One man has been arrested and a second suspect is being held in conjunction with the 2002 murder of Oklahoma City bounty hunter Troy Neidhart.
On Sunday, Nov. 16, OSBI took Bobby Thomas Barnhill, 45, in for questioning at the McAlester Regional Office. After five hours of interrogation, Barnhill confessed to shooting Neidhart 12 years ago in Blanchard in the woods around Rockwell and South Cole Rd., but his motives were a little sketchy, said McClain Co. Sheriff Don Hewett.
Michael Hamilton, 46, has been brought in for questioning and is currently being held in the Oklahoma County jail on a car theft charge, records show.
Both Barnhill and Hamilton worked for Neidhart in his bounty hunting business, and according to the affidavit, Barnhill told OSBI agents that all three men met in Blanchard on Sept. 11, 2002, and that Hamilton intended to kill Neidhart and bury him in a hole.
“Barnhill, Hamilton and Neidhart each assisted in digging the hole,” OSBI agent David Gatlin wrote in the affidavit. “Barnhill heard one gunshot and then saw Hamilton shoot Neidhart once more with a shotgun. Barnhill and Hamilton then buried Neidhart’s body.”
According to Sheriff Hewett, Barnhill gave several reasons for the fatal shooting including a “mob hit” and that the three were in Blanchard that night under the “pretense of shooting someone else.”
“At this point, we are trying to separate fact from fiction,” Hewett said. “I think Barnhill is competent; he is just trying to throw everyone off.”
Authorities have yet to locate the two weapons that were supposedly used in the murder – a 12-gauge shot gun and a 9 mm handgun, he said. Barnhill admitted to owning and selling a 12-gauge shotgun, but said he couldn’t remember whom he sold it to.
“Both Barnhill and Hamilton were persons of interest in the original investigation in 2006, but it led to nothing,” Hewett said.
A new agent for OSBI began looking into cold cases and re-interviewed everyone in regards to the Neidhart case, he said. Barnhill was asked to take a polygraph test, which he failed; Barnhil later confessed to his involvement in the murder.
Hunters found the remains in 2004. It took the Chief Medical Examiner two years to identify them as Neidhart’s, Sheriff Hewett said. Although Barnhill has been booked for murder in the first degree, at this time, no charges have been filed against Hamilton in this case.
By Cody Johnson
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has revisited a 12-year-old homicide case and placed a reward of $5,000 for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for Troy Neidhart’s death.
Neidhart was a private investigator, who went missing in Oklahoma City Sept. 11, 2002.
On March 15, 2004, deer hunters found skeletal remains on property in McClain County but it was not until 2006 that OSBI confirmed the remains belonged to Troy Neidhart.
The case has remained open but unsolved since that time with few leads to go on, McClain County Sheriff Don Hewett said.
OSBI Director StanFlorence said at a press conference last week that it is highly probable to get new information from the public.
The OSBI would like to bring closure to Troy’s death, officials confirmed.
Anyone with information to Neidhart’s death is encouraged to contact OSBI at (800) 522-8017 or McClain County Sheriff’s Office at (405) 527-2141.
Currently, the area where Neidhart’s remains were found in woods near Blanchard, are being combed by OSBI agents, McClain County Sheriff Deputies, a forensic anthropologist with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the head of OU’s Crime Scene Archeology Recovery Group.
Authorities said about 60 percent of Neidhart’s remains have been found.
Investigators will search the area for the next several days under direction of a newly hired OSBI agent from the McClain County area.
Hewett said this week that a few more bone fragments have been found.
The investigation continues with the OSBI searching for suspects.
Troy Neidhart’s father, Bob Neidhart, spoke at the dig site last Wednesday morning along with Troy’s wife, three daughters and several other family members.
“It’s been 13 years since my son was murdered and to this day we have gotten a lot done. It is just so appreciated,” Neidhart said.
He said he knew something was wrong when Troy did not show up for their weekly Thursday lunch.
“We looked for a long time. One of his favorite places to go was down by Sulphur so we drove down there thinking maybe he was camping or something,” Neidhart said. “We would go here or go there and nothing. We resigned to the fact a long time ago, in my heart, I felt he was dead. To my understanding, there was a shallow grave that was dug and a light layer of dirt was over him. He was stripped naked and all of his ID was taken and he was left there.”
