MISSING AND MURDERED: The Case of Britney Tiger Part 2
(PONTOTOC COUNTY, Okla.) Verified News Network’s “Missing and Murdered” segment aims to highlight crimes committed against Native American women in Oklahoma.
In Part 1, VNN found that Native American women go missing and murdered at higher rates than the national average, and Native Americans in general go missing and murdered at a higher rate than other races here in Oklahoma.
Our premiere story focused on the case of Britney Tiger, who went missing on February 11, 2018. Tiger’s sister called police after not hearing from her in a week. We spoke with Tiger’s mother Bernadine Bear-Heels who told us Tiger messaged her just days before she disappeared, saying she planned to leave her husband, William Gomez. That would be the last time Bear-Heels would ever speak to her daughter.
“I told Will,” Bear-Heels said, “I messaged him and told him go file a missing person’s report. I said go now. And he said he would. Well, all throughout that weekend he never did go.”
Tiger’s body was found on March 16, about 200 yards behind a fence in a field on County Road 3680 just a mile south of the Kullihoma Stomp grounds in Pontotoc County. Local law enforcement said it was clear she did not get there on her own.
“A person who had that property leased and had cattle on it was out there with his children checking the cattle and actually drove up on the body, realized what it was and called and reported it,” Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian said. “We arrived shortly thereafter.”
The Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Office was the first law enforcement agency on the scene.
Christian said Tiger’s clothes were pulled up and her body laid out, consistent with her being dragged into the field from the road and left there.
“Like possibly someone was dragging her by her legs and therefore her arms were following behind,” Christian said.
“I believe from indications that I saw that it appears that someone took her body out there,” Christian said. “I do not believe that she was alive on that property. I think that she was already deceased just from what indications I saw. And was took there and left.”
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was called in to take control of the death scene investigation.
The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office determined the body was Tiger’s, and the investigation was turned back over to Ada Police, where the original missing person report was filed.
“They’re just right now just interviewing different persons of interest and looking at different people,” City of Ada Public Information Director Lisa Bratcher said. “There’s several people that fall into that category right now.”
Gomez is one of them. The police report states when Ada Police interviewed Gomez initially, he was flagged in the National Crime Information Center with a note for law enforcement to contact Federal Probation. A reason why was not given in the report. So VNN did our own digging and found out that this was not the first time a marriage to William Shelby Gomez ended with crime.
Gomez applied for a marriage license with his first wife Angela Jones in Oklahoma County in June 2011, when he was 19 years old. According to court records on June 20, the day the marriage certificate was recorded and returned to the couple, the pair robbed an Arvest Bank in Choctaw, Oklahoma, of more than $7,000.
Jones told investigators Gomez shoved a shotgun into her side and forced her to take part in the robbery and threatened to harm her parents if she drove away from the bank and left him there.
Gomez pled guilty to robbing the bank and using a shotgun in the robbery the following September. He was sentenced to 50 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution, along with 4 years federal probation after serving his prison time, which was set to end in February 2019.
Jones filed for divorce in December 2013.
Fast forward a handful of years, Gomez and Tiger applied for a marriage license in April 2017 but did not actually get married. They re-applied in August 2017 and did. It is unclear if law enforcement is still in contact with Gomez.
“They would have his initial information when they did interviews early on, but I’m not sure,” Bratcher said. “I don’t have that information if they know as of right now where he is.”
VNN has tried to locate Gomez to hear what he has to say about Tiger’s disappearance, death and what he thinks might have happened, but the attempts have been unsuccessful so far.
Bratcher said the police cannot speculate on what may have happened, or even where the crimes were actually committed.
The medical examiner stated Tiger’s cause and manner of death were both unknown, but that meth was found in her system. Christian said even if she did overdose, which has been unable to be determined, whoever played a role in Tiger’s death will face several potential charges.
“Improper disposal of human remains. Also maybe they’re the ones who gave the drugs to her, so you may have a homicide,” Christian said. “You still have a homicide if they are the person who gave drugs to her that killed her. So there’s a lot of things there that still need to be determined and looked at.”
Bear-Heels told us her daughter’s problems with drugs had been going on for at least a couple years.
Methamphetamine addiction is not uncommon in rural areas like Pontotoc County but, after speaking with some locals, the mystery of Tiger’s death led VNN to an even darker possibility: an underground human trafficking ring, in which operatives are systematically getting individuals addicted to drugs in order to prostitute them and eventually traffic them to other parts of the country.
Local law enforcement could not confirm nor deny if this was happening in the area, or if Tiger had been connected to such a ring.
“I’m sure everybody would like to figure out what ultimately happened to Britney so they’re obviously going to keep interviewing and asking questions,” Bratcher said.
Tiger left behind three kids. Her oldest, an eight-year-old son. This year will be the family’s first holiday season without Tiger, who tells VNN they still love and miss the young mother every day.
“He (her oldest son) would tell me, he goes I wish we could start our lives over so we can have Mommy,” Bear-Heels said. “I said me, too. Me, too.”
“I want people to know that our condolences are with her family,” Bratcher said, “and if anybody has any information at all to please call the Ada Police Department.”
Both the police department and sheriff’s office agreed: that’s the best shot they have of finding out the truth about what happened to Tiger.
Christian said he believes there is more than one person out there with the answers. “The person who took the body out there and left it,” Christian said. “They know what happened. They know what they did. And I don’t think they did it alone. I think they had assistance in disposing of her body and so there’s more than one individual that can come forward.”
Anyone with information about what happened to Britney Tiger is urged to call Ada Police at 580-332-4466 or Crimestoppers at 580-332-2824. Callers can remain anonymous.
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