(EDITOR’S NOTE: Instances of child abuse and details surrounding the death of Mildred Old Crow are discussed. Please take care while reading.)
HARDIN - A Hardin woman changed her plea in the death of Mildred Old Crow in Big Horn County District Court on Tuesday, Dec. 19, reports Four Points Press.
Mildred Old Crow’s court-appointed guardian Roseen Lincoln pleaded no contest to felony negligent homicide and felony tampering with evidence in a plea agreement that amended the initial felony deliberate homicide count to negligent homicide.
Court documents allege Lincoln and her wife Veronica Tierza Dust were responsible for the death of Mildred Old Crow sometime in April 2019 around the time of Lincoln’s brother's death in a one-car accident on April 15, 2019.
The affidavit of probable cause stated the couple drank heavily for multiple days after the death of Lincoln’s brother and through several interviews investigators found Mildred Old Crow died sometime during that period.
According to charging documents, the couple continued to collect benefits for Mildred Old Crow.
Court documents show, on Dec. 6 non-custodial family members filed a formal petition with the Crow Tribal Court in which they alleged they had not seen the child since March 2019 and Dust and Lincoln had “breached their fiduciary duty to the child.”
Dust and Lincoln failed to attend the first hearing in tribal court, produce the child, or provide any proof of life and the tribal court charged the couple with child endangerment and issued warrants for their arrest.
The couple was arrested on Dec. 23, 2020 in Billings by Billings Police on Big Horn County warrants issued in conjunction with the warrants issued from the tribal court.
The couple was found guilty in Crow Tribal Court on April 13, 2021 of child endangerment and custodial interference and sentenced to 18 months in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Rocky Mountain Detention Center in Hardin and one year on probation upon their release. They were each given a $2,000 fine.
Big Horn County warrants were issued for the arrest of the couple on March 14 and the couple was booked into Big Horn County Detention Center from the BIA Rocky Mountain Detention Center in Hardin on March 18 without incident.
A $1 million bail for each was issued.
County Attorney Jeanne Torske said in court Tuesday, the couple was awarded custody of Mildred Old Crow in March 2017 by the Crow Social Services Department after she was removed from her biological mother’s home.
According to the probable cause affidavit, in June 2020 a call was made to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Centralized Intake line reporting the child hadn’t been seen since July 2018 and another call was made to Bureau of Indian Affairs police in November 2020 reporting the child hadn’t been seen since April 2019. The second call kicked off the Mildred Old Crow’s missing person investigation.
During their April 2021 child endangerment and custodial interference trial in tribal court, Dust told Crow Tribal Court Judge Julie Yarlott that Mildred Old Crow died in the bathtub.
The probable cause affidavit filed in Big Horn County District Court seemed to support Dust’s story.
Torske said in court Tuesday, the couple left the body of Mildred Old Crow on the bathroom for three days. The couple then dressed the remains, wrapped them in a plastic bag, and placed them in a plastic tote, which was taped shut and stored from April 2019 to February 2021 in a travel trailer owned by Dust at Garryowen.
The travel trailer was impounded in the early morning hours of February 17, 2021 by the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office and the remains of the child were sent to the Montana State Crime Lab in Billings
An autopsy conducted on February 18, 2021 by the state crime lab found a head laceration and a right tibia fracture, which indicated an assault, according to the affidavit. The autopsy also found evidence of “habitual abuse” and malnutrition.
Lincoln alleged in the affidavit she was too afraid of Dust to report previous instances of violence against Mildred Old Crow.
The affidavit stated the abuse took place primarily when the couple had been drinking.
If convicted the Lincoln faces up to 20 years for felony negligent homicide and a $50,000 fine and up to 10 years and a $50,000 fine if convicted of the felony tampering with evidence charge.
Sentencing has been scheduled for March 12.