STIGLER — An Oklahoma man who confessed to the long-unsolved murder of a Haskell County commissioner said he admitted to the slaying when he was “drunk and high on painkillers” and that everything he told investigators was a lie.
Clifford Eagle was charged last April with first-degree murder after he told investigators in Billings, Mont., that he shot and killed former Haskell County Commissioner Leo Reasnor on June 25, 1987.
He implicated another man, Vince Allen Johnson, in the killing, but Johnson was executed for another Oklahoma murder in 2000.
Eagle wrote a letter to the judge presiding over his murder case in July, detailing the many reasons why he gave a false confession to Reasnor's murder.
“I confessed to something that I wasn't involved in ... because I was destitute, living on the streets and just had surgery at the Billings Hospital,” he wrote. “I needed a place to heal up for surgery.”
Eagle also wrote that he confessed so that a “lady friend” could collect a reward, but her name wasn't given and who exactly was offering the reward wasn't included, either.
In the letter, Eagle offered other explanations for his “falsified” confession. He claimed the “federal government” was harassing him because he was attempting to file a complaint after he was “wrongfully” convicted of failing to register as a sex offender.
Eagle spent more than two years in federal prison before confessing to Reasnor's killing. He was released March 2, 2012, and confessed to shooting Reasnor about six weeks later.
Court records show that Eagle was indeed wrongfully incarcerated and that he should never have been charged with failing to register as a sex offender.
“On April 17, 2008, defendant Eagle was indicted for traveling in interstate commerce and failing to register as a sex offender,” a motion filed in the case states. “At the time of the indictment, the law ... was unsettled.
“Eagle is actually innocent because the conduct underlying his conviction was not a crime at the time he engaged in it,” the motion states.
Eagle claims he went to the Billings police station to try and file a complaint against the “United States government.”
“When I was released, I was told that if I wanted to file a civil claim ... I had to go back to the county I was sentenced in,” Eagle wrote.
Once back in Yellowstone County, Montana, he said “two men” approached him outside of the federal courthouse in Billings.
“I don't know if (they were) U.S. Marshal or FBI,” Eagle wrote. “But this is what was said, If I keep up my pursuance in filing my civil claim against the U.S. Government, they were going to bring up my criminal past which included the grand jury indictment ... in the Leo Reasnor case.”
Eagle said he was “drunk and high on painkillers” while Billings detectives interviewed him. He claims the investigators eventually forced the confession out of him.
“The confession was coerced by the Billings Police Department after I went to them for help,” Eagle wrote in a separate letter to The Oklahoman, which was dated June 12.
“I just wanted to let them know that the federal authorities were planning to file false accusations against me in retaliation for trying to file a civil suit claim against the federal government.”
Eagle is currently being held at the Haskell county jail after fighting extradition from Montana. His trial is set to begin Aug. 5.