Man charged with murder over chase
TAHLEQUAH — A Colcord man charged with first-degree felony murder stemming from a fatal police pursuit last month is being considered a fugitive after signing himself out from a Tulsa hospital where police interviewed him following the crash.
Aram Barak Catron, 35, is accused of causing the death of Malinda J. Phillips, 36, while eluding a Cherokee Nation deputy marshal during a Jan. 26 pursuit. State law indicates that eluding a police officer, which is a felony, is among a list of underlying offenses that can support a first-degree felony murder charge.
However, investigators are still awaiting the results of a blood draw taken from Catron at the hospital to determine whether he was also driving under the influence. They have said no dash camera or body camera footage exists of the incident.
It remains unclear which day Catron was discharged from the hospital, but Cherokee County District Attorney Jack Thorp said Tuesday during a press conference that it occurred before the investigation concluded and before an arrest warrant was authorized.
Catron, according to police, sustained serious injuries after being ejected from his vehicle, and they appeared to believe it was doubtful he would survive.
A probable cause affidavit states Catron admitted to drinking liquor the morning of the crash and had been using methamphetamine that week. Catron’s vehicle had used syringes and a nearly empty liquor bottle inside at the time of the collision, according to the document.
“This was a pretty complex investigation because we were looking at (the) felony murder (doctrine), so he was able to discharge himself from the hospital,” Thorp said. “Once we made sure we had the investigation done right, we filed charges.”
Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King said the U.S Marshals Service worked for several hours Monday attempting to execute an arrest warrant against Catron, who frequents Delaware County and neighboring areas in Arkansas.
“Our goal in this was to conduct an investigation and charge and prosecute Aram Catron if there was a crime committed,” King said. “Running out and arresting a person does not do justice to the state of Oklahoma, to the family (or) to a victim of any kind. Properly prosecuting a person is what brings justice.
“And we chose, largely, based on my opinion when talking with District Attorney Thorp, to hold off on running out and arresting Mr. Catron.”
King said Catron’s injuries also raised the question of whether the Cherokee County Detention Center would accept him, had he been taken into custody.
“They’re still lingering conditions whether he’s out of the hospital or not,” he said. “At that time, I don’t know if we could have in good conscience arrested Aram Catron for first-degree murder.
“So what happens if we run out and arrest him for manslaughter? At the end of the day and at the end of our investigation, there’s more there than just manslaughter.”
A Tahlequah police officer wrote in the affidavit that Catron was suspected of shoplifting from a Wal-Mart store and fleeing, which Thorp and King said prompted Cherokee Nation Deputy Marshal Preston Oosahwee to give chase once he spotted Catron’s vehicle.
King said the value of the stolen items was less than $100.
One person died Jan. 26 in a crash that occurred during a police pursuit in Tahlequah.