Federal review of Holt case delaying court proceedings

Mike Erwin
Rex Holt

Murder proceedings against two brothers in the September 2015 slaying of Pawhuska oilman/rancher Rick Holt have been put on hold in local state and tribal courtrooms while federal prosecutors review the 11-month old case.

The delays are due to jurisdictional complexities involving the defendants’ Native American heritage and the probability that a portion of the crimes would likely have taken place on restricted Indian land. Legal counsel appointed for Jeremy Reece, 32, and 19-year-old Tyler Reece have established that the brothers are enrolled members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

State charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder and desecration of a human corpse were filed against the brothers last September. The slain 46-year-old’s body was recovered from the lease site — which was on restricted Osage Indian land — about five days later.

Earlier this year, Osage County Special Judge Stuart Tate dismissed the murder and desecration charges on jurisdictional grounds. The Tate ruling was upheld by Terry McBride, a district judge from Mayes County, who upheld the contention that the murder charge should be prosecuted in federal courts under the 19th Century Indian Major Crimes Act.

The state re-filed first-degree murder, saying the fatal wound (a gunshot wound to the neck) was inflicted outside Holt’s residence. Holt later was shot in head at oil lease site, according to affidavits filed in the case. These latest state charges said Holt was fatally wounded at his home before being taken to a remote oil lease approximately 10 miles away, where he died.

On Monday, Aug. 1, a hearing for the brothers in Osage County District Court was passed until Friday, Sept. 23, at 1 p.m. Tate delayed the hearing on the Reece’s motions to dismiss the state’s latest murder charges after being notified that federal prosecutors in Tulsa are reviewing the case.

Three days later, the Reece brothers were scheduled to be arraigned on tribal murder charges in the Osage Nation Trial Court. Judge Marvin Stepson continued those proceeding until Sept. 29 — also in connection with the United States Attorney’s review of the case.

Holt, a former two-time state wrestling champion, was shot to death and his body burned prior to its burial in a clandestine grave at the lease site, located northwest of Hominy. His remains were recovered five days after Holt disappeared on Sept. 5, 2015.

Osage County Sheriff’s Office investigators first contacted Jeremy Reece on Sept. 8 in connection with a missing person (Holt) case. The investigation was directed to Reece by his ex-wife, Claudette, who had been romantically involved with Holt shortly before he went missing.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tulsa has declined to comment on the case. Documents filed in state court by Osage County District Attorney Rex Duncan claim moving the Reeces’ case to federal court would provide the defendants with a “safe harbor” as a result of the Indian land issue.

Osage tribal charges of first-degree homicide were filed in May when it appeared there was a possibility that bond might be set for the Reece brothers on the kidnapping and conspiracy charges. Under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2013, tribal courts cannot prosecute felony charges in criminal cases or impose sentences of more than three years.

The Reeces are being held, without bond, in the Osage County Jail. A $1 million cash bond has been set for each brother on the Osage Nation chargesof first-degree homicide.