Alleged killer helped family member 'search' for body

2014-01-16T05:00:00Z 2014-02-20T18:44:10Z Alleged killer helped family member 'search' for bodyJoe O'Sullivan Journal staff Rapid City Journal
January 16, 2014 5:00 am  • 

When Tesla Clifford climbed into her Chevy the evening of Dec. 29 with a family friend, she didn't know she'd be sitting with a suspected killer of her grandfather and another man.

That night, she and BillyRay McCloskey roamed between St. Francis and Kilgore, Neb. in her car, looking for any sign of 76-year-old Ben Clifford, who had gone missing the week before.

Tesla, who lives in Rapid City, needed someone familiar with the reservation to help her. McCloskey's mother suggested BillyRay join her, she said.

In the darkness, they scoured rivers and dirt roads, looking for any trace of Clifford. McCloskey, 23, was quiet, Tesla said. But he would pull out a flashlight to help peer into the darkness for any trace of her grandfather.

The places that McCloskey suggested they search turned up nothing. When Tesla dropped him off at his house near St. Francis early on the morning of Dec. 30, she noticed agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation waiting for McCloskey.

By the time she had driven back to her mother's house in Murdo, the family had gotten a call that McCloskey was suspected as one of Clifford's murderers.

"All of us, our jaws dropped," said Tesla, 23.

A grand has jury indicted McCloskey, 23, along with Riley McCloskey, in his early 20s, for second-degree murder. Crystal Red Hawk, 36, was also indicted for aiding the suspects after the fact. Riley and Red Hawk made their first appearances Wednesday in federal court in Pierre.

Court documents allege that the two strangled Clifford, a tribal elder who lived in White River. Calvin Kills In Water, Jr., 33, of St. Francis, was beaten and stabbed in the chest with a screwdriver by the two, according to the documents. The two were killed sometime on Dec. 23 or Dec. 24.

Tesla says she knew BillyRay growing up from her visits to the reservation, where their mothers were friends.

Growing up, "he was around my grandpa," she said. "He called my grandpa, 'grandpa.'"

But she said she wasn't close to the suspect.

"I didn't know BillyRay too much, but on Facebook we always kept in touch," Tesla said. "After we got older, we heard he got in trouble."

In 2010, BillyRay pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon for stabbing a man with a steak knife, according to court records. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and was released last April, according to federal prison records.

The last time Tesla spoke to BillyRay before their car ride had been about two years ago, when he worked at the Radisson in Rapid City.

"He was asking me for money," she said.

After the bodies were discovered and the suspects in custody, Tesla was brought to the site where the bodies of her grandfather and Kills In Water were discovered.

It is a spot near an abandoned shed at the end of treeline on a dirt road off of the road between Kilgore and St. Francis. Tesla recognized it from her search with McCloskey.

They drove there by twice, "on our way to Kilgore and back," Tesla said.

Contact Joe O'Sullivan at 394-8414 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. happytrls
    Report Abuse
    happytrls - January 16, 2014 9:45 am
    What a horrifying and very sad story. My condolences to the families of the murdered victims.
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