How an ex-Marine and liar became a hit man

An in-depth look at David Tyner, the "Cathouse" killer, and his victims

Denny Phillips was aware of all of this, having smuggled drugs into prison cells and gaining status in the process; he was high in the tribal hierarchy of the Indian Brotherhood, a volatile Native American prison gang that began making noise in the early 1990s. Violent and organized, they deal drugs and call shots from the inside with freed members spread across the Midwest. Opposing gangs and their families visit on alternating days to avoid any eruptions.

Phillips, an Indian headdress with feathers encasing his neck, was responsible for recruiting efforts. In the 240-pound Tyner, he saw a walking refrigerator, an enforcer. More important, Tyner was broke and rudderless, the kind of clay Phillips could mold.

"Byrd was nomadic," Cindy David says. "He never really put roots down, moving from his father's house to his mother's. They separated when he was young. He wanted a family."

Tim Lane

Phillips's reputation was such that Nicholson warned Tyner about keeping company with him, that he was dangerous, and that he should never believe the conniving Phillips was truly his friend.

"You go into prison and you come out following the same rules," Nicholson says. "But I wasn't going to dictate who his friends were."

Phillips's seduction took time. But in April 2009, Tyner abruptly quit his job as a welder. Friends he had hung out with for years were back-burnered. His girlfriend came home one day and saw several Indians in her living room; buzz cuts were being given out. It was homework for barber school, Tyner's latest pursuit; he had even dyed a stripe in his hair.

That didn't pay the bills, though, so she insisted he get a job. He started work as a cook at Boomerang's. But every other waking moment was being spent with Phillips, whom he began to refer to as "brother."

In spring 2009, Phillips introduced Tyner to Casey "Diablo" Barrientos, 32, whom Denny had met while both were incarcerated. Barrientos had just been paroled in April after doing time for drug offenses and a 2001 drive-by shooting. He was affiliated with the South Side Locos, a Mexican gang. In the event that his rap sheet was unavailable, anyone who met Barrientos got the hint from the devil's horns tattooed on his forehead.

Despite his newfound freedom, Barrientos had no intention of giving up illicit activities or supplying the twilight culture. From his home in Oklahoma City, he filtered drugs — weed, coke, meth — passed along by a Mexican cartel, dispatching Phillips and Tyner to traffic them a few hours away in Tulsa or Grand Lake.

Phillips explained to Tyner that Barrientos needed a bodyguard, that threats had been made against his life. His fantasies of being a gunslinger were coming true.

Tyner was paid for his bodyguard work and got a cut of the drug deals. He felt he was doing as much work as Phillips, but Phillips always seemed to have wads of cash too big for a money clip.

Barrientos didn't seem to be giving Tyner as many drugs to sell. Phillips, meanwhile, had made as many as 50 or 60 trips to Oklahoma City, where Barrientos had a suburban compound worthy of De Palma: stacks of money totaling $100,000 on the coffee table, men armed with guns, hundreds of pounds of weed, and a stream of naked women.

One day in August 2009, Tyner pulled up next to Phillips in a Homeland grocery parking lot. Phillips's girlfriend, Karine Sanders, was sitting in the passenger seat. She would later testify that Tyner had complained of wanting more — more of what Phillips had. He had bills, a child to support. He was working just as hard as anyone. Barrientos was being greedy.

"Let's do something about it," Phillips said.

"Well, let's do it, then," Tyner said.

Tyner and his girlfriend separated that summer. She disliked Phillips and correctly suspected that Tyner wasn't being faithful. While attending beauty school, which hosted a barber's course, Tyner had met Symantha Stanton, and the two moved into Salina's only apartment complex, a converted motel with a handful of units. It was a just short drive to Tahlequah, where Phillips lived.

Tyner soon abandoned his barber plans and made regular treks to Oklahoma City, where Barrientos had set up a bedroom for him. He returned to Salina once a week to visit Stanton and his daughter. Stanton would later testify that she saw bullets and knives in their apartment.

The times she accompanied Tyner into Oklahoma City, she noticed that people there would refer to him as "Hooligan," a reference to the tattoo he'd gotten splayed across his chest. But back in Salina, Hooligan was unknown — he was Byrd.

Sanders was present for two more conversations about Barrientos, who had recently relocated from his place on Springfield Drive to a single-story brick house at 1511 SW 56th St. in Oklahoma City. He had taken over the lease payments from childhood friend and fellow dealer Jose Fernando Fierro, age 30. While Sanders perceived Barrientos as generous, often giving his lieutenants money for gas, meals, and rent, she said Tyner was adamant that he was being screwed out of money.

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This is a factually inaccurate article which should be treated as fiction.

CinBlueland topcommenter

Just my 2c, Yes the guy was a pogue. 

But, how is this a MN related article? I don't see a post/article about Obama's stooge in Egypt being ousted.

Or is this some weird projection that all Marines are lying, nutcases? Be a reporter, lets dig deeper, what is the % of non-combat MOS types doing stupid/bad shit to those in combat MOS's, and have had heavy combat action.

Or was this just a hit piece to try and piss on the Marines?

