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Woman Confesses To Killing Roommate Over Food Stamps And Twice Returning To Burn The Evidence
Tracy Russell allowed Jessica McBride and her boyfriend to live in her Tulsa home. McBride would later confess to placing Russell in a chokehold, resulting in her death, and returning to the crime scene to try and set both Russell and her home on fire.
An Oklahoma woman has confessed to murdering her former roommate over food stamps and attempting to set fire to both the victim and her home in an effort to destroy the evidence.
Jessica Lavon McBride, 30, pleaded guilty in connection with the March 17, 2019 death of Tracy Elaine Russell, who allowed McBride and her boyfriend to live at her Tulsa residence, the Department of Justice announced Friday. McBride admitted she believed Russell took advantage of McBride’s food stamps before Russell kicked them out of her home just days before the murder.
“Jessica McBride stayed in the home of the victim, and in return, she took her life because of missing food stamps,” U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson stated. “My office and our law enforcement partners at the Tulsa Police Department and FBI will continue to hold perpetrators, like McBride, accountable for their criminal acts.”
Officers with the Tulsa Police Department said they were called to 4905 N. Johnstown Avenue in Tulsa on the night of March 20, 2019, where they found Russell strangled to death. A later federal criminal complaint reviewed by Oxygen.com reported Russell’s body was partially burned.
Authorities stopped McBride from trying to “reenter the house with lighter fluid” at around 10:30 p.m. Upon the arrival of the homicide unit and the issuance of search warrants, investigators found “a fire had been set earlier in the day” and that it appeared “McBride was returning to reset the fire,” according to police.
Feds said McBride’s first attempt to burn Russell and her home took place on March 18, 2019, one day after the actual murder.
Because the victim was a member of the Cherokee Nation, and because the murder occurred on Cherokee Nation territory, the case became a federal one due to the recent 2020 landmark decision in the supreme court case of McGirt Vs. Oklahoma, which affirmed tribal sovereignty by allowing major crime cases to be subject by a federal judiciary as opposed to being subjected to state-level jurisdiction.
In April 2021, a federal grand jury charged McBride with second-degree murder in Indian Country, arson in Indian Country, corruptly attempting to alter, destroy, mutilate, and conceal an object to impair its use in an official proceeding, and attempt to commit arson in Indian Country.
As part of the recent deal with federal prosecutors, McBride pleaded down to charges of voluntary manslaughter in Indian Country and attempt to commit arson.
Feds say Tracy Russell previously allowed McBride and her boyfriend - identified the federal criminal complaint as Michael James Scott - to live at her Tulsa residence. In return, McBride agreed to assist with groceries, as part of their arrangement.
On March 14, 2019, three days before Russell’s murder, Russell asked McBride and her partner leave the home.
“In her plea agreement, McBride admitted to returning to the residence and killing the victim by strangulation on March 17, 2019,” according to the release. “McBride said she committed the crime during a heated argument that started when she accused the victim of stealing her food stamps. Those claims were never substantiated.”
According to the criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, McBride returned to collect her purse and other belongings and said she became “angered” when Russell denied having her purse. This prompted McBride to put Russell in a 10-second rear chokehold, resulting in her death.
“McBride did not check if Russell was still breathing before retrieving her purse and other belongings and leaving the residence,” according to the complaint.
McBride said she returned the following day and covered Russell in a blanket and attempted to destroy the evidence by “lighting two corners of the blanket on fire before leaving the house,” McBride told detectives.
McBride said she was unsure if the fire had burned the house down.
On March 19, 2019, McBride requested help from one of her friends to ensure Russell’s body and home were destroyed by fire. Instead of assisting with the crimes, the friend reported the incident to authorities on March 20 and became a “confidential source.”
“I bought some camp fuel and we have to do it tonight,” McBride texted the friend.
Authorities then used an undercover Tulsa Police officer to try and catch McBride in the act.
“That night, the individual and an undercover investigator picked up McBride and drove to the victim’s residence,” according to the Department of Justice. “McBride exited the vehicle carrying a plastic bag, which was later found to contain gas camp fuel and lighter fluid, and entered the residence through a window with the intention of setting the place on fire.”
That was when McBride was arrested on the scene.
Prosecutors are requesting McBride serve the maximum 15-year term in federal prison, plus supervised release and a fine not exceeding $250,000. It remains unclear when McBride is due for a sentencing hearing.