Norman killing spree ends in suspect's suicide
NORMAN — An estranged husband shot and killed his wife's divorce attorney late Tuesday night before driving across town where he shot and killed his wife and set her home on fire.
Hours later, Timothy Michael Deffner, 55, shot and killed himself in rural Pottawatomie County as law officers closed in on him, officials said.
The sequence of events began about 11 p.m. Tuesday when police received two 911 calls reporting homicides. Police say Deffner kicked in the front door of the home of attorney Bryan Young in the 700 block of Trisha Lane.
Police responding to the home a short time later found Young, 47, suffering from several gunshot wounds. Young, a former Norman North High School principal and soccer coach, was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
Norman police said Young's wife, Lisa Young, and their 5-year-old son, Braxton, were in the home at the time of the killing. Neither was injured, although Deffner warned Young's wife to go back inside the house when she confronted him.
Later, Norman firefighters found Cayann Patterson Deffner, 49, dead inside a home that had been set on fire in the 1000 block of W Lindsey Street. Cayann Deffner had been shot several times, police said, and her house had been set on fire.
Not long after, police launched a manhunt for Deffner's estranged husband, who went by his middle name of Michael.
Young was representing Cayann Deffner in the couple's divorce case, court documents show.
- Related to this story
- Article: Norman 911 call: 'There's blood everywhere'
- Article: Norman shooter accused of stealing insurance money from in-laws
- Video: Norman Police Press Conference on Double Homicide (2017-02-08)
- Video: Search details for Timothy Michael Deffner in Pottawatomie County (2017-02-08)
- Video: Norman Police release the 911 call from Tuesday's double homicide (2017-02-09)
Wednesday's manhunt for Michael Deffner stretched from Cleveland County into Pottawatomie County, where a passer-by spotted Deffner's white pickup parked on a gravel road about 3 a.m. near the area of Bethel Road and Highland Road in Tecumseh. Officers set up a perimeter and waited until daybreak, when officers began combing the area. A police helicopter spotted Deffner in a field, and when officers surrounded him and ordered him to surrender, Deffner shot himself, said Pottawatomie County Undersheriff J.T. Palmer.
"Why he picked this route, why his pickup is here, we don't know... (he may have) made a decision that he messed up enough and it was time to get out of it," Palmer said.
Palmer said authorities think Deffner may have been on his way to Shawnee to kill a third person. Police did not identify who the potential victim may have been. But Stan Ward, an attorney at Ward Glass Associates, Young's law firm, said he thinks Deffner may have intended to kill one of his clients.
“I think it was a client of mine he was angry with,” Ward said. “Apparently, my client was on a list of people they were concerned about."
Ward did not identify the client. Police said they were still working to identify others who could have been in danger.
A difficult client
Michael Deffner often found himself at odds with his own attorneys. Holly Iker, the attorney representing Michael Deffner in the divorce, was in the process of withdrawing from the case because her client wouldn't stop harassing her, Iker's assistant said Wednesday.
The assistant, Brittany Haley, said Deffner frequently sent “nasty” emails to Iker and showed up at the office even after being told not to.
“He would call here 10 times a day and Holly would tell him things weren't ready yet. He would say, ‘Holly's not doing her job.'”
Haley described the divorce case as “messy,” adding that Iker would have been the latest in a string of attorneys to drop Deffner as a client.
"He was pretty angry,” she said. “It was probably one of the worst divorces that any lawyer had gone through.”
Norman police Chief Keith Humphrey said there appears to have been a history of domestic abuse calls related to Deffner and his wife.
Michael Deffner filed for divorce in 2015, court documents show. Michael and Cayann Deffner were due to appear at a hearing in the matter Monday in Cleveland County District Court.
On Aug. 24, 2015, Cleveland County Special Judge Jequita Napoli granted Cayann Deffner a victim protective order against her husband, court documents show.