Troy Neidhart was 37 at the time of his disappearance. He had three daughters enrolled at Washington Schools.
He was living alone in a friend’s extra house rent-free in exchange for doing bond work. Troy was temporarily separated from his wife.
The title on Troy’s car was not in his name at the time of his disappearance but his car was found in a hit-and-run accident several years later.
The male involved in the accident fled the scene and was never found.
Neidhart spoke of how the case has remained unsolved.
“It has been so long, Neidhart continued. “There were times that you thought it was over and nobody was going to find anything. I’m sure the perpetrator of all this kind of feels like he got away with murder. But what is the old saying ‘the long arm of the law’, well we have a long arm here today and they are going to catch whoever this person is.”
OSBI believes the murder was committed at the location the body was buried.
No murder weapon has been identified yet.
“There has been several individuals over the years that we have looked at and continue to look at, however, information on those individuals has been sometimes sketchy,” Florence said.
“That is what we are doing now,” Hewett said at the press conference. We are not only revisiting the site but also bringing awareness that we believe there are still suspects out there. We are imploring the public to tell us what they know so we can follow those out."
Any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for Troy Neidhart’s death will be rewarded with $5,000 by OSBI.
By Darla Welchel
Violeta Ortiz from Lookeba, realized that you can’t come to Newcastle and cause trouble, especially when you're not wearing any pants.
Ortiz, 33, was arrested last Saturday morning for: actual physical control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated, transporting an open container, six counts of possession of a controlled and dangerous substance without a prescription and assaulting a police officer.
The first incidents happened around 1 a.m. Saturday in Tri City, whereas, the assault charges, against Officer Debbie Graff, took place at the police station, according to police reports.
Officer Graff responded to the call of an intoxicated female suspect at a gas station at 602 NW 32nd street; Graff relieved Lt. Toby Garver as it was reported that Ortiz was not wearing any pants.
Graff noted that Ortiz, who was driving a 2013 Maroon Ford Edge, had her legs inside a sweat coat and that not only was she devoid of pants, but she was also not wearing any underpants.
Graff also stated that when she arrived, Ortiz's car was damaged; Graff photographed the suspect's car in the event there was a later report of an accident or a hit and run report.
"I asked Ortiz how much she had to drink, and she stated, 'I had too much to drink.' I [then] noticed an oblong pill in the navigation window of her vehicle and asked Ortiz what the pill was for. Ortiz looked at the pill, but did not answer my questions," Graff said. "I asked Ortiz where her pants were at, and she stated 'inside the vehicle.' Both Lt. Garver and myself checked the vehicle for Ortiz's pants, but none were located."
Graff wrapped Ortiz in a blanket before transferring her to the back of her patrol car to protect her modesty and was handcuffed in front, so she could hold the blanket.
"I wrapped the blanket around Ortiz waist and advised her to hold the blanket in place since she wasn’t clothed. At this time Ortiz was upset and crying but not hostile," Graff said. "I advised Ortiz she was under arrest . . . and place her in the back seat without incident."
It was at this point that Ortiz became difficult the report indicated. The suspect began kicking the partition in the police cruiser and screaming obscenities at Officer Graff. But it was when Graff tried to take Ortiz into the police department that things got dicey.
"Ortiz exited the vehicle and flipped around to face me," Officer Graff reported. "I told Ortiz to turn around and not to face my direction. Ortiz flipped around towards me again, and I blocked her from turning by grabbing her sweat coat she was wearing on top."
"I instructed her to just continue walking towards the door. Ortiz then flipped around towards me and grabbed a hold of my right arm and wrist, and I felt her nails sink into my skin and my arm being twisted. I reached for my tazer and deployed it. Ortiz let go of my arm, and I felt my right ring finger get caught in her restraints."
Although Officer Graff noted that the tazer probes hadn’t made contact with the suspect, Ortiz fell to the ground. Ortiz refused to get up and continued screaming obscenities at Graff, at one point begging to be tazed again and even threatening to kill her, the report said.
