STIGLER — A suspect in a 25-year-old cold case murder is mentally competent and will face trial in the shooting death of former Haskell County Commissioner Leo Reasnor, a judge ruled Monday.
Clifford Eagle, 55, has been jailed since April after he walked into a police station in Billings, Mont., and confessed to killing Reasnor.
Eagle, a convicted rapist with a lengthy criminal history in Oklahoma, is now scheduled to be arraigned April 8.
Eagle was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing in January, but prosecutors and his defense attorney filed a joint motion to have his mental health evaluated before the hearing could take place.
Haskell County District Attorney Farley Ward said the defendant's attorneys suggested a mental health evaluation.
Reasnor was found dead inside his pickup on June 25, 1987, by his son and son-in-law.
Reasnor had a gunshot wound to the temple and was found slumped over in his truck on some land he owned about four miles southwest of Lequire.
His slaying remained a mystery for nearly a quarter decade before Eagle walked into a police station in Billings, Mont., and confessed to the killing.
Billings police say Eagle — who is from Oklahoma — walked into their station in April and told them he wanted to get “something off his chest.”
Eagle would go on to tell investigators he and another man, Vince Allen Johnson, were on a county road in Haskell County when they encountered Reasnor, who was 49.
He said Reasnor accused Johnson of “stealing some of his property” a few moments before the county commissioner was shot dead.
Johnson was executed in 2001 for another slaying in Oklahoma.
Weeks after he confessed to detectives in Montana, Eagle wrote a letter to The Oklahoman claiming his confession was coerced.
In the letter, Eagle claims he went to the Billings Police Department to seek some kind of assistance from the officers there.
What exactly he was seeking help with isn't clear in the letter.
Eagle was a registered sex offender in Montana at the time of his confession. He had pleaded guilty to a Pittsburg County rape in 2003 and to marijuana possession in 1998.
“The confession was coerced by the Billings Police Department after I went to them for help,” Eagle wrote in the letter, which is 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.”
Billings police Lt. Kevin Iffland said he spoke with the detectives who interviewed Eagle about the Reasnor case.
“I can tell you that the statement wasn't coerced ... he physically came into the station and wanted to give the statement,” Iffland said.
Iffland said the interview with Eagle was recorded “as a courtesy to Oklahoma law enforcement.”
Ward said he would not comment on Eagle's claim that his confession was coerced but he did say that detectives in Billings have provided his office with recordings of the interview.
Eagle fought extradition to Oklahoma and didn't return to Oklahoma until August after Gov. Mary Fallin signed the so-called “governor's warrant” to bring him back.