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Man says murder confession was 'coerced' by Montana police

A man authorities say confessed to a 1987 killing in Haskell County is claiming his statement to police was "coerced" and that he had nothing to do with the slaying. A former sheriff's deputy who knew Clifford Eagle said he wasn't surprised to hear the suspect is claiming he made a false confession.
by Andrew Knittle Published: July 2, 2012
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/articleid/3688926/1/pictures/1763118">Photo - Leo Boyd Reasnor Reasnor, a Haskell County commissioner, was slain in 1987.
Leo Boyd Reasnor Reasnor, a Haskell County commissioner, was slain in 1987.

Terrell, who is no longer in law enforcement, said he visited Eagle in prison shortly after the Reasnor slaying. But he denies the suspect's other accusations.

“I didn't try to get Clifford to admit to anything,” Terrell said. “I was only sent there to question him.”

Terrell said he was sent to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to question Eagle about an incident that happened in the prison. The former deputy said another inmate at the facility had contacted the Haskell County sheriff's office after witnessing an altercation between Eagle and a fellow prisoner.

“After the fight or whatever, the inmate said that Clifford had yelled at the other guy, ‘I'll take care of you like I did that county commissioner,'” Terrell said. “But when I asked him about the statement ... he said he admitted to saying it, but he was only saying that so the guy would leave him alone.

“He said he was just making it, you know, maybe just to scare the guy.”

Terrell, who had previous dealings with Eagle during his time as a deputy, said he wasn't totally shocked to hear about the confession. He said in the 1980s, after Eagle was sentenced for stealing from “the elderly,” he transported the convict and other inmates to a prison in Lexington.

“During the ride, I asked him why he didn't fight the charges or try and get them reduced,” Terrell said. “He just told me, ‘Look, I want to go back. I get all my dental for free, my health care for free. I got a place to stay and three meals a day.' He was happy about going back.”

Terrell said he believes Eagle's past behaviors — lying about the Reasnor murder case and showing signs of institutionalization more than two decades ago — make him wonder if he lied to detectives in Montana about killing Reasnor.

“When I first heard about him confessing, I thought, ‘What's he doing ... confessing because he doesn't have no place to go?'” he said. “It had already been 25 years ... I'm just not sure he would've waited that long to get something like that out.”

And Terrell said he isn't the only one who's been given pause by the alleged murder confession. He said a source “close to the Reasnor family” has said they feel uneasy about the confession.

“They don't really think he did it,” Terrell said. “They weren't convinced. They've had their hopes up several times, but the leads just played themselves out or there just wasn't enough evidence. And this comes from a lady who's real close to the family.”

In the meantime, Eagle is fighting extradition to Oklahoma, which has one of the busiest death rows in the nation.

Haskell County District Attorney Farley Ward has said that it's too early to decide whether Eagle would face the death penalty if he goes to trial on the murder charge.

Gov. Mary Fallin's office confirmed June 12 that extradition papers — the so-called “governor's warrant” — have been sent to the state of Montana, although it's not clear when Eagle will be returned Oklahoma.

Eagle wrapped up his letter to The Oklahoman by once again asserting his innocence in the Reasnor killing.

“The only person that was involved in Leo Reasnor's death is dead himself (since 2001),” he wrote, referring to executed inmate Vince Allen Johnson. “There is no story, no confession.”

NewsOK.com has disabled the comments for this article.
by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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