Graff finally was able to get Ortiz into a cell, got her into a police jumpsuit and called Newcastle EMS to check her vitals since she had deployed her tazer and Ortiz had fallen to the ground.
Ortiz was still combative when firefighters Donnie Sullins and Justin Harris and EMS personnel Wayne Testerman and Donnie Neer arrived. After being retrained further, EMS were able to check her vitals and ascertained that she was okay.
Officer Graffs injuries were not life threatening.
"I noticed scratch marks on my right arm where Ortiz grabbed me and felt my wrist becoming tender," she said. "I also noticed that my right ring finger was numb and had a scratch on the inside right side."
Ortiz was later released from the Newcastle Police Department and transported to the McClain County Jail. Arraignment took place on Oct. 24, whereas Ortiz plead not guilty. Bond was set and posted and a preliminary hearing date of Dec. 3, 2014 was set.
By Cody Johnson
A 33-year-old former Newcastle teacher and assistant football coach turned himself into authorities Tuesday morning after a warrant was issued in McClain County for his arrest.
Jared Feroli is facing felony sexual battery charges after he was accused of touching a former female student 16 years or older in a lewd and sexual way according to court papers filed last Friday.
Authorities said the incident occurred December 13, 2013 and was reported by two school custodians, according to court papers. Court papers say the custodians happened upon Feroli's room after school hours when they noticed the door was locked and the lights off. After the custodians unlocked the door, Feroli came from the back of the classroom and blocked the entrance. They said a female student was the only person present with Feroli in the classroom.
The female student told investigators "she put a book away in Jared's closet and when she turned around Jared was there and they started making out," according to court papers.
Feroli is set to appear in court for the first time on Friday. He is out on $5,000 bond. He resigned from Newcastle Public Schools on May 31.
In civil court, the girl's family is suing Feroli and Newcastle School District for $10,000 or more according to court documents.
By Darla Welchel
Newcastle Police Department recently released information on the shooting that took place on August 23 in Bradford Place IV.
Police Detective Kevin Morrissey said dispatch received a call at 6:34 a.m. that morning from the home owned by Richard Henry Finch III of shots fired and a robbery inside Finch's home.
Multiple Newcastle PD officers arrived on the scene moments later along with assistance from the Lighthorse Police, Morrissey said. Finch gave police a description and partial names of two Asian males, who he said shot him and tried to rob him.
Morrissey took over the case and questioned the victim at OU Medical Center.
"I went and spoke to the victim at the trauma center at Presbyterian OU Medical Center, where he was being treated for a gunshot wound to his arm and chest. When he was shot, he curled in and the bullet entered into the right arm and exited out his right chest."
"The victim knew these two gentlemen previously, and he allowed them into his home. He owed them $40 for drugs. When they saw he had more money, they tried to rob him of all his money. When he refused to hand over his money to them, he was shot, and they fled the scene."
With little more than a rough description of the car – a black older model BMW – and incorrectly spelled names of the two suspects, Morrissey began a 19-hour search for answers, he said.
"Originally, all [Finch] could tell us was he was shot by a Phuoc and a Han," Morrissey said. "He did not know how to spell the names, but he thought they may hang around a certain area in Oklahoma City."
Morrissey started following leads, and with the help of OKCPD, soon located the black BMW, and the driver - Phuoc Cong Do, 23. Do admitted to being at Finch’s home and for the attempted robbery, but denied that he had anything to do with the shooting. He also refused to give up the name and whereabouts of the second suspect.
Do was booked into the McClain Co., jail on charges of accessory to a shooting with intent and robbery. When located later by Oklahoma City police, Do said, "I didn't shoot Ricky. I asked him if he was OK."
Do said he was looking at his phone and didn’t know that Chanraphathep had a weapon. However, Finch reported that at the time of the shooting he remembers hearing Phuoc yell, "Shoot him in the knee."
"We later released information to news channels and received information, which we followed up on, and the victim, through a photo lineup, identified the shooter as Hansana Chanraphathep," he said. "We currently have a warrant for him for the robbery. He is described as 5'5" Asian male, 120 pounds, brown eyes, black hair and was born in 1986."
If anyone has any information leading to the whereabouts of Chanraphathep, they are asked to contact the Newcastle PD at 37-5277 or their local law enforcement office, Morrissey said.
