Suspect ID’d in Hammon murder case
Tommy Dean Bullcoming, 54, of Hammon, was charged this week in federal court with “first-degree murder in Indian Country,” plus four other crimes. One of them is “carjacking resulting in death” which could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.
Announcement of the charges was made in a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice for the Western District of Oklahoma.
The press release did not name the victim, stating only that it was an Indian female who lived in Hammon. The date of the crimes was Sept. 6, 2017.
On Thursday the Clinton Daily News called the U.S. Department of Justice in Oklahoma City. Scott Williams, the contact person listed on the release, did return the call but essentially said he could not say anything more than was in the release, including specifically the name of the victim.
However, he did send the CDN a copy of the indictment which repeatedly refers to the victim as “L.Z.”
CDN records indicate that the newspaper published an obituary Sept. 15, 2017, for Linda Zotigh, 55, of Hammon. It did not state her cause of death, but complaints from her family at the time indicated they were displeased with the lack of publicity it was receiving. The Daily News did have a Page 1 story on Sept. 14, 2017, stating that the FBI and BIA were investigating Zotigh’s reported murder, but it noted that neither of those agencies would give any details because the alleged crimes occurred on Indian land. It said Roger Mills County Sheriff Darren Atha also declined to say anything. An FBI spokesperson promised to call the Daily News when a suspect was apprehended, but no such call was ever received.
The press release issued Monday said Bullcoming was charged with five counts by a federal grand jury. The counts are:
• First-degree premeditated murder;
• First-degree felony murder;
• Carjacking resulting in death;
• Kidnapping resulting in death; and
The press release states that Bullcoming “used force, violence and intimidation to intentionally take a Lexus RX 300” from an Indian and that this resulted in her death. It further alleges he killed the victim “by stabbing and cutting her with a sharp object” and acted “in an especially heinous, atrocious, cruel and depraved manner in that the offense involved torture and serious physical abuse.”
It says the arson count alleges that he “maliciously set fire to the victim’s dwelling in Hammon.” However, Williams would not say whether the victim or her body was inside the dwelling when it was set afire, how and where the carjacking occurred, or what relation if any the suspect had to her.
The indictment says the dwelling that was set afire was located at 305 S. Ninth St. in Hammon and was owned by L.Z.
Concerning the possibility of the death penalty for Bullcoming, the press release said the attorney general of the United States will decide whether to seek it “based on the recommendation of the U.S. attorney (apparently for the Western District of Oklahoma) and after carefully considering the defendant’s background and the circumstances of the crime.”
Ironically, of the five crimes Bullcoming is charged with, the death penalty evidently can be assessed only for “carjacking resulting in death.”
Of the others, the release says he would face mandatory life-in-prison sentences upon conviction of first-degree murder, felony murder, or kidnapping resulting in death. It adds, “The death penalty is not available for these offenses because federal jurisdiction is based on allegations they took place in Indian Country, and the relevant tribe has not opted in to the death penalty for those subject to its jurisdiction.”
It does not say what the relevant tribe is, but it’s presumed to be the Cheyenne-Arapaho.
The fifth charge, arson, carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Agencies participating in the investigation were the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. attorneys Mark Stoneman and Arvo Mikkanen are prosecuting the case.
Ms. Zotigh’s obit said she was born in 1961 at Clinton to Kirby and Alberta (Whiteskunk) Zotigh. Her funeral service was held in the Hammon High School auditorium, and she was buried in the Hammon Indian Mennonite Cemetery.