Cayann Deffner had filed for a victim protective order once before, on June 9, 2015. Nine days later, she sought to have that request dismissed. In the application she wrote, “I was hoping having a protective order would give my daughter and I protection; and that the respondent, Michael Deffner, would leave our home, which I own.”
She added, “But, like many times before, Michael has a friend that is an OU police officer, who notifies Michael any time anyone goes to the police about him.”
Cayann Deffner continued in the application that “he (Michael) went crazy — threatened to do many things. I will have to have my attorney help me get him out of my home.”
Napoli signed the order of dismissal.
'A tremendous asset'
Before becoming an attorney, Young spent 17 years with the Norman School District, most recently as a principal at Norman North High School. He had also worked as a teacher and soccer coach, district officials said. Young left the district in 2014. In a statement, Norman superintendent Joe Siano said Young had been "a tremendous asset during his time in our district."
"Bryan was a respected colleague and friend and he will be remembered as a ferocious advocate for students," Siano said. "Our thoughts are with his family, friends and the many people in our community who knew him."
In a statement, Ward Glass Attorneys, the firm where Young practiced law, said the firm was "deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our friend and colleague, Bryan Young."
"Bryan was an exceptional lawyer with a passion for helping others in need; especially special needs children and their families in our schools and communities," the statement read. "Bryan will be remembered as a loving husband and father, for his infectious smile and optimistic attitude toward life."
Ward, the attorney at Ward Glass, said Bryan Young had been at the firm for the past two or three years.
“I have never met a more upbeat, positive person with such a great attitude," Ward said. "He was well loved. This is a horrible, horrible thing that has happened."
Ward said Young was a wrestler at the University of Oklahoma where his wife was a gymnast when they met.
Fellow wrestlers suggested to Young that he should become a jockey, because he was so small, Ward said.
“He had never ridden a horse in his life, but he tried it and liked it. He raced as a jockey for nine years, before an accident in which he broke his neck,” Ward said.
On Monday, prosecutors in Cleveland County filed five counts of forgery against Deffner in connection with incidents in 2013 and 2014, court records show. A Cleveland County district judge issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for Deffner on those charges.
In a separate case filed in 2015, Cayann Deffner's mother, Charlotte Patterson, sued Michael and Cayann Deffner, alleging that the two had agreed to take over the mortgage on a home owned by Patterson and her late husband, James Patterson. The suit alleges Michael and Cayann Deffner refused to make mortgage payments after December 2013.
The suit also alleges Michael Deffner vandalized the home after moving out, driving his truck through the garage door, knocking holes in drywall and damaging a swimming pool.
Young also represented Patterson in the mortgage lawsuit.
Michael Deffner was also a plaintiff in a foreclosure case last year in Oklahoma County in which he claimed another woman, Emily C. Deffner, defaulted on a loan agreement. Court documents don't say whether Emily Deffner was related to Michael Deffner. In a counterclaim in that case, Emily Deffner alleges that no such loan agreement existed, and that Michael Deffner had forged the loan documents presented in court. The loan agreement was notarized by Cayann Deffner, according to court documents.
Also in the counterclaim, Emily Deffner alleges that Michael Deffner sent her more than 68 text messages threatening to kill her boyfriend.
District Judge Thad Balkman said there was extra security Wednesday at the Cleveland County Courthouse in the wake of the homicides. Norman police also posted watch at the homes of all the judges who had prior dealings with Deffner and provided escorts to court, Cleveland County District Judge Tracy Schumacher said.
A group of Young's friends is planning a candlelight vigil in his honor at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Arbor Lake neighborhood at 48th Ave NW and W Robinson Ave. Those who attend are asked to bring their own candles.
Contributing: Staff Writers Jane Glenn Cannon, Graham Lee Brewer, Tim Willert, Josh Dulaney, Robert Medley
A memorial fund was established in Bryan Young's name at Republic Bank & Trust. Donations may be dropped off at any Republic bank branch or mailed to Republic Bank & Trust, P.O. Box 5369, Norman, OK 73070.
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›