Marilyn Kay Plantz

Executed May 1, 2001 by Lethal Injection in Oklahoma

28th murderer executed in U.S. in 2001
711th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
7th female murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
11th murderer executed in Oklahoma in 2001
41st murderer executed in Oklahoma since 1976
2nd female murderer executed in Oklahoma since 1976

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
Marilyn Kay Plantz

W / F / 27 - 40

Jim Plantz

W / M / 33

Beaten then burned in car

Plantz hired her teenage boyfriend Clifford Bryson and his friend William McKimble to kill her husband for about $300,000 in life insurance. Entering his home after work, he was ambushed by Bryson and McKimble and beaten with ball bats while Plantz and kids were asleep in bed. Plantz got up and instructed them to "burn him" to make it look like an accident. They drove him to deserted location, doused him and his pickup with gasoline and set it on fire. McKimble pled to Life and testified. Plantz and Bryson were tried jointly. Bryson was executed in 2000.

Plantz v. State, 876 P2d 268 (Okla. 1994).
Plantz v. State, 936 P2d 339 (Okla. 1997).
Plantz v. Massie, 216 F3d 1088 (10th Cir. 2000).

Internet Sources:

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Oklahoma Attorney General

W.A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General - Execution Date Set for Marilyn Plantz (03/08/2001) The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals today set May 1 as the execution date for Oklahoma death row inmate Marilyn Plantz, who engineered the 1988 murder of her husband to collect on an insurance policy, according to Attorney General Drew Edmondson. Plantz, 40, lost her final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 26, and Edmondson immediately requested the Court of Criminal Appeals to schedule her execution. Plantz is one of two women on Oklahoma's death row. The other, Lois Nadean Smith, has only a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court remaining. A third female death row inmate, Wanda Jean Allen, was executed in January.

Plantz was romantically involved with William Clifford Bryson, and had spoken to him and others about murdering her husband so she could collect the death benefit from an insurance policy valued at about $300,000. James Plantz, 33, who worked the night shift at the printing plant at the Daily Oklahoman, was ambushed in his home by Bryson and Clinton McKimble after returning to his Oklahoma City home from work on Aug. 26, 1988. Marilyn Plantz was present as the men severely beat James Plantz with baseball bats provided by his wife. James Plantz was then loaded into his own pickup truck and driven to the 6500 block of N.E. 50th Street, where the truck was set on fire.

Marilyn Plantz was convicted March 24, 1989, and sentenced to death March 31, 1989. Bryson also received a death sentence and was executed June 15, 2000. McKimble received a life sentence for his part in the murder. "Marilyn Plantz orchestrated and participated in the brutal murder of her husband," Edmondson said. "My thoughts are with the Plantz family, and those who have been deprived of the company of James Plantz for more than a decade following his untimely and unnecessary death."


