Judge re-affirms Pawhuska murder case ruling

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

A recent ruling by an Osage County judge which relinquished jurisdiction in a local murder case was re-affirmed Monday, apparently clearing the way for the filing of charges in federal court.

Mayes County District Judge Terry H. McBride sustained the March 29 ruling Osage County Special Judge Stuart Tate, which called for dismissal of state-filed, first-degree murder against two Pawhuska brothers — Jeremy Keith Reece, 31, and Tyler Wayne Reece, 19.

The brothers, who are enrolled members of the Muscogee Creek Nation, are accused of the September 2015 slaying of Rick Holt, a 46-year-old oilman whose burned, bullet-riddled body was found buried on Indian land several miles southwest of Osage County ranch.

McBride said he could find no Oklahoma statute to support the state’s claim of concurrent jurisdiction regarding crimes the brothers are alleged to have committed on Indian land. While acknowledging “novel” circumstances of the case, the judge’s decision upheld federal authority regarding the murder case.

“While there is some feeling among lawyers that there is concurrent jurisdiction, that appears to be the extent of it: just some feeling among lawyers,” McBride said.

Peter Astor, an attorney for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System who is representing Jeremy Reece, said he believes the federal government has jurisdictional responsibility over case, due to its Native American aspects, “because they’ve always had it.”

Osage County charges for kidnapping and conspiracy remain in effect. A related charge, desecration of a human corpse, was also included in Tate’s ruling for federal jurisdiction. McBride said the kidnapping and murder were “separate and distinct crimes” — overruling the state’s claims that they constituted “a transactional criminal act.”

During the latest hearing, McBride asked Assistant District Attorney Mike Fisher why “the state would run the risk of being overturned four or five years down the road” rather than agreeing to have the case prosecuted at the federal level.

Fisher, who indicated that the county intends to appeal the court’s jurisdictional rulings, told the judge that there was “a local desire to prosecute this locally.”

McBride spoke in favor of the appeal, saying “the case should be gone over with a fine-toothed comb before proceeding.”

“It would be much better to do everything right the first time,” he said.

The judge offered local prosecutors the option of ordering both brothers to trial on first-degree felony murder, with kidnapping as the underlying felony. Both sides have stipulated that the alleged homicide appears to have taken place on restricted Indian land.

The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 13.

Investigators believe the slaying resulted from a confrontation the brothers had with Holt over a romantic relationship he was having with Jeremy Reece’s ex-wife. The brothers are both being held, without bond, in Osage County Jail.

Their mother of the Reece brothers, Ann Marie Reece, is charged as an accessory after-the-fact in the case. Her next court appearance is set for June 10.