How an ex-Marine and liar became a hit man

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

It would be easy. Barrientos was always on painkillers, his guard down. And he would soon let Tyner go, having been told by Phillips that he was complaining about pay. It was further incentive for Tyner and further subterfuge by Phillips: It would later be alleged that the latter owed Barrientos over $30,000 for drugs and a dark-blue Dodge Charger procured in a private sale between the two.

It was decided that Barrientos would be robbed. And murdered.

Tyner and Phillips discussed their options in the presence of Sanders. Both had reason to trust her: Sanders, 20, had known Tyner since she was four years old, their families were close, and he often babysat her. Phillips knew Sanders's father, Perry, a fellow member of the Brotherhood: The two had once escaped Mayes County Jail together.

Tim Lane

Sanders remembered being on the rural back roads, the smell of marijuana in the air, Phillips driving his ex's white Pontiac Grand Prix. They offered her $10,000 to man the getaway car. It was the same amount they knew Barrientos kept in a safe earmarked for bail money.

"If we're going to do this, then we have to do it," Phillips said, egging Tyner on. "We can't just talk about it."

"Man, I'm real," Tyner said. "You know I'm real. You know I'll do it."

According to Sanders, Phillips would be the one to kill Barrientos. Intoxicated by the idea of a real "hit," Tyner told them they could leave no witnesses behind to identify them.

By this time, Phillips had swayed Tyner with the promise of a "prospect patch," a tattoo meant to symbolize entry into the Brotherhood, which was normally open only to convicts. But if Tyner were to do something big on the outside — to help rob and murder Barrientos — Phillips would vouch for him.

Sanders was chilled. She pleaded with Tyner to walk away from the situation; he did the same, telling her to get away and pursue her dreams of being a writer.

It was Sanders who blinked. Frightened, she left town in September and never went to police with the story until what happened had happened.

Tyner reconnected with some of his old wrestling buddies that summer, taking out a boat and going fishing. They drank and joked about hell-raising in the old days. He gave his friend Austin David a turquoise ring set in a bear's claw and said his grandfather, a medicine man, had blessed it. He also said his grandfather had once turned into an owl, then woke up naked. He talked of moving to Norman, where David was, and being roommates.

As the night wore on, he began to share stories about an Indian mafia. David laughed it all off — Tyner and his tall tales.

"Man, I'm telling you," Tyner said. "It's real."

In late October 2009, Tyner told Stanton he was quitting his job as a bodyguard for Barrientos to go back to school. She noticed he had gotten a new tattoo on his left forearm.

Jennifer Ermey's family thought she was a waitress. Ermey, 25, seemed to be titillated by keeping her life as an exotic dancer a secret from her well-off parents, the twilight culture unknown to them.

One afternoon, Ermey returned home and saw her boyfriend kissing her roommate. Furious, she got her own apartment and began cozying up to her roommate's ex in an act of emotional revenge. He was not quite her type, with horns inked on his head and known gang affiliations. But Casey Barrientos bought Ermey nice things and had easy access to cocaine, which she had acquired a taste for.

Ermey was good friends with Milagros "Millie" Barrera, a 22-year-old Peruvian woman who enjoyed the nightlife. Barrera worked retail jobs — cell phones, apparel stores — and had gotten involved with a man who had gotten her pregnant. It didn't keep her from going out and enjoying herself, though: With her baby nearly 12 weeks along, she told a friend that she was going to meet someone who let people party at his house.

In the early-morning hours of Monday, November 9, 2009, Barrientos and Fierro drove to Henry Hudson's bar to meet Ermey and Barrera. They all ordered shots. At around 1:40 a.m., Fierro headed home while Barrientos left with the two women in Ermey's Honda. He told Fierro they were headed for Centerfolds, the strip club where Ermey worked.

Later, a former boyfriend of Barrera's got a phone call: She was inebriated, he said, and was "uncomfortable" around the people she was with at Centerfolds. He first let the call go to voice mail. By the time he spoke with her and drove to the club, she was gone.

Fierro also got a call. It was from a friend, Brooke Phillips, asking for cocaine. Fierro had met her in the clubs, had even employed her for private bachelor parties he arranged, but he hadn't seen her in years. He drove to a residence, where she and an unidentified male were arguing. She snorted coke off a CD case in Fierro's vehicle before leaving with him, saying she'd pick up her own car in the morning.

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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