Faces trial in federal court
RENTIESVILLE – The allegation by the FBI is stomach churning: desecration of a human corpse.
This small community founded in 1903 as one of 50 all-black towns in Oklahoma, is known mostly these days for the historic site of the Civil War Battle of Honey Springs.
And for the annual Dusk ‘Til Dawn Blues Festival held every Labor Day weekend, when the community’s population of 128 swells to 3,000 or more for three days.
Normally a quiet village five miles north of Checotah in McIntosh County, the peace was disturbed on June 12 when a team of lawmen descended on the area looking for the remains of a murder victim and clues to the crime.
The FBI led the contingent that included its own agents, deputies with the McIntosh County Sheriff ’s Office and officers with the Muscogee Creek Nation Lighthorse Police Department.
According to a federal criminal complaint filed by the FBI, the agency had received word that a victim in Rentiesville had been shot multiple times, dismembered and his body stuffed in a 55-gallon barrel of muriatic acid.
At the conclusion of the search on Wednesday, June 14, Fredrick Cody Burkhalter, 25, was arrested and charged with Desecration of a Human Corpse in Indian Country.
Burkhalter made his initial appearance in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee on Friday.
The suspect was assigned Federal Public Defender McClayn Gullekson to represent him. Burkhalter waived a preliminary hearing.
The crime allegedly was the result of an argument over a gun stolen from Kolby Jed Ingram by the suspect.
In different times the investigation would have been prosecuted in McIntosh County District Court. But since the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling in July 2020, cases involving Native Americans in “Indian Country” are under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
According to the FBI, Burkhalter is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and he is accused of committing the crime in Indian Country.
Duston M. Todd, task force officer with the FBI, filed the criminal complaint against Burkhalter.
Todd did not identify the victim of the murder by name, only by the initials K.I.
It is believed that those initials are for Kolby Ingram, 27, who lived with Burkhalter in Rentiesville a short time before disappearing on April 29, 2022.
Shortly after the disappearance, investigators with the McIntosh County Sheriff ’s Office interviewed Burkhalter, who said the missing man had left with someone in a Toyota and had not returned.
On Aug. 1, 2022, according to court records, the sheriff ’s office interviewed Burkhalter’s former boss who reported that the suspect had admitted to him that he had shot and killed the victim before laying the body in an area of tall grass on the backside of the suspect’s property where it was hidden from view.
“Burkhalter said that his (Burkhalter’s) father kept walking past K.I.’s body in order to feed dogs on the property, so Burkhalter placed the body inside a 55-gallon barrel … filled the barrel with acid before dumping the body in a creek nearby the residence,” according to the criminal complaint.
On Aug. 3, 2022, FBI agents interviewed Burkhalter, who reportedly stated that Ingram had been staying with him but Ingram had gone to Cherokee County and Burkhalter didn’t know what happened to him after that.
Agents, on May 23, 2023, interviewed Burkhalter’s former boss, who said Ingram had been staying with Burkhalter at Burkhalter’s trailer and that the suspect had stolen a pistol from the victim.
The next day Burkhalter and Ingram reportedly got into a fight and Burkhalter shot him in the hand and then twice more, “including once in the neck that nearly decapitated him.”
The following day, the suspect reportedly put the victim in a barrel and filled the barrel with muriatic acid.
Burkhalter told his former boss that the acid “dissolved everything except for the brass buttons on K.I.’s overalls” according to the criminal complaint.
The complaint stated that Burkhalter told his former boss that he periodically checked the barrel to stir it up and that three days after placing K.I. in the barrel, K.I’s head floated to the top.
The ex-employer also stated that Burkhalter claimed he had killed two other people.
Agent Todd said in the complaint that on May 24, 2023 he interviewed Ingram’s father regarding the disappearance of his son and was told that his son had been released from jail sometime in mid-April, 2022.
The father received a text message from his son on April 29, 2022 saying that Burkhalter had robbed him the night before while he was sleeping and he said he was going to report it to the sheriff ’s office.
The criminal complaint said multiple search warrants were executed on June 12, 2023 at properties in Rentiesville.
“Skeletal remains were located during the search of the properties. The remains were identified as human by onsite forensic anthropologists. The remains were found mixed with the skeletal remains of a dog,” the complaint stated. “(They) … include a fractured cervical vertebrae, fractured hand bones and a femur bone shattered into multiple pieces. The remains show signs of dismemberment, disfigurement, mutilation and of being devoured.”