ALTUS - District Attorney John Wampler has disqualified himself and all assistant district attorneys serving in Judicial District #3 in the case against John Wrabel, whose wife Myrna Wrabel died three days after being beaten at the family residence in April 2004.
Wampler's disqualification follows the recusal of all three judges in the case in September and the handing over of the case to District 5 Judge C. Allen McCall of Comanche County.
In a letter dated Wednesday, First Assistant Attorney General Tom Gruber appointed Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn, or his designated assistant attorney, as a special prosecutor to replace Wampler in the case and “to determine whether criminal action is appropriate, and to take any such appropriate action.”
Wampler said Wednesday that a trial date in the case, which will be handled in Jackson County unless the defense moves for change of venue, would likely depend on what the newly appointed prosecutor decides to do as far as keeping the charge as is - misdemeanor domestic abuse/assault and battery - or revisiting the evidence and trying the case as assault and battery by means of force likely to produce death, which was the original charge filed in April 2004.
Wampler requested in a letter dated Dec. 28 to Attorney General Drew Edmondson that he be disqualified, explaining that with the retirement of First Evidence may be revisited and case tried with new charges.
Assistant District Attorney Jan Warren on Jan. 31, he will be naming Ken Darby as his first assistant DA. Darby was a partner in private practice with Wrabel's attorney, Brad Leverett, at the time the case was filed.
In his letter to Edmondson, Wampler stated that “On or about November 7, 2006, my First Assistant District Attorney, Jan Warren, was contacted by Susan Krug, from your office regarding the Wrabel case. Ms. Krug indicated that she had spoken to Ms. Wrabel's family members and was questioning our decision to amend the charge to Domestic Abuse - Assault & Battery. Ms. Krug also mentioned that perhaps the charge was amended due to this office's ‘good ol' boy' relationship with the defendant's attorney, Brad Leverett. When Ms. Warren took offense, Ms. Krug stated that she did not mean to offend.”
Also, Wampler relays a conversation he'd had with Myrna Wrabel's son, Danny Thompson, in which Thompson stated that a spokesperson with the Attorney General's Office had told him that if Wampler would disqualify himself, the Attorney General's Office would prosecute the case.
“I have always tried to guard and protect my integrity and reputation for honesty because I believe this is so important to the success of any officer of the court,” Wampler wrote. “Sometimes, however, reality may give way to perception and I believe that even the appearance of impropriety should be avoided.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Mashburn had not yet received the letter appointing him to the case, but he said the next step would be to get in touch with Wampler's office to obtain relevant materials.
Wrabel, 67, had been charged with felony domestic assault and battery following the death of Myrna Wrabel, on April 10, 2004, at Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton, where she was flown by Air-Vac after being beaten April 7, 2004, at the family residence, 15836 S. County Road 206.
However, at a preliminary hearing conference in the case held April 22, 2005, Wrabel appeared with his attorney, Leverett, and the District Attorney's Office reduced the charge to a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of $3,000, or both.
The “Amended Information” filed by Wampler states that Wrabel committed the abuse “by willfully and unlawfully striking Myrna Wrabel, the spouse, on the head, causing left frontoparietal and temporal acute subdural hematoma in the face, and on her legs and left buttock, causing bruises, with his hands, feet and/or unknown object, with force and violence and with unlawful intent to do Myrna Wrabel corporal hurt and bodily injury.”
Wampler explained previously that the decision to drop the charge to a misdemeanor was based on the findings of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in an autopsy report completed July 28, 2004, that the manner of Mrs. Wrabel's death was undetermined.
The report states that the probable cause of death of Mrs. Wrabel, who was 65 at the time, was blunt force head trauma. Her death was termed “violent, unusual and unnatural.” Yet the report, written by Jeffery Gofton, M.D., summarizes that, “It appears from the medical record information by the patient on how the injuries were received are somewhat conflicting, and does not appear to be clear whether the injuries to the head and other bruises were inflicted, or received in an accidental circumstance, such as a fall. Therefore, the manner of death will be listed as undetermined. Should other information that can clarify this situation be presented, the manner of death may be re-evaluated.”