PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota bill that would direct state authorities to prepare guidelines for the reporting and investigation of missing and murdered indigenous women is headed to the Senate floor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse the bill. It would also mandate that the Division of Criminal Investigation establish training programs for law enforcement on conducting investigations into missing and slain Native American women.
Republican Rep. Tamara St. John, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, said the goal of the measure she's co-sponsoring is to put a large spotlight on the issue. She said the data is important so that “we really know what we're dealing with nationally.''
“It's been something that's been talked about for a really long time,'' St. John said after the hearing. “You can just imagine what it feels like to not know what happened to your loved one.''
GOP Sen. Lynne DiSanto, the measure's Senate sponsor, said it's meant to work toward getting consistent and accurate data in a complicated system of jurisdictions. South Dakota is an area of focus because of factors that include the Interstate 90 corridor, so-called man camps around pipeline construction and the proximity of multiple Native American reservations, she said.
St. John said the measure is also a response to the stalling out last year of a federal bill intended to help solve crimes against Native Americans. The measure, Savanna's Act, received unanimous Senate approval after being introduced by former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp but was blocked by the outgoing chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man who acknowledged beating a man to death on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation has been sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.
The Great Falls Tribune reports 35-year-old Errol Longee was sentenced in federal court Wednesday for the July 2017 death of 42-year-old Patrick Mitchell, whose body was found behind a convenience store in Poplar. Longee previously pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors say he and Mitchell were with a group of people at a house in Poplar when a woman accused Mitchell of sexually abusing her when she was younger. Longee then approached Mitchell and started hitting, kicking and stomping on him multiple times in the face and head.
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A former Blackfeet tribal chairman has pleaded not guilty to charges of stealing from the Montana tribe's Head Start program.
The Great Falls Tribune reports Willie Sharp is accused of illegally approving more than $232,000 in overtime pay for himself, his wife and others between April 2014 and July 2014.
He entered his not guilty plea Tuesday to theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funding and to wire fraud. U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston released Sharp pending trial.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and criminal forfeiture of $38,711 if he is convicted.
Sharp's wife, Denise Sharp, and four other people have pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme.