The Law Blog of Oklahoma

Murder Charge Dismissed When Witness Changes Story

Posted: Friday, November 11, 2016

A Vinita man accused of conspiring with another man and a teenage girl to rob the girl's older brother is no longer facing a murder charge in the case. 

John Kevin Rather Jr., 35, was initially charged with first degree murder in the robbery and shooting death of Caleb Friend, 23, in Miami, Oklahoma.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Rather and another man, Brandon Jones, 39, went to Caleb Friend's home to rob him of "his money and weed" after Friend's younger sister Kylie Friend, then 17, became mad at her brother for kicking her out of his house.

The affidavit claims that Kylie Friend admitted that she had discussed having the two men beat up her brother and rob him, but claims that she thought a gun they showed her two days before her brother's murder was a "mace gun."

Police interviewed several witnesses regarding the events of January 19, 2016, and the aftermath of Friend's murder. Some of their stories conflicted.

The probable cause affidavit says that Kylie Friend said that she and the two men were staying with a third friend when Rather and Jones asked to borrow her car. She says they were gone about 45 minutes before coming back with Jones appearing "stressed" and Rather having blood splatters on his clothes.

She says that she eventually learned that the two had accidentally shot and killed her brother in robbing him.

One witness says that the day after Caleb Friend's murder, Kylie showed no emotion at the death of her brother. Another says that Kylie began sobbing after learning of her brother's murder, but when she tried to comfort her, Jones said, "Don't feel bad for her; she set it up." And although Kylie Friend and one witness say that the teen remained at the home while Rather and Jones left, another witness says that Kylie left with the two men that night, and he described their behavior as "sketchy."

But after a preliminary hearing, the murder and robbery charges against Rather have been dropped.  Ottawa County District Attorney Kenny Wright says the charges were dismissed after a "witness changed his testimony and couldn't remember details of the slaying.

In dismissing the charges, Wright told the judge, "Because of Bunce's fear-inspired amnesia, I am dismissing charges against Rather."

The charges against Brandon Jones were dismissed in October after the same witness said he could not remember the details of the night and was afraid to testify

The charges against the victim's sister remain. At the conclusion of her preliminary hearing, Kylie Friend was ordered to stand trial for first degree murder, first degree robbery, and conspiracy to commit first degree robbery. Her next court date is scheduled for December 2.

Although Rather's murder charge was dismissed, he was convicted in Canadian County last summer of possession of a CDS with intent to distribute and firearm possession after prior felony conviction. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and is in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Image credit: Oklahoma Department of Corrections

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