Marilyn Plantz was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of her husband, James Plantz, 33. In June of 2000, William Clifford Bryson, 29, was executed by injection for his part in the murder. Thirteen relatives and friends of Jim Plantz, including his two sisters, father and brother, were at the prison for the execution. After a tour of the penitentiary, Karen Lowery, Jim's sister, said Bryson's death does not mean a victory for her family. "It's a no-win situation. Nobody is going to win in the end," Lowery said. Sharon Cotton, Jim's other sister, said before the execution that his death would only provide partial closure for the family. "Marilyn Plantz and Clifford Bryson (have) lived almost 12 years since Jim was murdered; that is 12 years longer than my brother lived." She said executing Bryson would provide her family the justice they have sought since the killing. "He didn't think twice about taking my brother's life," she said of Bryson. "He didn't think about the children or my brother's family and how that would affect us for the rest of our lives." State Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Jim Plantz "suffered a horrible, cruel, painful death. Prosecutors said Bryson and Marilyn Plantz planned to collect an insurance policy of about $319,000 for James' accidental death. Marilyn Plantz was the beneficiary. On Aug. 26, 1988, after Jim Plantz returned home from working the night shift as a pressroom supervisor at The Oklahoman, Bryson, then 18, and friend Clinton McKimble ambushed him and beat him with 2 baseball bats provided from their son's room by his wife, who also was present. McKimble, who received a life sentence for testifying against Bryson, said they left him on the floor bloody and hurt, then Marilyn Plantz looked at her husband's head injuries from the beating and remarked that it didn't look like an accident. "She told us to burn him," McKimble testified. Plantz was still alive when he was loaded into a pickup truck and driven to a remote area, where he and the vehicle were doused with gasoline and set ablaze. The medical evidence showed that he was alive at the time because of smoke that was inhaled into his lungs. Bryson told police he and Marilyn Plantz planned to move out of state and get married. Bryson said Marilyn Plantz told him her husband had threatened to kill himself and her if she divorced him. Plantz denied being involved in the killing. Marilyn Plantz was a homemaker and Sunday school teacher, and they raised their 2 children in a quiet, Midwest City neighborhood. Their two children were asleep in a bedroom when the attack occurred. Lowery said she was stunned when she received the call that her brother had been the victim of a homicide, and then learned his wife and her lover were accused. "It's like when you hear people talk about the perfect marriage -- they never argued, never fought, no cross words," Lowery said. Jim was the third of four children and grew up in the Shawnee and Pink areas of Pottawatomie County. He was remembered as fun-loving, a punctual and dependable employee and a devoted father to Trina, 9, and Christopher, 6. "His kids were his No. 1 priority. He was rarely seen without the two kids," Cotton said.

Death Penalty Institute of Oklahoma

Marilyn Kay Plantz, 40, was executed on May 1, 2001, via lethal injection at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Plantz was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of her husband, James Earl Plantz, 33. William Bryson, who was executed on June 15, 2000, was also sentenced to death for this murder. Clinton Eugene McKimble was also charged with first-degree murder in this case. He pled guilty and was given a sentence of life imprisonment in exchange for his testimony against Plantz and Bryson. Plantz was the second woman executed since statehood (1907) as well as the second woman executed this year. (Wanda Jean Allen was executed on January 11, 2001.) Her execution also marked Oklahoma's climb to number two in executions per capita. Only Delaware has a higher per-capita execution rate.

Early morning on Friday, August 26, 1988, James Earl Plantz, 33, was found dead in his pickup. Prosecutors alleged that Plantz was beaten with baseball bats at his Midwest City home and then burned in his pickup at a secluded location. The following Monday, police arrested the victim's wife, Marilyn Kay Plantz, 27, on a murder charge. Investigators believed she had paid someone to kill her husband. William Clifford Bryson, 18, and Clinton Eugene McKimble, 18, were arrested the next day. On Wednesday, Marilyn Plantz, William Bryson and Clinton McKimble were all charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors announced that they would seek the death penalty. Police stated that collection on two life insurance policies on James Plantz, which were worth $319,000, was the probable reason behind his murder. Prosecutors stated that McKimble and Bryson were hired by Marilyn Plantz to kill her husband.

On October 20, prosecutors agreed to let McKimble plead guilty to murder and be sentenced to life imprisonment. As part of the agreement, he would testify against Plantz and Bryson. At a preliminary hearing for Bryson and Plantz, Roderick Eugene Farris testified that Plantz said the murder would "have to look life an accident." He also stated that a few days earlier Bryson had said his girlfriend, Marilyn Plantz, had called and was crying because her husband had beaten her. In videotaped testimony, Bryson told police how he and an accomplice beat James Plantz. Bryson said, "I didn't have no specific reason why I killed him. All I was thinking while I was beating him was all the times she came up to me with a black eye and crying. I didn't like that." In the videotape, Bryson said that he loves Marilyn Plantz. He also stated that Marilyn said her husband had threatened to kill himself and her if she divorced him. Plantz denied any roll in the killing of her husband. She told police they had a perfect marriage. Defense attorneys argued that Bryson and Plantz should have separate trials, because the defendants had inconsistent, mutually antagonistic, defenses. Oklahoma County District Judge Charles Owens ruled that they would be tried together. Joyce Gilchrist, a chemist for the Oklahoma City Police Department, testified in the trial of Plantz and Bryson. Recently the FBI studied eight cases on which Gilchrist had worked, finding serious errors in 75% of them. At the trial in March 1989, jurors took less than three hours to find Plantz and Bryson guilty of the murder of James Plantz, of conspiracy to murder, of recruiting others to help, and of arson. Neither Plantz nor Bryson testified during the trial. The next day jurors deliberated for five hours before voting in favor of death sentences for both Marilyn Plantz and William Bryson. They were each also sentenced to 100 years for recruiting others to help in the murder, 10 years for conspiracy to murder, and a 15-year sentence for burning the pickup truck.

