July 31 hearing set for Holt

Nathan Thompson nthompson@examiner-enterprise.com

A July 31 date has been set for the preliminary hearing in Osage County District Court of two brothers accused of kidnapping and murdering Pawhuska oilman Rick Holt, after a district judge overruled a previous decision on jurisdiction.

Brothers Tyler and Jeremy Reece are facing district court charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, although several jurisdictional challenges on the murder charges have delayed the prosecution in state courts for almost two years.

Holt was shot multiple times in September 2015 and buried in a shallow grave on Osage Nation tribal ground near Hominy. When investigators exhumed Holt’s body, it was also found that he had been burned.

Because Holt’s body was found on tribal land, Osage County Judge Stuart Tate ruled on June 2 that the Osage County District Attorney’s office lacked jurisdiction on the murder charges. That ruling was overturned by District Judge Terry McBride of Mayes County, who is the presiding judge for the Northeast Judicial Administrative District.

In his finding, McBride ordered Tate to set the case for preliminary hearing so that the court can hear evidence to better make a decision whether or not the murder charges can be heard in state courts. According to Osage County District Court records, after McBride’s overruling was received last week, court officials set the case for preliminary hearing on July 31.

The Reece brothers remain in the Osage County Jail on $1 million bail each for the kidnapping, shooting and murder charges.

Both are also accused of murder in Osage tribal court and are jailed on those charges, but the Osage County District Attorney’s Office has fought for nearly two years to prosecute the brothers independently.

Because the brothers are citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and are accused of committing the murder on Osage tribal land, Tate has ruled twice to dismiss the murder case because he said only the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the tribal court system could handle it.

Officials with the U.S Attorney’s Office in Tulsa decided not to pursue federal murder charges in the case, reportedly due to “a lack of definitive proof” that the injuries which caused Holt’s death were inflicted on Indian land.

If tribal court is the only remedy, the Osage Nation Attorney General’s office said the maximum sentence for the Reece brothers is only one year in jail or 20 years banishment from tribal land.

The state’s kidnapping and conspiracy charges hold maximum sentences of 20 years and 10 years, respectively. If the first-degree murder charges are upheld in state court, the brothers could face the death penalty.