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Oakes pleads to manslaughter in Hathaway murder

Sexual abuse, Oxycontin, twin sister’s confession factors in case


The late Thomas Hathaway

St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police and the Franklin County District Attorney announced this week that Richard “Dickie” Oakes, 39 of Akwesasne, Quebec has pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the 2008 killing of Thomas Hathaway. Oakes was expected to go to trial this month and his decision to plea was unexpected by many involved in the case.

The admission brings the case to a close, as Oakes’ girlfriend, Rhonda Amber Dufoe, 25, previously plead guilty to manslaughter as well. Both Oakes and Dufoe accepted plea deals after being charged initially with 2nd degree murder.

Details of the murder and surrounding circumstances were made public for the first time at a press conference Monday in Malone.

On Sept. 18, 2008 Oakes and Rhonda Amber Dufoe were partying with another Akwesasne man, Taylor John, and Rhonda Amber Dufoe’s identical twin sister, Renee Ashley Dufoe. According to authorities, the group drank alcohol and consumed cocaine and Oxycontin when the discussion turned to one of serious nature. The twins made a list of people who had harmed them in their lifetime and Thomas Hathaway was at the top of their list. The motive for the killing had been previously kept under wraps by the D.A.’s office until this week when it was confirmed that Hathaway had been convicted of sexually abusing the twins when they were 12.

After making the list the group then drove to Helena Road (Frogtown) and stopped a short distance away from Hathaway’s home. According to authorities, Rhonda Amber Dufoe and Oakes got out and walked to Hathaway’s home while the other two left.

Police said the couple entered the house and found Hathaway in his bedroom where they shot him in the head and set a blanket on fire to destroy the body and evidence. Police have not said which of the two pulled the trigger and neither Oakes nor Dufoe has admitted to that detail.

The couple met back up with John and Renee Ashley Dufoe and the twins went back inside Hathaway’s home together to ensure Hathaway was dead and that the fire was still raging.

Oakes and John left and the twins walked back to Hogansburg together, hiding their gloves and joining back up with the two men.

Shortly thereafter police noticed the house on fire and alerted the fire department. Volunteer firefighters soon discovered Hathaway’s body inside.

Police spent weeks conducting interviews, following up on leads, and even setting up police checkpoints asking community members for tips. Two months passed before they got the tip they needed: a confession from Renee Ashley Dufoe who told authorities what her sister and Oakes had done. Both Oakes and Rhonda Amber Dufoe were arrested in November of 2008 and have remained behind bars since. Oakes will be sentenced in August and is expected to receive a 25-year sentence as part of his plea agreement. Dufoe will be sentenced in September, to an expected 20 years.

April White, Hathaway’s sister, said her family has some satisfaction from Oakes’ and Dufoe’s pleas.

“I think I would have liked to have seen him plead guilty to actual murder rather than manslaughter but obviously he’s not going to do that because it would be more time (so) this is all around the best thing that could have come out of this,” she said.

White also said that she was grateful to the tribal police and D.A’s office for the hours they put into solving her brother’s murder.

“We are grateful that Ashley (Renee Ashley Dufoe), as the D.A. said, grew a conscience and decided to go to the authorities with what happened that night,” White said. “I feel that this (murder) was a senseless and selfish act. It wasn’t just Thomas’ family but also both of their (Oakes’ and Dufoe’s) families that were affected and it impacted them too, and I express my regrets to their families for what they have to go through.”

Although the murder investigation is over, the case will continue to be monitored as Rhonda Amber Dufoe has alleged that she was raped in the Franklin County jail by a guard. She is now seven months pregnant and has been behind bars since her arrest in 2008. The guard and his supervisor were placed on leave pending the conclusion of a state investigation and DNA testing after the baby’s birth.


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