Tyler Reece gets time served and probation in Holt slaying

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Tyler Wayne Reece, 23, one of two brothers prosecuted for the 2015 killing of oilman Rick Holt, pleaded guilty last week in Osage County District Court to a charge of accessory to murder.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed for Reece to effectively be sentenced to time served plus 10 years of state probation.

The way that the court record of the plea initially stated it, the sentence was 15 years in prison, with five years to serve and 10 years of probation, and credit for time already served. Reece had been incarcerated for five years while the case was working its way through the court system.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys anticipated Reece would be transferred from the Osage County jail to an Oklahoma Department of Corrections processing facility at Lexington, and then released. The attorneys discovered, however, that the Department of Corrections was not transferring anyone into its system, which meant Reece could linger in the Osage County jail.

To solve the problem, Reece's sentence was changed to one year in the Osage County jail, with credit for time served, plus 10 years on probation. District Attorney Mike Fisher and defense attorney Trevor Reynolds confirmed the sentence details. Sheriff Eddie Virden confirmed to the Journal-Capital last Thursday afternoon that Reece was no longer in the county jail.

Jeremy Reece, 36, who is Tyler's elder brother, has been sentenced to 45 years in federal prison in the Holt killing, after pleading guilty in February 2020 to second-degree murder. Tyler Reece testified before a federal grand jury in the prosecution of Jeremy Reece.

Osage County prosecutors last week dismissed charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and desecration of a human corpse that had been filed against Tyler Reece in September 2015. Prosecutors then charged him with accessory to murder, and he pleaded guilty.

Fisher said he did not like the plea arrangement, but believed he was ethically obligated to offer it. He said the District Attorney's Office, while under the management of his predecessor, Rex Duncan, had offered Tyler Reece a light sentence arrangement in return for testifying against his brother.

"While I am unhappy with the plea offer that was extended prior to my taking office, I have an ethical duty to honor that offer if the defendant acts upon a promise that has been made to him," Fisher said in a prepared statement. "In this case, the plea offer was extended by my predecessor and Mr. Reece acted, in reliance, upon it by testifying before a federal grand jury therefore obligating me to fulfill the promise that was made to him."

In a subsequent telephone interview, Fisher said that once it was proven to him that a plea offer had been made to Tyler Reece while Duncan was district attorney, he had no choice but to keep the promise. Fisher said he was persuaded that the offer had, in fact, been made.

Fisher said that he had been prepared, in accordance with what he understood of the offer, to agree to a deferred sentence arrangement for Tyler Reece. Judge Cindy Pickerill declined to agree, however, to that arrangement, Fisher said.

Fisher also suggested the Journal-Capital look at a document that defense attorney Trevor Reynolds filed with the court on Sept. 2, 2020, requesting that the plea offer made during Duncan's tenure as district attorney be enforced.

That document represented to the court that the District Attorney's Office, under Duncan's management, had indicated Tyler Reece would be looking at a substantially reduced sentence, and possibly a deferred sentence, if he cooperated in the prosecution of his brother.

The document that Reynolds filed also represented to the court that Duncan said in a conversation in late 2018 "that he would normally uphold his end of the plea agreement but because the 'voters of his district' had decided to vote him out of office, he felt it wouldn't be proper to continue his involvement in the case."

Contacted via a text message and asked to respond to what Fisher said about a plea offer having been made to Tyler Reece, as well as to what the defense motion said regarding a conversation in late 2018, Duncan commented as follows:

"I left office the first week of January 2019. As of that time, (Tyler) had done nothing in support of our case to earn any favorable consideration. 

"If Tyler did so at any time, proof of such would have been presented to Mike Fisher, for his approval. No such effort, cooperation or remorse was ever presented to me during my administration.

"ODCR indicates the next event in this case was February 2019.

"At that point (Tyler) was still disputing the state’s jurisdiction.

"In February 2019, it was set for preliminary hearing, at a later date.

"Early in this case, Mike Fisher conceded the state had no jurisdiction, and our office subsequently spent considerable time and effort to remedy that error.

"If Mike Fisher had any concerns about the status of the case on his first day in office, or when he appeared in person on the record, he should have stated such to the court.  That was his chance to put his own fingerprints on the case.

"Another option would have been to recuse the office and ask the Oklahoma Attorney General to appoint another D.A. 

"Obviously he did not do either. In fact, Fisher hired (Tyler)‘s previous defense attorney as a new Assistant D.A.

"Therefore, Mike Fisher has owned responsibility for the case in its entirety since he took office in January 2019.

"Leaders, especially elected leaders with integrity, should own the consequences of their decisions. Even when they are not popular."

During a telephone interview, defense attorney Reynolds insisted Duncan's office did make his client an offer of leniency in return for his testimony. Reynolds said an element of the terms of the offer was that it didn't matter whether Tyler Reece offered information about his brother to federal or state officials.

"Tyler's testimony put his brother in federal prison for 45 years," Reynolds said. He said that Duncan simply failed to follow through on the plea agreement once he lost his re-election bid to Fisher. Reynolds also said, however, that in fairness to Duncan it was not clear that Duncan knew anything about the contents of Tyler Reece's testimony to the federal grand jury. Duncan did know by December 2018 that Tyler Reece had testified, Reynolds said.

Contacted a second time via text message to respond to what Reynolds said about the terms of the plea offer and his alleged failure to follow through, Duncan said the following:

"Through December 2018, and to this day, I have no idea what, if anything (Tyler) told federal prosecutors or a federal grand jury.

"And, if he did cooperate with federal authorities, in exchange for leniency in a federal prosecution, it had nothing to do with the state’s case.

"The federal courts are a separate sovereign and are not bound by decisions in state courts.  

"Simply put, Tyler did nothing in support of the state’s case to justify leniency in state court.  

"The suggestion that Tyler’s (secretive) cooperation in federal court, presumably in exchange for leniency by the federal prosecutors, somehow translated into a blanket plea offer in state court is just not accurate or factual.

"It seems Mr. Reynolds is conflating (Tyler)‘s alleged cooperation in federal court as somehow justifying a lenient plea offer from the state.  

"As a defense attorney, that’s his job. But ultimately, it was Mike Fisher’s decision to agree with that defense argument."

Contacted regarding what Duncan had asserted regarding the offer of a plea agreement to Tyler Reece, Fisher said that Duncan's former first assistant told him directly, in an in-person conversation, that the offer had applied to Tyler Reece supplying information to either state or federal authorities.