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Man Sentenced to Life Without Parole by Judge for Murder

In the formal sentencing for a McAlester man convicted in March for the 2017 death of Holly Cantrell, a judge in Pittsburg County upheld the jury’s recommendation on Thursday.

Cody Ketchum, 37, was found guilty by a Pittsburg County Jury on March 13 and was advised to serve a life sentence in prison without parole for the first-degree murder charge after a nine-day trial. Additionally, the jury suggested Ketchum serve a maximum of one year in the county jail for a misdemeanor charge of evidence tampering.

Holly Cantrell disappeared in January 2017 after leaving the McAlester Regional Health Center during her lunch break. Ketchum claimed he had given her a ride from the hospital to Braum’s on U.S. Highway 69 in McAlester to meet friends. However, she never returned to work and was reported missing by her family.

Following the discovery of remains in 2018, which were later identified as Holly Cantrell’s in 2020, the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Department initiated a homicide investigation.

During the sentencing hearing, a victim impact statement from Holly Cantrell’s aunt, Sherrill Wilkins, was read by Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Heather Anderson. Wilkins expressed the profound loss and devastation inflicted on their family by Ketchum’s actions.

Tommy Cantrell, Holly’s husband, also provided a statement expressing the irreplaceable void left by Holly’s absence, especially as she will miss significant life events, including the birth of her grandchildren.

Despite the opportunity, Ketchum chose not to address the court before sentencing. The prosecution, represented by Anderson, urged the court to honor the jury’s recommendations, emphasizing that the sentence was solely determined by the jury without the prosecution’s input.

Pittsburg County Associate District Judge Tim Mills concurred with the jury’s decision and ordered Ketchum to be taken into the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, with both sentences to be served concurrently.

Ketchum’s defense attorney, Brecken Wagner, who provided pro-bono representation, requested the court to declare Ketchum indigent and to appoint the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System for the appeals process. The motion was granted by Mills, allowing Wagner to withdraw and facilitating the transition to the new legal representation for Ketchum’s appeals.

Additionally, Anderson raised a concern about a 3D printed scan of a partial skull of Holly Cantrell that was presented as evidence during the trial. Wagner objected to its removal from the case file, and Mills decided to retain the evidence in its current state, with the option to address any related issues during the appeals process if necessary.