McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 26, 2014

DA readies cold case for jury trial

By Trevor Dunbar
Staff Writer

McALESTER — On April 18, 2012, a former Quinton resident walked into a Montana police department and told officers he needed to get something off his chest. Police say Clifford Eagle then sat down and confessed his involvement in the murder of Leo Reasoner, a Haskell County commissioner found shot dead 26 years earlier.

After several delays, including the process of Eagle’s extradition back to Oklahoma, the case against Eagle is expected to soon proceed. Court documents indicate Eagle’s defense fought extradition even after his confession, lengthening the time between proceedings even further.

“It still takes six or eight weeks to do extradition anyway because we have to get the governor’s warrant and all those kinds of things,” First Assistant District 18 Attorney Danita Williams said Thursday. “But we are now finally closing in on the trial date.”

The case is currently set to go before a jury in February, according to the Haskell County trial docket.

Williams said the new investigation kicked off with Eagle’s alleged confession. If Reasoner’s death had not been weighing on Eagle, the case may have never come to trial, the prosecutor said.

“They sat him down and listened to what he had to say,” Williams said. “At the conclusion of the interview, they contacted our Haskell County office.

“The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was involved in the initial investigation. So, we contacted them and they’ve picked up the investigation again.”

Authorities hope Eagles’ alleged confession will be a step toward obtaining justice for the former Haskell County commissioner.

On June 25, 1987, Reasoner’s

son-in-law discovered the man’s lifeless body in a pasture on the then-commissioner’s own property, according to an affidavit filed at the Haskell County Courthouse.

Reasoner was lying across the seat of his own pickup truck with a single .38 caliber bullet wound in his left temple.

Court records show an autopsy was performed. No more evidence was found. No witnesses came forward. Without any kind of leads of information, investigators were at a stalemate and the case went cold.

But the stalemate finally ended the night Eagle walked in to that Montana police station.

A probable cause affidavit signed by OSBI Agent Charles Mackey states Eagle told Billings police he was with a man named Vince Allen Johnson on the date of the murder. The two were on a rural road in an El Camino driven by Johnson.

They then met up with Reasoner when the commissioner confronted Johnson and accused him of stealing some of his property, the affidavit states. Court records allege Johnson had a .38 caliber handgun and Eagle was also carrying a .357 Magnum handgun.

Johnson allegedly then jumped out of his vehicle and called out to Eagle, saying Reasoner was going for a gun, Mackey said in the affidavit.

“Johnson and Eagle both fired their handguns at Reasoner,” Mackey alleged in the affidavit. “Eagle does not know who actually shot Reasoner. Eagle and Johnson left the scene and drove to a house that Eagle had rented.”

Johnson was later convicted of murder in an unrelated case and executed at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in  McAlester.

Contact Trevor Dunbar at tdunbar@mcalesternews.com.