OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A rising politician’s meeting with his mentally ill son at a restaurant turned deadly when the young man pulled out a large kitchen knife and stabbed his father to death while his mother and other horrified witnesses looked on, police said Monday.
Christian Costello, 26, was being held on a preliminary first-degree murder charge Monday after the Sunday night killing of his father, Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello, a two-term politician who was expected to run for higher office in 2018.
The son, who once spent 90 days confined in a hospital for treatment for an undisclosed mental illness, had asked his parents to meet him at the Braum’s fast-food restaurant in northwest Oklahoma City, where he argued with his father while his mother waited outside.
“What set him off to attack the commissioner, we still don’t know,” Oklahoma City police Capt. Paco Balderrama said at a news conference.
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Family members issued a statement through a spokesman on Monday saying they couldn’t adequately express the “shock and sadness” they were feeling. They said Christian Costello has a mental illness — although they didn’t specify which one — and that he had experienced “many difficulties over the past several years.”
“Christian, like thousands of Oklahomans, struggles with a mental health disease and like many families we did our best to support him,” they said.
In a plea bargain over a 2012 driving under the influence of drugs charge, Christian Costello disclosed that he had once been confined for three months so he could be treated for mental illness and that he was taking mood stabilizers, according to court records obtained by The Associated Press.
Last year, he was cited for a misdemeanor, “outraging public decency,” for allegedly standing outside of an Oklahoma City elementary school with his pajama pants down.
“The defendant was chewing on two bird feathers and what appeared to be dandelions and other weeds,” records filed with the court said. That case is still unresolved.
Mark Richardson, who lived across the hall from Christian Costello at a condominium complex not far from the scene of the attack, said he frequently saw him talking to himself or dancing alone.
“We’ve seen him walking around aimlessly all the time,” said Mark Richardson, 59. “He’d walk around half the time with hardly any clothes on.”
Richardson said he often heard Costello and his girlfriend fighting and yelling at each other.
“They got into screaming matches all the time,” Richardson said.
Christian Costello’s attorney in the 2012 case, Charles Gile, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment left Monday. Jail records do not indicate if Costello has an attorney for his current case, and Balderrama said he didn’t know if he had one.
Christian Costello is expected to appear before a judge on Tuesday via a video link from the Oklahoma County Jail for a bond hearing, where it’s likely bond will be denied.
Mark Costello was considered a rising star in Republican Party politics. He took 64 percent of the vote against an incumbent Democrat in 2010, and the telephone software company founder was re-elected last year. He was expected to run for lieutenant governor in 2018, said GOP strategist Trebor Worthen.
“He would have been a strong and formidable candidate for any office he wanted to run for,” Worthen said.
According to police, officers were called to the ice cream and fast-food restaurant Sunday evening after a stabbing was reported. Mark Costello, 59, had been stabbed multiple times in the head and neck and died at a hospital.
Balderrama said Cathy Costello, who was the victim’s wife and is the suspect’s mother, was waiting outside the restaurant while the two men met inside, and that she tried to intervene when the fight spilled into the parking lot. At least one witness knocked Christian Costello off-balance with a vehicle, and others held him down until officers arrived, the police spokesman said.
Homicide detectives interviewed at least 17 witnesses, all of whom said they saw Christian Costello stabbing the victim, according to a police affidavit filed late Monday.
Gov. Mary Fallin, who directed that flags be lowered to half-staff for the rest of the week, said she spoke Monday with Cathy Costello to offer her condolences to the family.
“Cathy certainly is very heartbroken and when I asked her what we could do to help her … she said, ‘Pray.’,” the governor said.
State law requires Fallin to appoint a successor to complete the remainder of Costello’s term, which ends in 2018.
Follow Sean Murphy at https://twitter.com/apseanmurphy