Friday, September 11, 2009

And Then There Were Four: Thelma Rios Indicted for the Murder of Anna Mae Aquash

"Thursday, state and county officials announced a grand jury in Pennington County has...indicted [John] Graham for felony murder, kidnapping and rape, and added long-time American Indian Activist Thelma Rios as a suspect [in the December 1975 murder of Anna Mae Aquash (pictured above)]. She's now also charged with felony murder and kidnapping." (9-10-09)

South Dakota's new Attorney General Marty Jackley has issued a press release (9-10-09) about new charges in the December 1975 murder of American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Aquash (pictured above). The South Dakota Attorney General's press office (9-10-09) states:

John Graham and Thelma Rios Indicted on Murder Charges

PIERRE, S.D.-Attorney General Marty Jackley announced that John Graham, 54, Rapid City and Thelma Rios, 64, Rapid City, have been indicted today by a Pennington County Grand Jury. Graham was indicted on one count of felony murder in relation to kidnapping, one count of felony murder in relation to rape and one count of premeditated murder. Rios was indicted on one count of felony murder in relation to kidnapping and one count of premeditated murder. The indictment charges that Graham and Rios murdered Anna Mae Aquash on or about December 10-12, 1975.

Graham and Rios are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The investigation is being conducted by the Division of Criminal Investigation and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. Attorney General Marty Jackley, Assistant Attorney General Rod Oswald and Pennington County States Attorney Glenn Brenner are prosecuting the case.

According to Carson Walker of the AP (updated 9-12-09):

[Pennington County State's Attorney] Brenner said there is no statute of limitations on the state charges against Graham and Rios. The case should be simpler than in the federal system because prosecutors must merely prove if a crime was committed.

Keloland T.V. (see article below) is struggling to explain the very confusing federal, state, and county jurisdictional issues of American Indian law as they relate to the Anna Mae Aquash murder case.

Aquash was shot to death on Pine Ridge Indian reservation, which would usually suggest that the murder was subject to federal jurisdiction; however, Aquash and one of her accused killers, John Graham, were Canadian Indians, not American Indians.

Two courts have ruled that John Graham cannot be tried in federal court because he is not an American Indian. [American Indians accused of a serious crime on Indian territory must be tried in Federal Court.] However, according to an article in News from Indian Country (about 9-10-09):

Graham had faced federal murder charges in Aquash's killing but two courts ruled the U.S. government lacked jurisdiction to try Graham because he is not American Indian. Federal prosecutors say they may appeal.

News from Indian Country writes of the second accused killer, Thelma Rios:

Rios was close to AIM leadership members, Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Vernon Bellecourt at the time [of the Aquash murder]. She was also the common law wife of Harry David Hill, the alleged Mr. X that claimed to have killed two FBI agents on June 26, 1975 and has been identified in law enforcement and FBI records as being responsible for the June 27, 1975 bombing of Mt. Rushmore.

According to the retired FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph S. Trimbach and his son John:

December 10 (on or about), 1975: Anna Mae is taken from the Denver home of Troy Lynn Yellowood by John Graham and Arlo Looking Cloud and put in the back of Theta Clarke's red Pinto hatchback. Several witnesses observe that Anna Mae is bound and carried against her will. She is eventually taken to the offices of the Wounded Knee Legal Defense Offense Committee in Rapid City, where she is questioned by AIM [American Indian Movement] members. Anna Mae is moved to two residences owned by Thelma Rios-Conroy. AIM leaders hold further discussions about Annie Mae's loyalty. According to News from Indian Country sources, WKLDOC attorney Bruce Ellison is said to have encouraged the idea that Anna Mae might be an [FBI] informant.

December 12, 1975: Anna Mae is driven to the reservation home of Bill Means where AIM members Clyde Bellecourt and David Hill are said to be waiting. Later that night, Theta Clark, Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham drive Anna Mae to a remote part of the Pine Ridge Reservation. After Looking Cloud and Graham force Anna Mae out of the car, they drag her to the edge of a cliff. Graham allegedly shoots her in the head. (American Indian Mafia, p. 515).

The Trimbachs explain that some of the female power brokers in the AIM such as Madonna (formerly Gilbert) Thunder Hawk, Thelma Rios, and Lorelei Means are implicated in the planning and covering-up of the murder of Anna Mae. (American Indian Mafia, p. 562/footnote 42.)

According to testimony presented at Arlo Looking Cloud's trial for the murder of Anna Mae:

Bruce Ellison, Thelma Rios, Ted Means, Lorelei DeCora Means, Clyde Bellecourt, Madonna Gilbert, and a man called "Red" [plotted] Anna Mae's future (American Indian Mafia, p. 594/footnote 90).

Now prosecutors are making the case that much of the crime occurred in Rapid City, which is subject to state and Pennington county laws. I always thought that kidnapping was a federal offense, but obviously it is also an offense in Pennington County. Hopefully, the media will clarify these confusing jurisdictional issues. (9-10-09) reports:

A fourth person is now charged in the death of American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Aquash [pictured above]. She was found shot to death in 1975 along a highway on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

One person's already been convicted in her death. Arlo Looking Cloud is serving a life sentence.

John Graham, who's charged with felony murder, kidnapping and rape, and Richard Marshall, who's charged with aiding and abetting, wait to stand trial in Federal Court.

Thursday, state and county officials announced a grand jury in Pennington County has also indicted Graham for felony murder, kidnapping and rape, and added long-time [so-called] American Indian Activist Thelma Rios as a suspect. She's now also charged with felony murder and kidnapping.

Anna Mae Aquash's murder has been working its way through Federal Court for more than six years, but now, investigators believe part of the 1975 crime happened in Rapid City, which brings the new charges to the Pennington County Courthouse.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says new evidence shows 64-year-old Thelma Rios of Rapid City had a role in the crime.

"A lot of the public record indicates that ultimately the kidnapping and rape occurred at her residency," Jackley said.

Since it didn't happen on the reservation, John Graham also now faces felony murder, kidnapping and rape charges in Pennington County.

Last October, a judge decided the U.S. government doesn't have jurisdiction over him because neither he nor Aquash belonged to [an American] tribe. Since that's in appeals, he's now being tried in both federal and circuit court. [Confusing]

"This case is an example of cooperative law enforcement on a federal, state and local level, which I think our community demands from our law enforcement," Jackley said.

Multiple agencies working together to help solve a crime that happened more than three decades ago.

Because each court [state and federal?] has its own independent authority, Graham can be tried on the same charges twice and could have different outcomes, which don't impact the other.

Rios made her first court appearance Thursday morning...


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