Lead Defendant In Reservation Stabbing Death Changes Plea
An Ethete woman pleaded guilty to killing a man on the Wind River Indian Reservation last June in federal court on Thursday.
Susan Chippewa pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the first degree murder of Jared Dean Little Whiteman during a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of felony first-degree murder, meaning a murder committed during the commission of another crime, which was in this case kidnapping. These charges were listed in a recent second superseding indictment.
Prosecutors also agreed to limit Chippewa's sentence to 35 years imprisonment. If she had gone to trial and been found guilty, she would have faced life imprisonment.
Two other defendants, Jaymes Whiteplume and Robert Spoonhunter, are scheduled to go on trial July 1.
Little Whiteman's family had been told about the hearing, but decided not to attend, her public defender Dan Blythe said.
During her plea, Chippewa said she was drunk on June 3 and had an argument with her boyfriend Jaymes Whiteplume for not showing her enough attention.
Earlier that day, two men who later pleaded guilty to being accessories-after-the-fact in the murder, picked up Jared Dean Little Whiteman from his home. They took Little Whiteman to a trailer where he was bound to a bed after he gave a tip about drugs and money didn't pan out.
Whiteplume was furious.
During Chippewa's argument with Whiteplume, she asked him to go to a nearby trailer. Whiteplume asked her if she "'had the balls'" to do it, that is stab Little Whiteman, she told the court.
Chippewa took a knife and stabbed Little Whiteman multiple times and cut his throat.
Accomplices then took his body from the trailer, loaded him into a SUV along with some tools, and drove him to a place and buried him, according to court records.
During the questioning by Skavdahl, Chippewa usually answered "yes" to questions, but she did not detail her actions.
Skavdahl, Blythe and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Sprecher and Jason Conder had to ask her several times to explain what happened.
"It happened, I was drunk," she said, adding that she probably would not have done it if she had not been drinking.
Skavdahl asked her if she intentionally stabbed Little Whiteman, to which she responded, "okay, yes." The judge wanted to make sure she knew what she was saying.
Chippewa again said she was drunk, but Blythe reminded her that she waived intoxication as a factor in the crime.
She also said, "I stopped stabbing when I cut my hand."
Because of the seemingly vague answers, Skavdahl finally told her he wanted her to be absolutely clear what happened.
Chippewa said she was.
Skavdahl said he will take the plea agreement under advisement before her sentence, which is scheduled for July 21. Skavdahl is not obligated to accept the agreement, he said.
At the end of the hearing, Blythe said Chippewa had written a letter to express her regrets to Little Whiteman's family.
That letter probably will be read at the sentencing.