News & Features

Details Emerge in Flathead River Murder Case, Victim Identified

Authorities say Cecil Thomas Rice pushed Anthony Andrew Walthers into the water

Updated: May 1, 10:35 a.m.

A 26-year-old man charged with murder allegedly pushed another man into the Flathead River near Evergreen last week after the victim made an inappropriate comment about his girlfriend.

Cecil Thomas Rice has been charged with deliberate homicide after allegedly shoving Anthony Andrew Walthers, 34, to his death. Rice’s reported girlfriend, Heather Joy Meeker, 25, has been charged with felony tampering with evidence. Law enforcement previously announced Meeker would also be charged with accountability to deliberate homicide but as of Monday morning she had only been formally charged with tampering with evidence.

Authorities have yet to recover Walthers’ body, but he is believed to be dead because of the high river flows and water temperature.

Authorities have described both the defendants and victim as transients who were living in the Kalispell area.

According to court documents, law enforcement responded to Holt Stage Road shortly after 7 p.m. on April 26 after receiving a report that a man had fallen into the river. A witness said she was fishing nearby when she heard a splash and then saw a man, believed to be Walthers, in the water screaming for help. Another witness reported seeing Walthers’ head drop below the surface. Witnesses said they saw two males and a female on the bridge when the man fell into the river. All three people left the scene in a maroon minivan.

The female, later identified as Meeker, found a backpack in the van that she believed belonged to Walthers and threw it out the window.

The following morning, one of the men on the bridge told law enforcement that Rice had pushed Walthers off the bridge. Later, detectives spoke with Meeker, who confirmed that Rice had pushed Walthers off the bridge. Meeker said Rice was upset because Walthers had said something inappropriate about her earlier in the day at a nearby church that gives meals to the homeless.

Law enforcement initially said they were looking for three people but have since announced that the second man is no longer a suspect.

Rice is being held in the Flathead County Detention Center on $500,000 bail. Meeker is being held on $50,000 bail. Both defendants are expected to appear at an arraignment on May 25 in Flathead County District Court.