Trina Plantz Wells, 21, who is the daughter of Marilyn and Jim Plantz, pled for the board to spare her mother's life. Wells was reported as having cried throughout the entire hearing. She recently reconciled with her mother after having had no contact with her for 13 years. In a videotaped statement, Wells said "My father's gone and we need a mom, whether or not she is in prison. We need to have a relationship with her. I really don't want my mom to die -- that is my hope. I've had 13 years to think about it. "I love my father. He was my hero. But it is not fair to me to have to go to another funeral and devastating death like this." Karen Lowery, the sister of Jim Plantz, asked the board to let the execution take place. She stated that Marilyn did not show remorse during the preliminary hearing or the trial. She also stated that she believed the death penalty can deter criminals. In a barely audible voice, Plantz apologized to the families, mentioning each sibling, parent and child by name. "It's hard to think about living the rest of my life in prison. But now I have a reason to live. I want to live for my daughter and, hopefully, for my son."

Call for a Moratorium

On Thursday, April 26, the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Trial Lawyers Association (OCDTLA) called for an immediate moratorium on executions in Oklahoma, beginning with that of Marilyn Plantz. The press conference was held due to the questionable work of chemist Joyce Gilchrist, including the capital cases of 10 inmates who have subsequently been executed. Attorney Jack Dempsey, spokesperson for the OCDTLA, said "If one juror was convinced to give the death penalty to Marilyn Plantz due to the testimony of Ms Gilchrist, Marilyn should not be executed next Tuesday." Also speaking on behalf of the OCDTLA were attorneys Doug Parr and Catherine Burton.

Vigils were held at approximately one dozen locations across the state. Around two dozen people attended the prayer vigil held outside the gates of the penitentiary.

The Lamp of Hope (Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

May 1, 2001 OKLAHOMA - Almost 13 years after Jim Plantz was beaten and burned to death in a murder-for-insurance-money scheme, his wife - Marilyn Kay Plantz - died by lethal injection Tuesday night for her part in the slaying. Marilyn Plantz was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m. after being injected with a poisonous mix of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Her death sentence came after her plot to kill her husband and collect a $300,000 life insurance policy unraveled in August 1988. Jim Plantz, a press supervisor for The Oklahoman, was ambushed by William Clifford Bryson and Clinton Eugene McKimble as he came home from work. Marilyn Plantz recruited the pair to carry out the killing.

They waited for him inside his Midwest City home and attacked him with his son's baseball bats. During the attack, he cried out "Marilyn!" to no avail. She was in another room, waiting for the assault to end. "For the past 13 years, she's been able to live, breathe and hope," Clovis Plantz, the victim's brother, said Tuesday afternoon. "His last hope was when he was being beaten, when he called out to her for help." After the beating, Bryson and McKimble took Jim Plantz and his pickup to a rural road in eastern Oklahoma County, put him inside the truck and set it on fire. They tried to make the killing look like a traffic accident. Evidence showed that Jim Plantz was still alive when the fire started. He tried to get out of the pickup, but quickly succumbed to the flames and smoke. Marilyn Plantz stayed at the house and tried to clean blood stains from her carpet. Relatives said they initially believed the accident story she concocted. They offered to help her, even after her arrest. "That's how unbelieving we were," said Karen Lowery, Jim Plantz's sister. "We even tried to get a lawyer for her. Then the detectives started telling us what they found. "She hid it well. She acted like she always had." The investigation and trial changed their minds. "The day they picked her up ... and when they started finding things out about her, that's when she died as far as I'm concerned," said Earl Plantz, her former father-in-law.

