Deliberations underway in murder trial

Mar. 13—Closing arguments lasted nearly four and a half hours between the state and the defense Wednesday before jurors began deliberations at 1:30 p.m.

Cody Ketchum, 37, was indicted by a multi-county grand jury in October 2022 on a first-degree murder charge and a misdemeanor charge of destroying evidence in the death of Cantrell — the McAlester woman who disappeared in January 2017 before her skeletal remains were discovered in 2018 and later identified in 2020.

Ketchum admitted to investigators he picked up Cantrell from her job at the McAlester Regional Health Center on Jan. 20, 2017, and that he dropped her off at the Braum's restaurant on U.S. Highway 69 in McAlester so she could have lunch with friends. Ketchum said he did not return to pick Cantrell up because he got ill and that she told him she would go back to work. Cantrell was reported missing by her family later that day after she did not return home.

Assistant Attorney General Ricky Lutz told jurors to "follow the evidence presented" and that direct evidence showed Ketchum was the last person to see Holly Cantrell alive using his own statements.

Kutz reminded jurors they could only use during deliberations the evidence presented to them during the trial and that anything a lawyer says, including themselves "is not evidence."

Brecken Wagner, part of the defense for Ketchum, said he has waited two years for the state of Oklahoma to tell him "how, why, and when Cody Ketchum supposedly murdered Holly Cantrell."

"Mr. Lutz did not submit how it happened or why it happened," Wagner said.

The defense told jurors that relying on the cell phone data expert's testimony and data was "dangerous" due to several errors the expert admitted to during testimony.

"A Scrivener's error is an error," Wagner said. "Being asked to rely on it to take a man's natural life away from him is dangerous."

Wagner told jurors Ketchum cooperated with investigators for the last seven years and his story has never changed.

"For the last seven years, every word Cody Ketchum has said has been recorded," Wagner said. "Every word he said for the last seven years has been used against him, and there's nothing I can do about it."

Wagner ended his closing with saying the entire community wants to know what happened to Cantrell.

"But we can't sacrifice this process for that closure," Wagner said. "The only thing we know is that we lost Holly Cantrell."

In the state's final closing, Assistant Attorney General Heather Anderson told jurors is has been 2,609 days since Cantrell was last seen alive.

Anderson said the cell phone expert did her job and that the evidence "is consistent with what the expert said."

The prosecutor said the evidence shows Ketchum's phone accessed a cell tower near the Cardinal Point Recreation Area for 33 minutes nearly an hour after Ketchum told investigators he picked the woman up from the MRHC on Jan. 20. 2017.

Cantrell's remains were found on a peninsula near the Cardinal Point Recreation Area in February 2018.

A purse belonging to Cantrell was found at the Cardinal Point Recreation Area in Feb. 25, 2017.

Anderson pointed to cell phone data that showed Ketchum's cell phone accessed the same tower near the area for approximately 40 minutes on Feb. 22, 2017, after he was interviewed by agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Anderson also read a text to jurors that was sent by Ketchum to another person who inquired about Cantrell's disappearance the day before he first spoke with investigators from the McAlester Police Department.

"I'm afraid to do anything because I was the last person to talk to her," the text message stated as read by Anderson.

"How on Earth does he know he was the last person to talk to her," Anderson asked the jury. "That is a guilty conscience."