Woman’s Life Sentence For Manslaughter Vacated Due To Tribal Jurisdiction

Wednesday, October 28th 2020, 6:22 pm
By: Amelia Mugavero

The family of a Bartlesville woman killed in a 2015 car crash is devastated that the conviction and life sentence of the woman who caused the crash, have been dismissed.

A jury found Samantha Perales guilty of manslaughter and sentenced her to life for killing Amberly Bradley, but the judge recently vacated the jury’s decisions based on the Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdictions in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

"I can be driving down the road and think if 'that car comes into my lane, my life is over,' so you’re constantly reminded of how quickly life can end and it’s not easy moving past that," Amberly's sister Ashley Dodson said.

Ashley said their family thought they were done with the pain and heartache of going through a trial. She said the news they may have to re-live it all over again was like reopening an old wound. 

"She's always a missing piece," Ashley said. "You go through a period of denial not believing thinking that maybe she's going to call and she's going to pick up the phone."

Samantha Perales crossed the center line on Highway 59 north of little Kansas, slamming head-on into Amberly's vehicle, killing her. Perales had meth in her system. 

However, her life sentence given in 2018 was overturned recently after a judge ruled Perales was a member of the Osage Nation, and the crime happened on reservation land.

"So when I was contacted, it was like the second time about hearing about the accident all over again," Ashley said.

Ashley said the hardest part about facing a possible re-trial is hearing the details of her sister's death.

"It doesn't hurt any less now as it did two years ago or five years ago," Ashley said.

Ashley said she and her family have all moved to Kansas and forgave Perales in the first trial. She said they also will keep that forgiveness if they have to face her in another one. 

"We have to forgive her and we do, but my heart go out to the other victims that don’t have the understanding of what love really looks like and don’t have a relationship with the Lord to be able to have that peace," Ashley said. 

Ashley said that she and her family don't wish the same life sentence on Perales, but just some form of justice and for the pain to end.

"Taking it to trial, it reopens wounds," Ashley said. "We thought it was settled, but I wouldn’t wish a harder sentence for her necessarily. I do think justice was served and I do think that should be honored, the years don’t erase the crime that happened."

News on 6 reached out to Delaware County District Attorney, Kenny Wright, who explained the statute of limitations applies to Perales' case and the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Oklahoma will not be able to pick the case up. Therefore, the Cherokee Nation will be the only jurisdiction to prosecute the case. 

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill said this case will go to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals next, who would decide whether the case gets dismissed permanently or be refiled in tribal court.