Stories of the MMIW: Britney Tiger-Undetermined
Wikipedia states that the Trail of Tears saw the forced relocation of many native tribes between 1830-1850. These people were uprooted from their homes and made to move, on foot, from the Southeastern region of the US to land that was primarily then, and is now Oklahoma. According to Britannica, estimates have been made based off of tribal and military records. Approximately 100,000 were forced to walk the Trail of Tears, leaving their only known homes behind them. An estimated 15,000 died during the relocation. Of the many tribes to trek to Oklahoma, the Five Civilized Tribes were among them. These are the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. They became known as the Civilized Tribes because the English saw them as more civilized than the other nations.
It's not known what tribe Britney Tiger belonged to, but she was a resident of Ada, Oklahoma. Oklahoma is still home to the Five Civilized Tribes. Ada is a small town that sits about 88 miles outside of Oklahoma City. It was in this small, mid-western town that Britney raised her three children and met the man she would marry, Will Gomez.
The two married in September 2017, when Britney was 26-years-old. Her children were ages 9, 7, and 4 at the time. They seemed very happy as the new family moved into Will's house together. It would only take five months for a crack to show in the facade. On February 10, 2018, Britney's mother, Bernadine Bear-Heels, received a text from her daughter at around 11:00 that night. The text said that Britney wanted to leave Will. She said that she just needed a break from him and wanted to go stay with one of her three sisters in Texas. About an hour later, Bernadine got another text from Britney saying that everything was fine, but she was having trouble with her phone.
That night Britney's children were staying with their biological father. According to the We Are Resilient podcast, Will would later tell police that the two went to bed early that night to get some rest. At around 3:30 on the morning of February 11, he awoke to find that Britney was nowhere to be found. For a little more than a week after, no one heard a word from her. On February 19, 2018, her half-sister, Christina, reported her missing to the Ada Police Department.
Police conducted a welfare check at the home Britney and her children shared with Will Gomez. They noted that the new husband and step-father didn't seem phased by his wife's disappearance. He didn't seem to care about finding her at all. He told the police that she must have left the house while he was asleep, taking a couple of her hoodies and her make-up bag with her. Neither Britney or Will owned or had access to a car, so she couldn't have gone very far without help from her family. As her family only lived about a mile from the couple, if she had left in the middle of the night it stands to reason she would've gone there.
Police wondered why her husband had not been the one to sound the alarm bells when Britney couldn't be reached for more than a week. He said he wasn't concerned because it wasn't unlike her to just take off and disappear for weeks at a time. Her sister, Jessica, contradicts his statement, saying that she would never have left her children like that. By all accounts, Britney was very close to her family, particularly her mother and sisters. She was known to spend a lot of time with them. Even as an adult, Britney never went out anywhere that she didn't text her mother to let her know where she would be.
The wonderful ladies of the We Are Resilient podcast said that Will told police he just continued on with his life as normal. He wasn't worried about Britney in the least. As a matter of fact, he took a trip to Shawnee, Oklahoma to visit his father right after her disappearance. The reason he gave for this was that he was angry with Britney for leaving. Between the time that Britney disappeared and the time that Christina reported her missing, Will never once reached out to the family to ask if they had seen or heard from her.
It was almost a month before a cattleman out working by the Kullihoma Indian Stomp Grounds made a gruesome discovery. On March 16, 2018, he found Britney Tiger's lifeless body lying near the grounds meant for sacred native ceremonies. She was only about 15 miles from her home. Her autopsy said she was found lying on her back in a state of decomposition with her arms outstretched over her head in such a way to suggest she'd been dragged from the road to the nearby field. Her clothes were pulled up over her body and dark hairs were found in her hands, as well as a red hemorrhage on the right side of her chest. Her death was listed as undetermined.
Verified News reported that her toxicology report showed 4.3 micrograms of meth in her liver, where drugs are concentrated the highest. This is a very low amount as a microgram in only 1/1000 of a milligram. Only extremely potent drugs, such as fentanyl, are measured in micrograms. Amounts of meth have also been known to double in the blood after death. In an interview with Verified News, her sister insists that she was not struggling with any kind of drug addiction. She lived her life like any normal mother, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her children.
Her family was forced to give her a closed casket funeral. It was quite obvious that the animals had gotten to her body before the cattleman finally found her. It was mentioned on the We Are Resilient podcast that part of her lip was missing and she may have even been missing an eye by the time she was found.
Detective Brian Engle said that the case would be treated as a homicide. A year later, he told Dateline that there was no current evidence suggesting a crime had taken place. Her case was never officially classified as a homicide.
On March 6, 2020, Britney's case took a dramatic left turn. The Ada News reported that 25-year-old Bodhi Chance Starns was arrested and charged with the unlawful disposal of a deceased corpse. He was held at the Pontotoc County Justice Center on a $500,000 bond. According to the coverage of this case by the women of We Are Resilient, several tips made it possible to make a connection between Bodhi and Britney. A neighbor reported to police that he saw Bodhi and another unidentified man carrying a suitcase from the couple's house late the night of Britney's disappearance. This neighbor heard the story about two weeks later and called police. A woman went to police after Bodhi had made comments to her about getting rid of Britney's body. Another tip came in saying he had confessed during an AA meeting.
This wasn't the only charge the dodgy-looking man was facing, either. He was also being held on a $250,000 bond on a previous unrelated charge of preventing a witness from testifying. Between tips connecting him to Britney's death and his previous charge it's fair to say that he most definitely is not a good guy.
In November 2020, his case involving Britney Tiger was dismissed, citing the McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling. Verified News reports that this Supreme Court ruling came in July 2020 and states that the state has no legal jurisdiction over crimes involving American Indians on tribal lands. This is because their reservations have never been disestablished by Congress. The brilliant ladies of the We Are Resilient podcast Googled the definition of disestablished. It means to deprive of status or privilege.
Jimmy McGirt was an enrolled member of the Seminole tribe that had committed three serious sexual offenses in his area. He was sentenced to two 500 year terms in 1997 for molesting a child that was only 4 at the time. McGirt challenged the ruling, stating that he could not be prosecuted for a crime committed on reservation land. He cited the Major Crimes Act, which prohibits the state from prosecuting against a list of offenses on tribal land. According to Wikipedia, these include murder, rape, arson, assault with the intent to kill, manslaughter, burglary, and larceny. The Major Crimes Act states that he would only be subject to federal jurisdiction, not state.
Britney's family continues to fight for justice. Her sister, Jessica, is her biggest champion. She works tirelessly to keep Britney's name in the media and keep the question in the front of the public's mind. What really happened to Britney Tiger? It's quite obvious that she was murdered and her husband had something to do with it. No further arrests have been made in her case and it appears that it is not even being investigated at all. For 4 years someone has been allowed to walk free after killing an innocent young mother. Will anyone ever be held accountable?