Who stands on that wall at night Rossen? 99% of the Marines don't ask your your approval, appreciation, hell even respect. 

But if you're going to throw stones about how evil they are, what is the pct of Marine on Civilian crime vs civilian on civilian crime??


Interesting article. Doesn't take much to push someone off the path.

swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland  By the way, what's the derivation of the expression, "the guy was a pogue"?  I can guess what you mean from context, of course.  I don't think I've heard it before.  Any special meaning?

CinBlueland topcommenter

Just a little context, you're aware that an "average" Marine could drop you from 300 to 500 meters? How many of us go off the Res as it were? You're in far more danger from a local banger who likes to spray and pray.

swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland I think you're being a little touchy here, Cin.  That this guy did a hitch in the Marines is parenthetical to the story, in reality and in presentation.  This guy actually fits the profile, to a T, of the kids the Marines recruit relentlessly in small towns.  Athletic, competitive, marginally connected to family and friends; tendency toward risk-taking, trouble-making and violence.  

I knew a half-dozen guys at least who came to the end of high school and you wondered, are they going to get to Marine Boot Camp before they get put in jail/prison?  In the small town, the Marine recruiter would actually go to court with the young defendant, and as long as the charges weren't too heinous or overly publicized (and any victims were of a lower social status), a deal would be worked out where charges would be suspended conditionally, as long as the kid actually went to Boot Camp and stayed in the Corps (and out of town) for a set period of time.

Hey, it worked more often that it didn't.  For most young men in rural areas, if you're not college material, after high school sports are over there is no socially acceptable outlet for violence and adventure.  Either join the service, or get married, or drink heavily and wind up in jail.

Most of the guys i remember wanted to be in the Marines because the Marine recruiters really laid it on thick.  Of the guys who went that route, I remember a couple who washed out, but even that was good for them because as they said, "I used to think I knew what sucked, but after Marine boot camp I can tell you I had no idea."

And then of course there was Steve Jenkins/Anderson, who was so crazy the Marines wouldn't take him.  You can Google how he turned out.

CinBlueland topcommenter

@lenti Like the Columbine, Colorado, Sandy Hook killers?  Nothing personal, just bugs me when Marines are dragged into these things.. Texas, and in theory JFK, OK, but if you're going report on this junk, then start attaching gang affliations as well.

CinBlueland topcommenter

@swmnguy @CinBlueland In short, he was not a line troop. I'm not going to try and buff myself up... Just go to your local VFW.

CinBlueland topcommenter

@swmnguy @CinBlueland swmnguy, was this the 70's?

Marine recruiting standards jumped pretty high in the 80s/90's. The jail or Marines option was out. 99% of the guys I served with were educated, and motivated. Yes a great way to see the world, but when the call came we came. 

Recruiters laying it on thick?? I know they have quotas but mine said "If you join you will see combat" How thick is that?

Sorry about being defensive, we/they give their all. Nothing is asked for in return.

swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland  Actually, Cin, this guy's gang affiliations are far more central to this story as told here than his record in the Marines.  And the story makes it very clear that none of his fellow Marines were exactly fans of his.

swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland  You don't have to apologize to me about anything.  Yes, I was referring to the guys I knew growing up in the 70s, but also well into the 80s.  

The guys who wanted to join the Marines wanted to see combat.  That was why they were interested in the first place.  The guys considered losers, or less-motivated, usually chose the Army.  There were exceptions; I knew a couple guys who seemed like top-shelf recruits who went into the Army because they were 4th generation or something like that.

In farm country when i was a kid, no recruiter had much trouble meeting a quota.  Rural America has been in a Depression for about 40 years, in many ways.

The story made it very clear to my eye that this guy was in no way a good Marine. When you say, "we/they give their all," I don't think we're talking about the guy in this story.  I did not take this guy as any reflection whatsoever on the Marine Corps, or the military in general.

I do think you're being overly sensitive about it, and I also do not think you need to apologize to me about it.  There are things I'm overly sensitive about myself and I don't think I need to apologize about that.


@CinBlueland @swmnguy Sorry, but that is absolute nonsense. I am a Vietnam veteran, honorably discharged from The United States Marine Corps in 1971. From then on I referred to myself, and was warmly referred to by others, as an ex-Marine. I went on to college under the GI bill, then to the military medical school, USUHS--- always referred to as an ex-Marine by my classmates, most of whom were active duty line officers before they entered USUHS. Later, as a USN Medical Officer, I served two years at the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center in Northern California, and then four years at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton. Every single active duty Marine I had contact with referred to me as an ex-Marine. Every single Marine retiree I had contact referred to himself as an ex-Marine.

The "former" qualifier came into use much later, and as far as I can tell is, for some bizarre and arbitrary reason, considered 'politically correct'. The term former Marine is fine if you choose to use it. However, I will not be corrected but whippersnappers who were not even born yet when I was, again, honorably, discharged from the Corps. 

CinBlueland topcommenter

@swmnguy You may hear trash talk about the Suck.. Still not your place to comment.. Unless you've served and did your time.. Your comments mean nothing. Do a little homework on Ex vs Former Marine