Man Convicted for Striking and Killing a Victim with a Water Meter Key
A man who struck and killed another man with a water meter key was found guilty at trial late Thursday, announced U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson.
A federal jury convicted Kyle Edwin Freeman, 36, of first degree murder in Indian Country. The crime occurred at victim Donald Thomas’ Tulsa residence on the 4500 block of East Admiral Boulevard on July 30, 2020.
Freeman, his girlfriend and others spent the day consuming alcohol then drove to Thomas’ residence that night. During the car ride, Freeman and his girlfriend argued and eventually became involved in a physical altercation.
Freeman had been staying with the victim in the days leading up to the murder. Once they arrived at the home, Freeman’s girlfriend walked to a back room. When Freeman attempted to follow and continue the altercation, the victim attempted to calm him down then eventually pushed him onto a couch. Witnesses present in the living room testified that Freeman appeared to calm down. The two men, who were cousins, hugged, and the victim ensured Freeman had something to eat.
While Freeman was in another room, the two witnesses focused on repairing a speaker, and Thomas sat on the couch. Approximately 20 minutes later, one witness heard Freeman strike the victim, and the other felt the resulting blood splatter. When the two men looked toward the victim, they saw Freeman violently strike the victim in the head with a water meter key a second time, and they screamed for him to stop. Witnesses called 911. Freeman and his girlfriend were chased from the home and drove away. Emergency responders pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
At trial, Freeman’s girlfriend testified that while she was driving away, Freeman began hitting her, blamed her for what happened, and said he wasn’t going to let the victim disrespect him. He also threw their cell phones out the vehicle’s window. The couple then drove to a friend’s house. The friend testified that Freeman told her that he would not be disrespected so he “bashed” in the victim’s head. He further told his girlfriend to say they left the victim’s home to take a friend to work and that the victim had a gun.
Creek County Sheriff’s deputies later located the couple and their friend and took them to the Tulsa Police Department for questioning.
Tulsa Police and Muscogee Nation Lighthorse detectives interviewed the defendant. Freeman claimed that the victim had been upset with him and argued with him in the bedroom. He further claimed that the victim punched him then pulled out a black 9mm handgun. He explained that in an effort to defend himself, he swung an object at the victim’s head, hitting him once or twice. He then left the home to avoid a further confrontation.
When detectives processed the scene, they recovered the water meter key used in the crime in the living room. The key is a metal rod used to access water meters and adjust water flow. They further observed the victim lying on the couch, deceased. The blood splatter evidence in the room indicated that Thomas was seated on the couch when he was struck. There was no evidence that a physical altercation occurred in the bedroom, and no firearms were found.
In closing at trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Brasher emphasized to the jury that while Freeman drank alcohol that day, Freeman, by law, was culpable for the crime. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Elmore further stated that the individual who caused chaos the night of the crime was the defendant, Kyle Freeman. He reminded the jury that the only thing the victim did that night was try to calm Freeman down and then make him a sandwich afterward, and because Freeman somehow felt “disrespected,” he drove the handle of a water key through the skull of the victim, killing him.
Because the incident occurred within the boundaries of the Muscogee Nation reservation and both the victim and defendant were tribal citizens, the case was prosecuted in federal court in the Northern District of Oklahoma. Thomas was a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, and Freeman is a citizen of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The FBI, Tulsa Police Department, Muscogee Nation Lighthorse Police Department, and the Creek County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth Elmore and John E. Brasher are prosecuting the case.