Marilyn Plantz and Bryson were convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to die. Bryson was executed June 15. The 3rd co-defendant, McKimble, testified against the other 2 in exchange for a life sentence. Jim Plantz's insurance policy eventually was awarded to his 2 children, Trina Plantz Wells and Chris Plantz. Hanging over the execution were continuing questions over Joyce Gilchrist, the Oklahoma City crime lab manager who is being investigated by the FBI amid allegations that she misidentified evidence and gave improper testimony. Gilchrist testified at Plantz's trial, but her testimony was limited and had little impact on the case, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said. Her death ends a long vigil for Jim Plantz's family. 12 family members and 3 other supporters were scheduled to witness the execution. Forgiveness, Lowery said, is unlikely. Earl Plantz agrees, but he does have lingering questions. He said that Marilyn Plantz was readily accepted by the family when she married his son and that his son's death was like "a stab in the back." He still is puzzled how a seemingly healthy marriage ended so violently. "All I want to know is why."

Plantz becomes the 11th condemned inmate, and the 2nd female, to be put to death this year in Oklahoma, and the 41st overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990. Plantz becomes the 28th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 711th overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Plantz v. State, 876 P2d 268 (Okla. 1994).

Appellant Marilyn Kay Plantz was tried by jury and convicted for the crimes of Murder in the First Degree (Count I) in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.1982, 701.7 ; Third Degree Arson (Count II) in violation of 21 O.S.1981, 1403(A) ; Solicitation to Commit Murder (Count III) in violation of 21 O.S.1981, 701.7 and Conspiracy to Commit Murder (Count IV) in violation of 21 O.S.1981, 421 Case No. CRF-86-4781, in the District Court of Oklahoma County. The jury recommended as punishment the death penalty for Count I; fifteen (15) years imprisonment and ten thousand dollar ($10,000) fine in Count II; one hundred (100) years imprisonment for Count III; and ten (10) years imprisonment on Count IV. The trial court sentenced accordingly and it is from this judgment and sentence that Appellant appeals.

Appellant and co-defendant Clifford Bryson were found guilty of the first degree murder of Appellant's husband, James Plantz. On August 26, 1988, at approximately 4:00 a.m., Mr. Plantz, a long time employee at the Oklahoma Publishing Company, left his job and headed home. At that time Mr. Plantz was insured for approximately two hundred ninety-nine thousand dollars ($299,000.00). Appellant was the beneficiary. At approximately 5:15 a.m. that same morning, in the northeast part of Oklahoma City, the decedent's charred body was discovered inside his burned out pickup truck. The driver's side door was open. The decedent's body was slumped behind the steering wheel and his left leg was outside the pickup, his foot resting flat on the ground. Identified by dental records, an autopsy later revealed that the decedent had died from a combination of a blunt force injury to the head and thermal injuries caused by the fire.

The ensuing investigation into the homicide lead to Appellant and Bryson. They had an ongoing personal relationship and had previously attempted to have the decedent killed. Appellant had indicated to Bryson the decedent was abusive to her and she wanted to get rid of him and collect on his life insurance policy. Appellant had approached Bryson and Clinton McKimble about killing the decedent and collecting the life insurance proceeds. She suggested the men drive up on the side of his pickup and shoot him, or catch him coming home from work and beat him. McKimble was offered forty-five thousand dollars ($45,000.00) for his part. At that time, McKimble indicated he was not sure he wanted to be a part of the plan. He subsequently changed his mind. With Appellant's help, he and Bryson stole a car and waited for the decedent to get off work. The plan was to drive up behind the decedent, bump his pickup so that the decedent would have to pull over and exit the vehicle, at which time they would kill him with baseball bats provided by Appellant. When the men lost the decedent's pickup in the highway traffic, the plan was abandoned. Appellant subsequently gave Bryson a gun to shoot the decedent, but he pawned it. Clinton McKimble was also charged with the first degree murder of James Plantz. He pled guilty to the charge in exchange for a life sentence.

