Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Thelma Rios Pleads Not Guilty in the 1975 Murder of Anna Mae Aquash

"The 64-year-old Rios and John Graham are accused in state court of taking part in the kidnapping and killing of [Anna Mae] Aquash [pictured above]. Prosecutors say Aquash was killed because she was a suspected government informant against the American Indian Movement."---Rapid City Journal (10-6-09)

Hopefully, all those who played a role in this vicious murder will eventually have to face the court; and the truth will come out.

The former FBI Special Agent in Charge Joe Trimbach observes (9-16-09):

[T]he indictment [of Rios] shows that prosecutors are moving closer to indictments against AIM leaders and their lawyers....

The trail of evidence could lead to Peltier's former boss, AIM co-founder Dennis Banks.

Rios-Conroy was indicted in part because of a phone call she allegedly made saying that Aquash was found guilty of being an informant. The phone call led to the abduction, rape, and murder of Aquash after a final interrogation. Prosecutors believe Graham raped Aquash in Rios-Conroy's Rapid City apartment. Rios-Conroy's former boyfriend, Bruce Ellison, is a named co-conspirator. Ellison was a lawyer for the Wounded Knee Legal Defense Offense Committee (WKLDOC), a group that defended AIM leaders in court. Ellison allegedly questioned Aquash as she sat tied to a chair in his Rapid City WKLDOC office.

In 2001, Ellison testified before a UN Human Rights Commission and called for an investigation of the FBI for what he claimed were 60 "uninvestigated" reservation killings. One of the cases he cited was the Aquash murder. AIM leaders and lawyers have accused the FBI of backing a tribal "goon squad" that murdered AIM members and supporters. Many of these deaths, however, have since been exposed as having been instigated and committed by AIM members or were the result of deaths not attributed to inter-tribal violence. One of the dead, Michelle Tobacco, was a nine-month old victim of child abuse. Several of the deaths were found to be alcohol-related.

Trimbach's book, American Indian Mafia, implicates another WKLDOC lawyer, Kenneth Tilsen, in the Aquash murder. Tilsen took possession of Aquash's wallet near the time of her death but says he cannot remember details from that period. Trimbach's book includes a letter Tilsen mailed to Aquash's relatives in which he writes that the wallet came to him "through a circuitous route." According to Paul DeMain, editor of News from Indian Country, WKLDOC files from that period have been purged from public archival records. Another lawyer, Charles Abourezk, was closely associated with AIM leader Russell Means during the period when Means's relatives were allegedly plotting against Aquash. Abourezk and Means are rumored to have been in the Wanblee area the night of the murder. Means's former bodyguard, Richard Marshall, awaits trial in federal court. Marshall, an ex-convict for murder in a separate case, stands accused of providing the weapon and bullets Graham allegedly used to execute Aquash.

The Rios-Conroy indictment indicates that prosecutors have established a stronger link between Aquash's final hours and her encounters with Ellison and several AIM members. Says Trimbach, "I think all of this will lead to more indictments. It's long overdue, but justice for Anna Mae might finally become a reality."

KEVN Fox News (10-5-09) reports:

Themla Rios of Rapid City pleaded not guilty to murder charges Monday in Seventh Circuit Court. Rios, along with John Graham, is accused of the murder of Anna Mae Aquash on the Pine Ridge Reservation back in 1975. Rios was arraigned on newly filed state charges Monday. She pleaded not guilty to charges of murder while in commission of a felony and premeditated murder. If convicted on those charges, Rios faces life in prison without parole. [See full text]

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