Courtney Palmer’s story: A closer look at his murder

Courtney Palmer’s disappearance in November 2016 ended with the discovery of his tortured and burned body in a shallow grave in Muskogee County. Palmer died at the hands of Gerard Lowe and his lover, Michaela Riddle. 

Palmer had witnessed a shooting at the Tamarack apartments, but when the police questioned him, he was too high on PCP to give credible information. When authorities returned to interview Palmer two days later, he was missing. 

According to reports, Palmer endured inhumane torture before succumbing to the injuries. He had several broken bones, including most facial bones and ribs. 

Courtney Palmer’s death resulted from gang-related violence

Courtney Palmer talked to the police following the shooting of his friend Carl Harris at the Tamarack apartments. He wasn’t involved in the murder, the police said, but Gerard and Riddle were convinced that he set up Harris to be shot. 

The couple tortured Palmer in Charletha Mack’s home in the 4600 block of North Boston Place. “They strangled him in my hallway and stomped on him until he couldn’t breathe no more,” Mack told police officers

Jeannetta Thomas, a witness of the murder, said Gerard and Riddle attacked Palmer in the bathroom before leaving to buy ice. Thomas noted that Palmer begged for mercy, saying ‘he didn’t have nothing to do with it.’

She witnessed Palmer lying in the hallway with cleaners bags over his head while Lowe Stomped on him. Thomas also said Riddle poured boiling water on Palmer. James Barkins, Thomas’ boyfriend, said he saw Gerard and Riddle attack Palmer with sticks as he screamed in the bathtub. 

When the police asked Mack what happened to Palmer’s body, she said the couple ‘told me not to worry about it.’ Gerard and Palmer took his body to Muskogee County, placed him in a shallow grave, covered him with a mattress, and set both on fire. 

Investigators found Palmer’s charred remains a month after his disappearance. 

Gerard and Riddle were convicted of first-degree and second-degree murder, respectively

Gerard Lowe pleaded guilty to charges of desecrating a human corpse, committing a gang-related offense, kidnapping, and first-degree murder. District Judge Sharon Holmes sentenced Lowe to life in prison with the possibility of parole plus five years for the gang-related offense. 

Holmes ordered Lowe to serve 27 years for desecrating human remains and kidnapping concurrently with the life sentence. 

A jury acquitted Riddle of first-degree murder, finding her guilty of second-degree murder, desecrating Palmer’s remains, and kidnapping. Judge Holmes sentenced her to 49 years in prison. 

Charletha Mack pleaded guilty to an accessory to murder charge, earning a two-year prison sentence and 18 years under the Oklahoma Department of Corrections supervision. Mack testified that she didn’t proactively inform police of the murder in her residence. 

“Our hearts go out to the family of Courtney Palmer who was beaten and tortured to death,” Assistant District Attorney Cindy Cunningham said. “There is no punishment that can be given to compensate for the family’s loss and the victim’s suffering.”

Riddle unsuccessfully appealed for the reduction of her sentence

Michaela Riddle challenged her sentence on multiple grounds at the Oklahoma Court of Appeals. 

However, the attempt to get her sentence reduced or vacated failed: In April 2022, Oklahoma appellate court judges upheld her 49-year sentence. 

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