Bryson subsequently offered Roderick Farris ($40,000.00) to kill the decedent. Terry Norman overheard Bryson say he had just talked to Appellant. She was upset because the decedent had physically assaulted her. When Farris asked why she just did not divorce the decedent, Bryson answered that she wanted to collect some money. Bryson indicated that if he had to kill the decedent by himself, he was going to catch the decedent coming home from work one morning, beat him with a baseball bat and set him on fire in his truck. A week later, Farris again encountered Bryson and Appellant at a local grocery store. Bryson offered Farris ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) to kill the decedent. He then introduced Farris to Appellant as "the one I was telling you about that would kill your husband." Appellant told Farris it would have to look like an accident. Later that night Bryson, Farris, and McKimble met at the Plantz home where they ate hamburgers and listened to music while waiting for the decedent to come home from work. When Farris heard someone at the front door, Appellant told him if it was the decedent to "take him out now". Bryson picked up a hammer and McKimble a knife, but it was not the decedent. Later that night, Farris was arrested and jailed on an unrelated charge.

Two days later, Bryson and McKimble were again with Appellant. Bryson picked Appellant up from work, where she had just quit her job. Waiting for the decedent to go to work at 6:00 p.m., they drove around, going to a bank where Appellant withdrew money she subsequently spent on cocaine and beer. Arriving at the Plantz home later that evening, Appellant retired to her bedroom at approximately 10:30 p.m. Bryson and McKimble remained in the living room drinking beer and smoking cocaine until approximately 11:30 p.m., when they fell asleep. Hours later, hearing a key in the front door, they hid on opposite sides of the house. The decedent entered the house whistling, a bag of groceries in his arms. Bryson struck first, hitting the decedent with the baseball bat. The decedent cried out for Appellant, but Bryson hit him again with McKimble soon joining in. The men repeatedly struck the decedent because "he would not stay down". Finally, the decedent crumpled to the floor. As he lay moaning, Bryson and McKimble picked him up and took him outside, setting him beside his pickup truck. Appellant emerged from the house, handed the pickup keys to Bryson and commented that the decedent's "head was busted open" and that it was not going to look much like an accident. She told the men "to burn him." They placed him in the bed of his pickup and Bryson drove to a deserted location on the route the decedent would have taken to work. McKimble followed in Appellant's car. The decedent was then placed in the cab of the pickup, behind the steering wheel. His body slumped over to the side. McKimble placed a rag in the gas tank and lit it. It failed to catch on fire. Bryson then poured gasoline on the decedent and in the cab of the pickup. He threw a match in and the pickup caught on fire. As the men drove away, they turned around and saw the decedent raise up.

Bryson and McKimble returned to the Plantz home where Appellant was cleaning up the blood. McKimble helped clean the floor and while Appellant cleaned the baseball bats. She directed the men to exchange their bloody clothes for clothes belonging to the decedent. She placed their bloody clothes in a sack and told them to get rid of the sack. The men soon left Appellant's home, throwing the sack of bloody clothes in the river. After going to a convenience store where they purchased sandwiches and drinks with money from the decedent's trousers, they went to a friends home, Michael Kendrick. Bryson and McKimble told Kendrick about killing the decedent. When asked about Appellant's two children, Bryson said they were asleep in their rooms at the time of the murder. Bryson phoned Appellant, asking if she was all right. Kendrick overheard Bryson to say that they must stay close and that Appellant had purchased a rug to cover up blood stains.