The Osage Nation has charged Thomas Mongrain Eaves with second-degree homicide in the death of his girlfriend, Starr L. Pennington. Eaves is to appear in ON Trial Court on Thursday in Pawhuska.
Eaves, a 57-year-old Osage tribal member, is being held in Osage County jail, said ON Assistant Attorney General Jeff Jones. This will be the first homicide case for the Osage Nation since it reformed its government in 2006.
Federal prosecutors dismissed the case, which has gained statewide attention, on April 14 after a judge ruled that Eaves was illegally arrested because police did not show probable cause. U.S. District Judge John Dowdell ruled that any statements made to the police as a result of the arrest would be thrown out.
“It was just the luck of the draw on the judge. I don’t believe a different judge would have ruled the same way, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Jones said. “We did it right. We did it by the book. He was Mirandized every step of the way. We didn’t interview him without a Miranda warning or anything like that.”
Jones said the U.S. Attorney’s Office told him on April 13 that the charges were being dismissed. Jones filed charges in ON Trial Court on April 14, and Eaves was released into Osage Nation custody the next day.
According to the criminal complaint filed by Jones, Eaves is charged with second-degree homicide for causing the death of Pennington, 44, “by beating with his hands, fists and other objects.” It said Pennington, who is not an Indian, “did languish and die” on Aug. 24, 2015.
If convicted in tribal court, Eaves will be charged with a misdemeanor, face up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine or a maximum of 20 years banishment. Federal law prohibits tribes from imprisoning individuals for more than three years, according to the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2013, and limits tribal courts to misdemeanor charges in criminal cases. Osage Nation law permits only up to one year of jail time.
“I’m not real happy with the way things turned out … One of the things we can do in tribal court is we can banish people and keep our Osages safe,” Jones said. “I would rather see him in prison for 20 years and keep everybody safe, but I can keep our Osages safe and that’s what I’m after. I’d rather see jail time, but if we can’t do that at least I can banish him for 20 years.”
Jones said that there is no statute of limitations on murder and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office can file new charges against Eaves if new evidence is discovered.
“I think the intent of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is to reinvestigate and re-file in the future,” Jones said. “They’re hoping to develop new evidence. We don’t know when that will happen.”
There is no double jeopardy for Eaves if he is convicted in tribal court. The Osage Nation is a sovereign government, and he can be charged again by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. If convicted in federal court he would go to federal prison.
Jones said he will meet with Eave’s court appointed attorney on April 21 at 10 a.m. ON Trial Court Judge Marvin Stepson is the presiding judge.
According to the ON affidavit for Eaves’ arrest warrant, Eaves arrived at the Pawhuska Hospital emergency room on Aug. 25, 2015, at approximately 2:30 a.m. with Pennington in his vehicle.
The hospital staff began CPR on Pennington and the licensed practical nurse noted that Pennington was “ice cold” and very stiff with no movement, multiple bruises everywhere on her body and her pupils “fixed,” according to the affidavit.
She was pronounced dead, and no gunshot or stab wounds were noted, according to the affidavit, which said the doctor believed that she had been dead at least four hours before being brought to the hospital.
The doctor said in the affidavit that he questioned Eaves but was given no clear answer how long Pennington had been nonresponsive or been in the physical state presented. Eaves changed his story multiple times, the affidavit said.
Eaves said Pennington was an alcoholic and had been intoxicated for the previous six to seven hours, according to the affidavit. He said he awoke from a four-hour nap and found that she had vomited and was not breathing, according to the affidavit.
The ONPD called a Bureau of Indian Affairs special agent who contacted the FBI, according to the affidavit. “A short time later,” an FBI special agent told ONPD that she and another agent would respond and requested photographs of any bruising or visible marks on body, according to the affidavit.
The case was turned over to the FBI, and the ONPD took an assisting role thereafter. On Sept. 1, 2015, an autopsy revealed that Pennington had died from blunt force trauma to the head, according to the affidavit.
The Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner’s Office said her head injury occurred shortly before death and could not have been caused by a fall. Its report also said that Pennington had five broken ribs from a previous injury, two from a recent injury, and that bruises covered her back, legs, arms and head.
Shannon Shaw Duty
Original Publish Date: 2016-04-19 00:00:00