BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana couple faces charges of murder and tampering with evidence in the 2019 disappearance and death of a 6-year-old girl on the Crow Indian Reservation, according to court documents.
Mildred Alexis Old Crow was physically assaulted and left in a bathtub to drown before her body was wrapped in plastic and concealed inside a container, Big Horn County Attorney Jeanne Torske said in court documents.
The container was taped shut and remained hidden for more than two years while the defendants collected benefits that were meant for the victim, Torske wrote.
Roseen Lincoln and Veronica Dust, both 36 years old, could face life in prison if convicted in state district court. They remained in custody Tuesday on $1 million bond each and were scheduled to be arraigned on March 28 before state District Judge Matthew Wald in Hardin.
Indigenous women are victimized at astonishing rates, with federal figures showing that they — along with non-Hispanic Black women — have experienced the highest homicide rates.
A 2018 Associated Press investigation found nobody knows the precise number of cases of missing and murdered Native Americans nationwide because many go unreported, others aren’t well documented, and no government database specifically tracks them.
The suspects in Mildred's death could not be reached for comment and did not have attorneys, court officials said. Lincoln previously was identified in court documents as Roseen Lincoln Old Crow.
The defendants were initially arrested in December 2020 as suspects in the girl’s disappearance. They were convicted months later of misdemeanor endangerment and custodial interference, and sentenced in Crow tribal court to 18 months in jail and $2,000 each in fines. The tribal court does not prosecute major crimes.
Mildred — a direct descendant of Chief Pretty Eagle, one of the Crow’s last war chiefs — was removed from her birth mother and placed in the care of Lincoln and Dust in 2017, Torske said.
Family members described the victim as their “Little Angel” and said she had loved to dance, especially at powwows.
In November 2020, Mildred's relatives informed federal investigators that they had not seen the girl since April 2019. Her body was discovered in February 2021 in a trailer near the tiny community of Garryowen, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of the Montana-Wyoming border.
An autopsy revealed a head cut on the girl's body and signs that she was habitually abused before her death, Torske said. Violence against the girl occurred generally when the defendants had been drinking, the prosecutor wrote. None of the previous incidents of abuse were reported to authorities, Torske said.