After 6 hours of deliberations, a Comanche County jury found a man not guilty of killing his romantic rival.
Larry Keith Standridge II, 42, of Lawton, was charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing James David Cloud, 31, at his Chattanooga home the night of Nov. 23, 2020.
The motive, according to Assistant District Attorney Madeline Vasquez, returned to jealousy that his former fiancée Mariah Sotelo had been romantically involved with Cloud, among others. A Facebook post he’d made stated he “felt like Maria was shoving James Cloud down her throat.” Another text used in evidence told of how he “has so much hatred for Mariah.”
Vasquez told the jurors there is more to the story. The jurors were not allowed to hear evidence that Standridge was convicted in October 2022 of kidnapping, restraining, terrorizing and sexually abusing Sotelo between Nov. 10-12, 2022. He received and is serving a life sentence in prison from that case.
As Vasquez spoke of his jealousy, Standridge sat silent at the defense table, his eyes fixed on the jury, his face visibly reddened.
Standridge’s defense counsel, Larry Monard questioned the accuracy of the eyewitness testimony placing his client in Chattanooga the night Cloud was killed. He also said investigators failed to provide physical evidence conclusively connecting Standridge to the crime. From not finding a gun, a Ruger 9mm, and clothing tucked under Standridge’s home until seven months after he was arrested, he said the case fell short.
Questions were also entered by Monard that perhaps Cloud was killed for other reasons. He mentioned the dead man’s prior convictions for burglary and arson and proposed he still had unsavory connections.
“The evidence is woefully short that Larry Standridge committed this crime,” he said. “They’re asking you to make a lot of connections to things that really don’t fit with the murder of James Cloud.”
Monard also said investigators only had Sotelo’s testimony that Standridge specifically threatened Cloud. His client claimed to have given her his Ruger handgun for protection when she came to his home to collect her things on Nov. 23, 2020 with Cloud, her then-fiancé Kevin Adams and Lawton police.
“We don’t have the burden of proof,” he said. “The state has not proved that Larry Standridge committed this crime.”
Vasquez asked the jury to “connect the dots.” Beginning with Standridge’s statements to investigators, she said his story failed.
“His client lied,” she said, “and his client changed his story several times.”
Noting Standridge had told investigators he was visiting a cemetery between 8 and 10 p.m. that night and not taking his phone with him, Vasquez said it was a piece of his plan to commit and cover up the crime. Standridge had given his uncle all of his guns but the Ruger only days before. She theorized why he kept the handgun.
“That Ruger had a purpose,” she said. “It was to kill James Cloud.”
Although no strong DNA was found on the gun, Vasquez said that would stem from being exposed to the elements underneath the trailer.
Among the other items found under the trailer were a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and a pair of shoes that matched Standridge’s size he was wearing when arrested. Also, a Monster energy drink can was found. Vasquez noted testimony from one witness who showed Standridge asked her to pick up a black hoodie and Monster drinks while at the store earlier on Nov. 23, 2020.
Three empty dish soap bottles and a half full bottle of water were also recovered from Standridge’s Jeep. Vasquez asked the jury a question:
“What do you think was done with it? I propose he used it to clean up the evidence.”
Vasquez locked up her argument by stating Standridge “went the extra mile” to obfuscate his role in Cloud’s death.
“What else are we to believe,” she asked, “that this was a set-up?”
Vasquez asked the jury to convict Standridge.
Standridge will return to prison to serve a life sentence for his October 2022 conviction.