By Patti Weaver
(Stillwater, Okla.) — A 27-year-old Glencoe man, who waived his right to a jury trial, pleaded guilty this week to a second-degree murder charge in a fatal head-on collision on Highway 33 east of Perkins three years ago by driving under the influence of alcohol after a former DUI.
Tyler Forest Ryba, who does not have an agreement with the prosecution regarding his sentence, was asked in court by Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler what happened. Ryba replied, “I had an accident.” When the judge asked, “Had you been drinking that day?” Ryba replied, “I don’t recall.”
Before accepting Ryba’s plea, the judge explained that he could sentence him to prison for a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life. Ryba remains free on $10,000 bail and was ordered to return to court on Sept. 21 when his sentencing hearing could be scheduled if a background investigation of Ryba has been completed.
The victim, Karen Nelson, 59, of Stillwater, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 4:59 am May 23, 2018, collision on Highway 33 about 350 feet east of Fairgrounds Road, two miles east of Perkins, according to a preliminary report from the Department of Public Safety.
Ryba was pinned for 20 to 25 minutes in his vehicle before being freed by the Perkins Fire Department and then transported by medical helicopter to a trauma center in Oklahoma City, the report said.
Ryba was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Impala west on Highway 33, while Nelson was driving a 2014 Chevrolet Sonic east on Highway 33 when the collision occurred in the eastbound lane, the report said.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Colby Martens learned from a medical professional with LifeNet EMS that “he noticed the odor of alcohol coming from Ryba and that Ryba admitted to drinking,” OHP Trooper Matthew Ledbetter, who is a traffic homicide investigator, alleged in an affidavit.
“Ryba informed (OHP Trooper Eric) Blades that he had been at a friend’s house in Cushing throughout the night and that he had consumed alcohol during that time,” the affidavit alleged.
“Ryba failed to remain in his lane and crossed the centerline in a no-passing zone when he struck the Chevrolet Sonic killing Karen Nelson,” the affidavit said.
According to court records, three years earlier Ryba had been charged with possessing methamphetamine and driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance on Highway 51 west of Council Valley Road on July 28, 2015.
A year later, Ryba pleaded guilty to his felony drug charge and was placed on five years’ probation under a deferred sentence with an order to comply with the methamphetamine registry, undergo random drug tests, attend a victim impact panel, perform 50 hours of community service and pay $1,250 in assessments. For his misdemeanor DUI count to which he pleaded guilty, Ryba was given a one-year suspended sentence with an order to pay $450 in assessments, court records show.
In 2014, Ryba and two Stillwater men were charged as co-defendants with the misdemeanor of reckless conduct on Nov. 29, 2013, for while hunting without a license at night, discharging a firearm in the direction of a rural Stillwater woman’s home — where the bullet went through the window and landed on her bedroom floor while she was at home, court records show.
Ryba and the two Stillwater men were also charged with misdemeanor counts of using a truck’s headlights to spot a whitetail deer with intent to aid in killing the deer, possessing a whitetail deer not legally taken, and hunting without a valid hunting license. On July 7, 2014, Ryba pleaded guilty to all four counts and was placed on probation under deferred sentences for terms ranging from 30 days to six months, court records show.
Also in 2014, Ryba was charged in Pawnee County with possessing a drug and paraphernalia, along with attempting to elude a Pawnee police officer, court records show. Ryba pleaded guilty to the three-count misdemeanor charge and was placed on probation for one year in 2014.