Family of JaRay Wilson pushes for bill impacting life sentences for minors

JaRay Wilson was murdered when she was 16 years old. (File/KOKH)

A bill giving judges the ability to sentence minors to life without parole passed the Oklahoma House Monday.

The measure could impact the prison sentence of a man convicted of murder in a case that captured national attention.

JaRay Wilson disappeared from Weatherford in October 2012. Her family searched for her for 14 months before her body was found.

“One of the people involved – the monsters, we call them – finally told where she was,” said Jara Wilson, her mother. “She was maybe five miles from home in a shallow grave.”

Tucker McGee was convicted of first degree murder for killing the 16-year-old. He shot her twice in the head. McGee’s life without parole sentence was later struck down and is now under review.

“He was 10 days shy of being 18, so he couldn’t get the death penalty, and now they’re trying to take life without parole off the table” said Jara Wilson. “He is a monster, and he needs to stay behind bars."

She and Rodney Wilson, JaRay’s father, are now fighting to get Senate bill 1221 passed the state legislature. It sets up a process for evaluating minors convicted of murder and would allow judges, instead of a jury, to give minors a sentence of life without parole.

Some critics of the bill believe it would hurt criminal justice reform efforts in the state. Oklahoma is second in the nation in overall incarceration rates.

But the Wilsons believe a sentence of life without parole fits McGee’s crime.

“They’re saying a minor doesn’t deserve to stay in prison in a cage,” said Rodney Wilson. “My daughter’s in a box, and she don’t get to tell her side.”

If JaRay were alive today, she’d be 21 years old. Her parents wonder every day what she’d be like.

“We’ll never get that opportunity to know because Tucker McGee took that from us,” her mother said.

The House passed SB 1221 on Monday. JaRay’s parents plan to do everything they can to make sure it keeps moving forward.

“We’ll never quit,” Rodney Wilson said. “It’s what you do for your kids.”

It’s unclear when the Senate will take up the measure for a vote.

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