By Darla Welchel
An attempted child abduction has Newcastle Police and the school district on alert, and parents are more than just a little shook up.
On Saturday, Sept. 13, a little after 10 p.m. police were notified when a nine-year old boy while walking his dog in the 2900 block of NW 33rd street was approached by a black or dark blue SUV – possibly a jeep Cherokee. The passenger, a white male in his mid-twenties, wearing a yellow shirt got out of the truck and said, "Come on boy," said NPD Detective Kevin Morrissey.
The young man immediately ran home yelling prompting the vehicle to speed off, he said. The boy did not get a look at the driver nor could he tell if there was anyone else in the vehicle.
This report came after a similar one a few weeks ago. A father and son were walking to school when an older man pulled up along side of them and started telling them that his dogs like to be petted by kids.
"At this point, we are not treating this one as an abduction attempt, but we are still following up on it," Morrissey said. "The father had met the man previously when the older man was walking his dogs."
The NPD contacted the school district to make them aware of the incidents, which prompted Superintendent Tony O'Brien to send out a school-wide text making parents aware of the incidents and asking them to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of their children.
O'Brien said in his text that, "the district will be taking steps to ensure the safety of our students. These events have occurred in two different neighborhoods here in our community of Newcastle. I am asking that each of you remain very vigilant about the safety of the children living in your household and in the surrounding neighborhoods."
Morrissey concluded, "We take these things very seriously, and we are following up on them."
By Darla Welchel
Are you the type of person who jumps in whenever a need arises? Do you have the desire to help out your neighbors or community in an emergency?
Have you ever considered joining the Newcastle Community Emergency Response Team - or CERT for short? Then now is the time to get involved.
The City of Newcastle will be holding a CERT training course over three consecutive Saturdays in September, said Emergency Manager Jon Tankersley. On Sept. 13, 20 and 27, citizens looking to become part of the Newcastle CERT team can receive training free of charge. Classes start at 9 a.m. and last until 5 p.m. each Saturday except the last one, which will end around 1 p.m.
Space is limited, so people need to register online at the Oklahoma Homeland Security website by Sept. 10, he said. That website is www.ok.gov/homeland/. Click on the Training Calendar at the top center of the page; find Newcastle and select that link.
"We already have eight signed up, but we can take up to 30," Tankersley said. "If they miss the online deadline, we will accept and register them at the first class."
In order to become a certified member of the team, participants must complete all the classes. Some of the topics that will be covered will be:
• Introduction, Disaster Awareness
• Disaster Fire Safety Techniques
• Disaster Medical Operations
• Light Search and Rescue Operations
• Team Organization and Management
• Terrorism and CERT
"Participants can learn how to take care of themselves, their families, their neighbors and their neighborhoods in case of an emergency," Tankersley said. "It is a very good course, free of charge and they will receive approximately $80 worth of equipment when they complete the course."
The class is open to ages 12 years old and up, but a parent or guardian must accompany all minors, he said.
The Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security CERT program was developed because of the need for a well-trained civilian emergency work force. These teams assist the government by responding during disaster situations where the number and scope of incidents have overwhelmed the conventional emergency services.
For more information, contact Jon Tankersley or Johnny Wingate at 387-2922 or visit http://www.ok.gov/homeland/courses/training_event_detail.php?event_id=991
By Darla Welchel
Grady County Sheriff Jim Weir was certainly singing the praise of Newcastle Assistant Police Chief Gary Boggess when he found himself in a high-speed car chase last Friday.
After reaching speeds in access of 130 mph, the suspect crashed a $90,000 stolen Mercedes sports car and attempted to flee on foot. Assistant Police Chief Boggess, with the help of PHP Trooper Pitman, chased him for one half mile before apprehending him, Weir said.
Around 8:20 a.m. on August 15, Weir said he received an OHP bolo for a stolen pearl white Mercedes SL convertible, which was just seen heading north on I-44 near the Chickasha tollgate.
“I was traveling south on I-44 when I observed a white Mercedes SL550 northbound at approximately the 100 mile marker,” he said. “I caught up with the vehicle and ran the tag displayed, which showed not in file meaning it was stolen.”
