The story of Charlie Lee Bethel’s demise is a sad one by any measure — reportedly beaten in the head with a baseball bat after being lured from Shidler to Bartlesville by the prospect of meeting with a woman — but there’s more.
Bethel, 40, was only in a position to travel during the early morning hours of St. Patrick’s Day because of an act that was intended as compassion. He had been locked up in the Osage County jail until Monday, March 16, because of alleged probation violations, but authorities released him on bail that day “in the interest of public health and safety, due to COVID-19,” according to a court record.
In other words, Osage County authorities didn’t want to risk Bethel catching COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus, in the county jail. So they let him go March 16, not due to return until June 4 at 3 p.m.
By the next day (Tuesday, March 17), he was found dead in his bed in the aftermath of a violent incident in the 1100 block of Southwest Maple Avenue, Bartlesville.
By Wednesday morning, authorities said Bethel had suffered injuries to his head and body from a blunt object, and two people were in custody in connection with that violence. The Osage County Sheriff’s Office and the Bartlesville police believed Bethel had been lured to Bartlesville so he could be robbed. He had been beaten, but not to death. Bethel reportedly turned down a friend’s offer to take him for medical attention after he had been assaulted.
By Thursday morning, March 19, four people had been arrested in connection with Bethel’s death, and law enforcement had clarified that the weapon allegedly used to beat him was a baseball bat. A person identified as Bethel’s roommate reportedly told law officers that she and Bethel had left Shidler about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, so she could drive him to a residence in the 1100 block of Southwest Maple Avenue in Bartlesville to meet a woman named Amber Hall, who sometimes goes by Amber Jackson.
When police interviewed Hall, she said the victim had sent her a message and “basically offered methamphetamine for sex,” according to a police report. Hall said she told two people she was with, Cynthia Fish and Omar Marano, that Bethel was treating her like a “dope whore,” according to police. A decision reportedly was made to lure Bethel to a house on Maple Avenue and rob him.
After the incident, Marano was arrested in Barnsdall, through the cooperation of Barnsdall police and the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. A fourth person, identified as Austin Prater, was also reportedly jailed in Bartlesville. The baseball bat reportedly used to strike Bethel was recovered, according to authorities.
So there you have it — Osage County turned Charlie Bethel loose to keep COVID-19 from getting to him in the jailhouse, but he apparently found death on his own.
—Staff Writer Kris Dudley contributed to this report