A 26-year-old Montana man has been charged with deliberate murder after he allegedly pushed another man into a fast-moving current in a river for making an inappropriate, sexually-charged comment about his girlfriend, PEOPLE confirms.
The body of Anthony Andrew Walthers, 34, has not been recovered since he was forced into the Flathead River near Evergreen on April 26, but authorities are sure he is deceased, given the tremendous flow of the river and the cold temperature of the water.
According to a police statement, Cecil Thomas Rice is charged with deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence for allegedly shoving Walthers into the water. Heather Joy Meeker, 25, who police say is Rice’s girlfriend, was present at the time of the alleged push and has also been charged with felony tampering with evidence.
Soon after Walthers was allegedly pushed into the water, police allege Rice and Meeker fled the area in a maroon van. As the vehicle drove away, Meeker allegedly took a backpack she believes belonged to Walthers and threw it out the window.
Law enforcement officials initially announced that they would also be charging Meeker with accountability to deliberate homicide charges, but as of Tuesday, only one criminal count has been filed against her.
According to the police statement, officers were dispatched to a steel bridge spanning the Flathead River shortly after 7 p.m. on April 26 after someone called 911 to report a man had fallen into the water.
A woman told police she was fishing nearby when she heard a splash. She then saw Walthers treading the water and screaming for help. Another witness told police they saw his head dip below the surface.
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Witnesses had reported seeing a woman and two men on the bridge when Walthers went into the water.
The statement says police tracked down the unnamed man who was on the bridge with Rice, Meeker, and Walthers, and he allegedly told investigators Rice forced Walthers into the river because hours earlier, he had said something inappropriate about Meeker.
Police are not revealing what Walthers said to provoke Rice, but they did say it was sexual in nature.
Rice is being held in the Flathead County Detention Center on $500,000 bail while Meeker is in police custody on $50,000 bail.
Neither defendant has entered a plea to the charges they face. It is expected they will do so on May 25 when they are arraigned in Flathead County District Court.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Walthers’ burial once his body is recovered.
PEOPLE was unable to reach any of Walthers’ relatives for comment.
The investigation into the April 26 incident continues. Anyone who may have witnessed it is asked to contact the Flathead County Sheriff Detective Division at (406) 758-5600.