prelim) doesn’t decide a defendant’s guilt. Rather, it’s a judicial check on the prosecutor’s decision to criminally charge a defendant with a crime. The hearing also provides the defendant with a preview of the prosecution’s case.
The Logan County District Attorney’s Office was represented by District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas, assistant district attorneys Kevin Etherington and J.R. Kalka. Triplett was represented by his attorney Ron Wallace and Charles Mullens.
The DA’s office called three witnesses to the stand, including Mack’s daughter, Raychelle Wilson, Guthrie Police Lt. Mark Bruning, and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (OSBI) Special Investigator Kevin Woodward.
Related article: Triplett’s bond revoked; back in custody without bond
Related article: Bond hearing set for accused murderer; DA seeking to revoke Dan Triplett’s bond
Related article: Wrongful death lawsuit filed against alleged murderer
Related article: Murder suspect released from jail on bond
Related article: Judge sets $500k bond for murder suspect
Related article: Videos assisting investigators with suspected septic tank homicide; bond denied
Related article: Attorney for suspected murder files motion for bail
Related article: Missing Guthrie man found; suspect in custody
Related article: Police searching for missing Guthrie man
Wilson testified she had called the police to report that no one had seen or heard from her father for several days. She told the judge that she spoke with Triplett on Facebook Messenger. She explained that Triplett told her he had fired Mack on Sept. 20, given him $1,000 in cash for severance, and dropped him off at a Guthrie laundromat. The same story Triplett had told police.
Early in the investigation, Triplett allegedly told investigators that Mack had gotten out of his truck with a green army-style duffel bag. Police say the video shows Triplett’s truck driving near the laundromat, but that no one was found getting out.
Days later, the duffel bag was found by a resident in a backyard near the laundromat with Mack’s identification. Bruning testified to the multiple surveillance cameras that did not back up Triplett’s side of the story.
A document search warrant was issued, and investigators found a receipt book in Triplett’s work truck that revealed Triplett was paid in cash on Sept. 20, 2021, for a job near Mulhall. However, that information was not known by law enforcement in the early parts of their investigation.
Bruning says surveillance video at the scene of the septic tank showed two people working at the job site. Despite a grainy, black, and white video, Bruning said one person can be seen wearing a white shirt and another wearing a gray shirt.
Bruning said the video shows the person in the gray shirt, believed to be Triplett, can be seen walking around to the person in the white shirt, and then the white shirt disappeared into the hole.
Woodward testified that the Medical Examiner’s Office, along with city and county agencies, began removing the installed septic tank on Oct. 21, 2021. After removing the tank from the ground, searchers were able to probe the dirt and located an open space that led them to the body of Mack.
Mack’s identification was found in his wallet.
Triplett was taken into custody on the same day Mack was found.
A medical report was published into evidence and revealed a projectile in the chest of Mack and a gunshot wound to the back.
Wallace was brief in his cross-examination with Bruning and Woodward but asked each investigator if Triplett’s Miranda Rights were read to him in police interviews before Mack’s body was found.
Woodward told the DA’s Office that at the time of speaking with Triplett in the early stages of the investigation that Triplett was free to come and go as he pleased and was never in custody at that time.
Wallace told the judge there’s “no motive” and “no weapon” and requested a demurrer, which is a response in a court proceeding in which the defendant does not dispute the truth of the allegation but claims it is not sufficient grounds to justify legal action. The judge denied and found probable cause that a crime was committed and probable cause that the defendant committed the crime.
Triplett, who served on Guthrie’s city council in the 1980s and 1990s, is expected back in court for trial arraignment on July 1.