By: Patti Weaver
(Stillwater, Okla.) — A Stillwater man convicted of killing his new girlfriend, whose body was never found, was formally sentenced Tuesday by Payne County Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler to a jury-recommended life prison term for first-degree manslaughter, court records show.
The jury, which was composed of nine men and three women, had deliberated only 90 minutes on Nov. 1 before finding Earl Oswalt Jr., 56, guilty of fatally punching 29-year-old Chelsey Chaffin in the head early on the morning of May 26, 2019, which was the day before Memorial Day.
Jurors took less than 10 minutes in the sentencing stage to recommend the maximum sentence of life in prison.
Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas said, “We feel great about the verdict. He deserves life.” She emphasized that in 1998 Oswalt was convicted of first-degree rape by a Bryan County jury recommending a 40-year- prison term, but was released from Oklahoma custody in 2014 to Texas to serve two 20-year sentences for child sexual assault in Grayson County — from which he was paroled in 2017.
In her closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Debra Vincent said that Oswalt’s fiancee, who was described by the defense as intellectually challenged, “was left in a trailer house for 12 hours with a dead body.”
Oswalt’s fiancee testified “he washed Chelsey’s body,” with bleach before they took the victim’s naked body to the Cimarron River north of Ripley and dumped it in, the prosecutor reminded the jury.
Although Oswalt said his fiancee didn’t have anything to do with the slaying, defense attorney Jarrod Stevenson suggested to jurors that she was the killer: “All of a sudden in May, Mr. Oswalt says ‘I’m moving in Chelsey Chaffin,’ who the defense attorney called “younger and prettier,” and told his fiancee to move out.
In his closing argument, First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Etherington said, “What is his defense? Is it that (his fiancee) did it? We call it the kitchen sink argument — the shotgun argument.”
Oswalt had not testified at his trial.