MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, announced today that Kyle Joseph Vannortwick, age 36, of Muskogee, Oklahoma was found guilty by a federal jury of Murder –Second Degree in Indian Country, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1111(a), 1151 and 1153. The jury trial began with testimony on Monday, August 16, 2021 and concluded on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 with the guilty verdict. The defendant faces up to life imprisonment for the crime the jury found he committed.
During the trial, the United States presented evidence that on February 18, 2018, the defendant assaulted his brother, Adam Vannortwick, in their home. During the assault, the defendant stabbed the victim three times with a BBQ Knife; once in the head, once in the neck and once in the chest. As a result of the stab wounds, the victim lost a substantial amount of blood prior to medical treatment and ultimately succumbed to those injuries. The defendant was apprehended at the scene of the incident. The defendant claimed the death was accidental. At trial, the defendant testified his brother attacked him and he pushed him away causing the brother to fall on a kitchen table where the BBQ knife was laying. In closing argument, the defense contended the three stab wounds must have occurred when the victim landed on the table. Conversely, the United States argued the defense theory was impossible and the evidence demonstrated the defendant stabbed his twin brother three separate times causing his death.
The case was originally set to be tried in the District Court of Muskogee County, Oklahoma where the murder took place. However, after the United States Supreme Court determined the Muscogee (Creek) Reservation had never been disestablished by Congress, the case had to be dismissed in state court and refiled in federal court because the murder happened in Muskogee County, within the boundaries of Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation and the defendant was a member of a federally recognized Indian Tribe.
The guilty verdict was the result of an investigation by the Muskogee Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.The Honorable Ronald A. White, Chief U.S. District Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee, presided over the trial and ordered the completion of a presentence report. Sentencing will be scheduled following completion of the report. Vannortwick was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal pending imposition of sentencing.