BILLINGS – A Garryowen woman was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and five years supervised release Wednesday for running over and killing her boyfriend in November 2016.
Vernelle Lynn Badbear, 36, had changed her plea to guilty in October 2018 to second-degree murder, which carried the possibility of life in prison. U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided.
Badbear was convicted of killing her boyfriend, Freeman Bends, 38, in Crow Tribal Court and served a year in tribal jail before she was indicted in U.S. District Court in November 2017.
U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said a highway painter found a body on Highway 451 near Wyola on Nov. 12, 2016, and it was identified as Bends through tattoos. Law enforcement questioned Badbear because knew the two had been in a relationship.
Badbear initially told authorities the two had argued about his drinking when he should’ve been watching their two children, he left and she never saw him again.
After further questioning, she admitted to running him over, according to Alme.
An autopsy determined the cause of death was blunt force trauma, and Bends also suffered from exposure. It likely took some time for Bends to die, according to Alme.
In court documents, Badbear’s attorneys argued fore leniency, stating that she was doing well following her release from tribal jail, finding a new residence and job in Billings.
Her attorneys also noted that she had suffered psychological trauma from abuse during previous relationships and she would not do well in federal prison.