DULUTH -- A former vice chairman of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa confessed this week to killing an employee who was last seen leaving reservation offices in 2003, according to a criminal complaint.

Michael John Lagrew, 55, was charged Thursday with first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Jody Ricard, a 50-year-old Washburn, Wis., woman whose body was found along a township road outside of Red Cliff on July 8, 2003.

Ricard had last been seen leaving her workplace — the reservation's Even Start building, where family and child services were provided — on June 27, 2003. After her body was found by a Red Cliff conservation officer, it was determined that Ricard had died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Jody Ricard
Jody Ricard

The criminal complaint states that Lagrew was determined to have left the Even Start building with Ricard that day, but had not admitted to any criminal involvement in her death until this week.

In a statement to investigators Wednesday, Lagrew allegedly acknowledged that he was planning to fire Ricard when they got into a verbal argument. He stated that he then grabbed a trailer jack and hit her in the head before dragging her body into the woods and trying to hide it under a discarded Christmas tree, according to the complaint.

Lagrew is scheduled to appear for a bail hearing Friday, March 20, in Bayfield County Circuit Court.

"First and foremost, the tribe once again extends its deepest sympathies to the Ricard family," a statement from the tribe read. "The tribe is grateful to the hard work of all law enforcement involved in this case, including the Red Cliff Police Department, Bayfield County Sheriff's Department, Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and the Bayfield County District Attorney. We have no further comment at this time."