LAKE VILLAGE, Ark. – A Tahlequah, Oklahoma, man employed as an urgent care doctor within the Cherokee Nation’s health system was arrested Monday in Arkansas in connection with the death of a former CN nurse.

According to the Arkansas State Police, Dr. Tyler Tait, 34, was arrested late Monday near Lake Village in southeast Arkansas where the body of Moria Kinsey, 37, of Tahlequah, was found that afternoon. According to the state, Tait is being held at the Chicot County Jail charged with first-degree murder.

A news release from the state says deputies initially responded at 12:15 p.m. to a request for medical assistance.

“Kinsey was located lying outside a vehicle parked alongside U.S. Highway 65, approximately two miles north of Lake Village near the McMillan Corner community,” the news release says. “Tait was found near the vehicle. Kinsey was transported to an area hospital and pronounced deceased by a local doctor …”

Kinsey’s body was transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, where the manner and cause of death will be determined, according to state police who, along with special agents, examined what they described as the vehicle Tait and Kinsey had been traveling in from Mississippi. The news release notes that authorities “found evidence of a physical altercation inside.”

“Monday evening, after interviewing Tait and later consulting with Thomas Deen, 10th Judicial District prosecuting attorney, agents arrested Tait,” the release states.

According to the CN, Tait has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation. Tait, a non-Native, was hired by the tribe as a full-time employee in February 2019, according to CN Communications, which also noted that while the tribe does screen for employment, Tait had no convictions prior to his hiring.

“Cherokee Nation policy requires background checks on employees and also does background checks every five years on medical professionals,” reads the CN statement.

According to Cherokee County court records, in December, a petition for a protective order was filed, and later granted, against Tait by a woman who identified him as her boyfriend and father of her child. In her petition, she alleged that Tait “got drunk, woke up child in home, threatened to kill himself and take me with him. Attacked me in front of child, put me in a head lock and pulled me to the ground.”

Tait was charged with domestic abuse/assault and battery in January. That case was dismissed in April on jurisdictional grounds. 

The same woman had petitioned for a protective order in May 2017, alleging in her report that Tait “pushed me against the wall while holding my throat, slapped me and pointed a loaded gun at me…” Tait was charged that year with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, domestic abuse and threatening to perform an act of violence. The case was later dismissed “at victim’s request,” according to court records.

In a statement, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. called domestic violence “a scourge on our nation as well as Indian Country as a whole,” and that helping victims and prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence “is an urgent priority” for the CN. 

“In April, a domestic abuse charge against Tait was referred to Cherokee Nation from the state of Oklahoma,” Hoskin said. “That case was under review when this tragic event occurred. The Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation today (Oct. 13) filed charges and requested he be held without bond. We are also reviewing our internal policies to strengthen our abilities to better address domestic violence complaints.”

Kinsey, also non-Native, worked as a nurse in the CN health system until August, according to CN Communications.

“We are devastated and mourning the loss of Moria Kinsey and on behalf of the entire Cherokee Nation, our thoughts and prayers are with Moria’s family and friends during this time,” Hoskin said. “Although not a Cherokee citizen, Moria is a former employee and member of our Cherokee Nation work family, dedicated to helping improve the lives of our citizens. We encourage our Tahlequah community and work family to uplift the Kinsey family during this time. You can offer your support by attending a community-organized prayer vigil at Norris Park on Thursday evening. We know Moria had so much to give and will be truly missed.”