The sheriff called for backup but pulled up next to the car to get a look at the driver for identification purposes, he said. As he pulled up next to the Mercedes, the driver, later identified as Aaron Christopher Rhodes, motioned to him as if asking if the sheriff wanted him to pull over.
“Being the only unit at the time, I shook my head no and fell back. Rhodes slowed to about 60 mph and continued northbound,” Weir said.
When backup arrived, Weir had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle and “engaged” his emergency lights and sirens. This action prompted Rhodes to accelerate reaching speeds over 120 mph.
“My vehicle topped out at 120 mph, and Rhodes was pulling away from me very quickly,” he said. “Assistant Chief Boggess was had been monitoring radio traffic and was north bound on I-44 around mile marker 108 when Rhodes passed him in excess of 130 mph.
“Boggess said he was a little nervous, because there was a curve coming up and Rhodes’ vehicle was drifting, and he was afraid the suspect was going to hit heavy traffic.”
Rhodes drove the Mercedes into the rear of a gray Silverado pickup. He lost control of the sports car slamming it into the center cable barricade where is came to rest more than 200 feet away, Weir said.
That is when Rhodes attempted to elude arrest by trying to run away. But Boggess and the trooper got their man and Rhodes was arrested in Grady County, he said.
The Mercedes was searched at the scene, where it was confirmed as the car stolen from the Lawton area, Weir said. Also, Newcastle Master Patrolman Holden found a Visa debit card and a social security card in Rhodes’ pocket at the time of his arrest in the name of Jerry Dean Frewaldt.
“Lawton P.D. advised these items were taken during a second burglary and had been used the morning of the burglary,” he said.
Newcastle Police Department worked the accident, recovered and impounded the stolen sports car, Weir said.
“I believe the facts demonstrate probable cause to charge the defendant with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, two counts of receiving and concealing stolen property, felony eluding a peace officer and speeding,” he said.
By Darla Welchel
Blanchard police were called to investigate shots fired at Gator's Deli early Wednesday morning, what they discovered had them calling for assistance of the McClain County Sheriiffs Department.
Sheriff Don Hewett made a statement that at 9:57 a.m. a call for assistance came in from the Blanchard Police Department on a possible homicide at 1235 NE 10th Street in Blanchard.
Hewett sent four deputies and two detectives to the scene in which they discovered a woman had been shot and one suspect had been taken in to custody, he said. Allegedly the man walked into the store and shot and killed his wife; the couple had been going through a divorce.
A Victim's Protective Order against the suspect had expired just12 days ago, Hewett said. He commented that both the suspect and the victim were well respected business members in the community.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) is stepping up its search for clues in the death of a McClain County mother.
OSBI announced Friday it would offer a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the death of Rachelle Flowers, according to a written statement from OSBI.
Clinton Flowers, Rachelle’s husband, is also offering a reward up to $1,000.
McClain County Sheriff Don Hewitt hopes test results from DNA evidence found at the scene will yield some answers, he said.
McClain County deputies on a routine patrol Wednesday afternoon, April 9, found Rachelle dead, inside her home, after seeing an unattended pickup truck in a state of disarray in front of the house.
Two people were seen in front of the Flowers’ home the morning she was discovered, according to the report.
A white female was standing in the front yard around 11:30 a.m. and a white male with dark hair, between 6 feet 2 inches and 6 feet 5 inches, walked toward the house at some time in the morning, according to the report.
“These descriptions are based off of evidence as well as prior knowledge of previous circumstances, including people the victim knew,” Hewett said. “We have some leads but no suspects at this time.”
Investigators at the scene found evidence that caused them to label the death suspicious. OSBI was notified and joined the McClain County Sheriff’s Department in investigating the death as a possible non-accidental homicide.
Rachelle had a son, 6, and was married for a little more than a month before her death.
Though the investigators have more evidence than when they started, they are now offering the reward because more information is needed to fill in the knowledge gaps, OSBI Public Information Officer Jessica Brown said.
Anyone with information about the two people of interest, or any other aspect of the case, can call the McClain County Sheriff’s Department at 40-527-2141 or the OSBI hotline at 800-522-8017.
“We’re trying to get closure for the family,” Hewett said. “We want to bring someone to justice.”