UPDATE: Judge Moves Reservation Murder Trial Date To April 27; New Evidence May Be In SUV Found Sunday
A federal judge has delayed the start of a homicide trial after the discovery Sunday in Colorado of an SUV linked to a killing on the Wind River Indian Reservation last year.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl issued the order to set April 27 as the beginning of the two-week trial after government prosecutors and attorneys for the three defendants conferred by telephone on Wednesday.
A trial date of March 16 had been set in Casper for Susan Chippewa, who is charged with first degree murder; and Jaymes Whiteplume and Byron Spoonhunter who are charged with aiding and abetting the murder. They are, and the alleged victim Jared Dean Little Whiteman was, enrolled in the Northern Arapaho Tribe.
But an FBI investigator's discovery of a Kia SUV in Thornton, Colo., changed that.
"The government has cause to believe the Kia contains biological and physical evidence of the crime charged against the above-named Defendants," Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Sprecher wrote in a motion filed in federal court on Monday.
The possible evidence may add to what is already a horrific case.
In June, Little Whiteman was allegedly taken from his grandmother's house to a trailer, where Chippewa stabbed him and the other two defendants took the body and buried him.
FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs officers exhumed and identified the body.
But until Sunday, law enforcement had not been able to locate the white Kia SUV allegedly used to carry Little Whiteman's body to the burial site.
The vehicle matches witnesses' descriptions, and its vehicle identification number matches one bought by Chippea in May 2014.
The evidence found in the Kia could take at least eight weeks to process, Sprecher wrote.
"Additional time to address this recently discovered evidence will prevent a miscarriage of justice that may occur by denying the United States the ability to use, collect, test and analyze physical evidence related to an alleged murder," she wrote.
Besides the SUV, Sprecher wrote the government has assigned a new prosecutor, who will need to review thousands of pages of reports and dozens of witness interviews, and help organize the case for trial with at least 28 witnesses including a pathologist and DNA expert.
In his order Wednesday, Skavdahl wrote that the attorneys for the defendants will receive transcripts of audio interviews of witnesses and the results of the evidence that may be found in the SUV.