Crow killings suspect in federal court in MissoulaMISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A 22-year-old man accused of killing three family members on the Crow Indian Reservation appeared Thursday in federal court in Missoula, where he was appointed a public defender and ordered to remain in the custody of U.S. marshals.
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A 22-year-old man accused of killing three family members on the Crow Indian Reservation appeared Thursday in federal court in Missoula, where he was appointed a public defender and ordered to remain in the custody of U.S. marshals.
Sheldon Bernard Chase has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder stemming from last week's shootings of his grandmother, cousin and cousin's boyfriend at their home near Lodge Grass. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Chase was captured in Washington state on Oct. 5, a day after the shootings. Thursday's appearance was his first in Montana after Chase made an initial appearance last week in Spokane.
He appeared in Missoula because federal law requires an appearance as soon as possible before the closest magistrate, the Missoulian reported.
Chase, who wore dirty yellow shorts and a white polo shirt with gray stripes, spoke only once to Judge Jeremiah Lynch during the brief appearance, answering “yes” when Lynch asked if he understood the charges.
Lynch appointed assistant federal defender Henry “Hank” Branom of Great Falls to represent Chase. The judge also forbade law enforcement from interviewing Chase unless his attorney is present.
“Mr. Chase is invoking his right to remain silent,” assistant federal defender John Rhodes said. "He doesn't want to visit with law enforcement without pre-arranging with his attorney so he can be present.
He is accused of killing Gloria Cummins, 80; Ruben Jefferson, 20; and Levon Driftwood, 21, at Cummins’ home. According to an FBI affidavit, a 3-year-old boy who witnessed the killings said Chase had gotten into a fight with his cousin's boyfriend.
What sparked the violence remains unclear.
Chase suffers from mental illness, according to authorities and those who know him. The affidavit said Chase had stopped taking his medications prior to the shootings, although it does not specify when or what the medications were.
A day before the shootings, he left his mother's house on North Dakota's Fort Berthold Reservation taking with him a “Sitting Bull commemorative gun,” according to the affidavit.