Welch Man Sentenced to 45 Years in Federal Prison for Murder

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Michael Joe Rice

TULSA, Okla. – A Welch man, convicted in 2012 in Craig County District Court for raping and killing his 81-year-old mother, was sentenced Friday in federal court to 45 years.

Rice pleaded guilty in July to second-degree murder in Indian Country and admitted to killing his mother, Ruth Rice, by beating her to death.

“Michael Rice brutally assaulted his mother and left her for dead,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson. “His actions were heinous and inexcusable. I am thankful for the state and federal investigators and prosecutors who have worked diligently since 2011 to hold this killer accountable for his crimes.” 

Rice, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, challenged his Craig County District Court conviction and sentence based upon the Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in Hogner v. Oklahoma. The victim’s residence was located within the Cherokee Nation Reservation.

The elder Rice’s body was found Aug. 4, 2011, near the back door of her home with blood on her face, body, and the floor around her, investigators said at the time of her death. Michael Rice confessed to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents that he tackled Ruth Rice as she walked into the back door of her home, then struck her in the head several times and sexually assaulted her, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Rice told federal agents that the murder happened over money and that he was depressed and that he went to his mother’s house and began hitting her multiple times before tackling her to the ground.

When she asked what he was doing, he hit her in the head, grabbed nearby bags, and pushed them into her mouth to stop her from yelling. He continued his assault then eventually went home. He told investigators that he was unsure if she had died at that time, but said she was no longer talking.

An autopsy report showed the elder Rice died from blunt force trauma to the head and was sexually assaulted.

Michael Rice was adopted by Ruth Rice when he was a young child.

Following Rice’s statement at sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Morgan criticized Rice for not offering even a simple apology for raping and murdering his own mother.

Rice is currently serving a life sentence of life without parole for the state conviction.

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