Murder suspects await trial

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

Two Pawhuska brothers remain in the Osage County Jail awaiting their next local court appearances in connection with the September 2015 slaying of 46-year-old local rancher/oilman Rick Holt.

A couple of weeks ago, just as it appeared the pair might — at least — be close to getting transferred to a different jail facility, 31-year-old Jeremy Reece and 19-year-old Tyler Reece were confronted with new and totally separate sets of murder charges.

Following a earlier string of seemingly favorable court rulings on the initial state charges that had been brought against them, the Reeces faced arraignments on consecutive afternoons. An unanticipated charge of first-degree homicide was filed against the two brothers May 24 in Osage Nation Tribal Court.

May 25, the brothers arrived at the Osage County Courthouse expecting a hearing to set bond amounts on the only local charges still pending against them — kidnapping and conspiracy to commit a felony.

The felony first-degree murder count to which the conspiracy charge was tied had since been dismissed. Judges ruled the alleged murder would have been committed on restricted Indian land by Native Americans. Jeremy and Tyler Reece are enrolled members of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

In their rulings, Osage County Special Judge Stuart Tate and Mayes County District Judge Terry McBride both said a federal court would have exclusive jurisdiction in a trial for Holt’s murder — as well as an ancillary charge, desecration of a human corpse. The judges cited the Indian Major Crimes Act in support of their decisions for dismissing the state’s murder charge against the brothers.

The Osage County District Attorneys’s had indicated that it intended to appeal the jurisdictional rulings. However, it was later revealed that the deadline for file such an appeal had passed and DA Rex Duncan subsequently withdrew his notice for an appeal.

A few minutes before the Reece bond hearing was set to begin on May 25, Duncan’s office filed amended charge of felony murder with additional counts of conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping. The new complaint prompted Judge Tate to delay the planned bond hearing in order to consider the state’s amended information.

After listening to the defendants’ requests that the resurrected state murder charge be tossed, Tate scheduled hearings for Aug. 1 to consider the Reeces’ motion seeking dismissal of the state’s amended murder count. The judge called for the Reece brothers’ attorneys to submit briefs by June 15 outlining their arguments for dismissal. The DA’s office was given until July 8 to formally respond to those arguments.

In March, Tate had made his ruling for dismissal because the wounds which were alleged to have caused the victim’s death had been committed on Indian land located several miles from the Holt’s Osage County residence. McBride upheld Tate’s jurisdictional ruling in April.

Duncan said the amended information states that Holt was shot in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun as the brothers were committing a burglary at his residence. The DA further claimed that that gunshot wound, alone, would have resulted in the victim’s death.

Officials with the Osage Nation made the decision to pursue charges against the Reeces after considering the very real possibility that bond might be set for the pair on the state kidnapping and conspiracy charges. The brothers were arraigned on the tribal charges Thursday morning. The brothers did not personally appear at the Tribal Court. Instead, ON Trial Court Judge Marvin Stepson conducted the arraignments via telephone, with the Reeces remaining in custody at the Osage County Jail.

The Reeces’ absence from the court reportedly came after death threats had been made against them. ON court facilities are located just a short distance from the Osage County Courthouse where the pair had appeared a day earlier. Stepson entered not-guilty pleas for both defendants.

A $1 million cash bond remains in effect for each of the brothers in tribal court. The Reeces are still being held without bond in the Osage County case.

The Oklahoma Indigent Defense Service attorneys who have been representing the Reeces may not be able to to defend them in the tribal court, court officials have said. Rod Ramsey is the attorney of record for Tyler Reece. Adam Haselgren and Peter Astor, who are from the OIDS Capital Division, are appearing on behalf of Jeremy Reece.