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Owachige Osceola’s 2013 death draws new attention

HOLLYWOOD – It’s been almost nine years since 27-year-old Owachige Osceola, of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, was found dead in her apartment in Norman, Oklahoma. The Norman Police Department and Osceola’s family say she was murdered, but no one has ever been charged. However, the case has received more attention recently from a new podcast and a renewed call to action by those close to the investigation.

Osceola’s mother, Roberta Osceola, and Will Latchford, the head of Public Safety at the tribe, took part in a webinar July 14 to provide updates on the case and ask for help. Members of the tribe’s leadership and dozens of tribal members and employees attended the session.

Osceola, who grew up on the Big Cypress Reservation and attended the Ahfachkee School, was found dead on Sept. 25, 2013. The door to her apartment had been kicked in and her belongings ransacked. She was found face down on the floor. Detectives with the Norman Police Department immediately began a homicide investigation.

Owachige Osceola, in an undated image used by her family and law enforcement to ask the public for help in her case. (Courtesy photo)

Months later, detective Jim Parks said he had enough evidence to arrest a suspect and hand the case over to the Oklahoma district attorney’s office for charges to be filed, but the case hit a snag. While the state’s chief medical examiner said in its autopsy report that Osceola sustained injuries to the back of her neck, which police said were consistent with strangulation, the cause of death was found to be “undetermined” instead of by “homicide.” The finding baffled police and outraged Osceola’s family. Prosecutors said the report made charging the suspect all but impossible.

Years went by and in 2017 Parks reopened the case and reexamined the evidence. In 2019, he sought a second opinion on the manner of death issued in the autopsy report and was assisted by a federal medical examiners office in Maryland. In April 2019, the medical examiner said there was “no doubt” that Osceola was murdered. But when Parks presented the new finding to the Oklahoma district attorney’s office, officials said they would stand by what the state medical examiner had originally determined.

“Whereas the circumstances of death are indeed suspicious, I find it inappropriate to insert any reference to manner of death into the cause of death statement,” the state medical examiner said in a statement to Parks. “The cause of death in this case is undetermined. The manner is best classified as undetermined.”

In 2020, Seminole Tribe Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. wrote a letter to the Oklahoma district attorney to ask for an independent review of the case, which was also supported by Roberta Osceola, the Seminole Police Department and the Norman Police Department. Then in May of this year, the case got more attention from a podcast called “The Deck,” which goes into a detailed timeline of the case and features interviews with Parks and Roberta Osceola.

To keep the momentum going, the tribe and Osceola’s family are asking tribal members and the public to send a letter to Oklahoma District Attorney John O’Conner to persuade him to reexamine the case.

“We want to bring more awareness to her murder,” Latchford said on the webinar. “We encourage everyone to listen to the podcast and familiarize yourself with the case.”

Latchford said the Seminole Police Department has been working on behalf of Roberta Osceola as a liaison to the Norman Police Department for years. He said he’s confident that police have been on the right track and know who killed Osceola.

Latchford and Osceola are asking people to sign a form letter and send it through their personal email accounts or by regular mail to Oklahoma’s attorney general. They are also asking people to spread the word so others can do the same.

“I want justice for my daughter. Please send your emails,” Osceola said on the webinar. “The objective is to reopen the case due to all the evidence and change the cause of death from undetermined to homicide. Without that, I cannot get justice for my daughter. It’s the only reason the murderer is still free today.”

Latchford said he’s seen the “voice of the people” impact the outcome in similar cases.

“Also, take the podcast and blast it out to your contacts – to people you know in Oklahoma – so the attorney general can see there’s a lot of people behind this case,” Latchford said. “The resilience that Roberta has shown to bring this case to justice – she’s kept the fire lit. She has the passion to continue to push this to make sure the right thing is done.”

To access the form letter (in order to copy and paste it to email) and to listen to the podcast, go to or click here. In addition, officials said anyone with information about Osceola’s death should contact the Norman Police Department at (405) 366-5208.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at