Murder charges filed against Houston-area man accused in Oklahoma I-40 deaths

A Texas man accused of killing two people while randomly firing his gun along an Oklahoma interstate was charged Monday with first-degree murder.

Jeremy Doss Hardy, 36, of Pasadena, Texas, was arraigned in Custer County, where he was arrested about an hour after reports came in Wednesday night about a man in a pickup truck firing a gun along Interstate 40, west of Oklahoma City.

Authorities identified the first victim as 45-year-old Jeffrey Kent Powell of Arapaho. He was traveling with his wife, who was not struck. The second victim was 63-year-old Billie Jean West of Lone Wolf. Both were traveling on Interstate 40, west of Oklahoma City, when they were shot.

Police have said the suspect shooter sped through three counties in the night while randomly firing from his truck, hitting at least four vehicles, and surrendered after a 25-mile chase shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday.

Hardy was initially jailed for driving under the influence. Prosecutors added the two first-degree murder charges Monday during a hearing in Custer County court, according to The Oklahoman newspaper and KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City. He also is facing other charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon.

He was ordered held without bond.

Both the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Custer County sheriff said the case was being investigated as possible road rage. The agencies said they had no indication the shooter knew the victims.

In an interview with The Oklahoman, Hardy's father, Robert Hardy, said the reports seemed out of character for his son. He questioned whether authorities may have stopped his son by mistake.

"It's definitely not the way he was taught or the way he's always been," Robert Hardy told the newspaper on Thursday, before charges were filed. "Weren't there a lot of black four-door pickups on the road? . That's a pretty common vehicle for this part of the country. I'm praying that that's not something he's capable of doing."

A trucker who was driving along I-40 that night, Josh Morris of Weatherford, said his tractor-trailer was struck by bullets, with one round narrowly missing him. Morris said a pickup sped past him twice on I-40 in a 10-minute span, and as it passed a second time, he thought a rock hit his cab. He pulled over and discovered it was a bullet. He said the round was lodged in a metal plate inside the door.

"I heard a 'thunk' on the side of my door and he whizzed on by and went a distance," Morris told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. "At that time, I didn't know how fortunate I was. I call it an 'Oh, Jesus,' moment."