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When someone vanishes or is killed, their loved ones understandably want answers. But for many Indigenous families, those answers often don't come easily.
Homicide is the third-leading cause of death for Indigenous women, and Indigenous women under the age of 35 experience a higher murder risk than any other demographic in the country, according to federal data. But despite these horrifying numbers, many of these cases go unsolved. In new Oxygen special "Murdered And Missing In Montana," attorney, investigative journalist, and former criminal prosecutor Loni Coombs focuses on the deaths of three young indigenous women — Henny Scott, Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, and Selena Not Afraid -—whose deaths on and around the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations remain a mystery.
Coombs works alongside former Montana Sheriff, Phylliss Firecrow to expose the striking similarities between the three cases and how they are representative of not only their community but of Native American communities across the country. Interviews with the victims’ family members, local law enforcement, forensic experts, and local activists are featured throughout the special.
Before "Murdered And Missing In Montana" premieres on Friday, November 12 at 8/7c on Oxygen, get up to speed on the three featured cases.
Henny Scott was just 14 years old when she was found dead on Dec. 28, 2018 on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana, according to a 2019 government press release. Scott was last seen walking away from a residence in the Muddy Creek area. Twenty days later, her body was located only 200 yards away from where she was last spotted.
It was determined she died of hypothermia and the cause of death was labeled accidental after an autopsy. Alcohol consumption may have played a role in her death, the statement said.
"You know, this is ridiculous. I don't think she died from hypothermia. I have pictures of her nose being broken, you can just tell her nose was broke and she had bruises. But they told me that there was nothing on her, that there was no foul play, but she was bruised, and she had her nose broke and had bumps on her forehead," her mother, Paula Castro-Stops, told NBC affiliate KULR-8 in March 2019.
Kaysera Stops Pretty Places
Kaysera Stops Pretty Places was found dead at the age of 18 in Hardin, Montana, less than a mile from the Crow Reservation where she grew up, NBC News reported in 2021. Kaysera, who was heading into her senior year of high school, was last seen four days earlier arguing with three other people. A nearby homeowner activated a car alarm to get the group to leave, and Kaysera was seen running to the backyard of a residence. She was later found dead in that location, by a jogger, the outlet reports.
The cause of her death is undetermined, according to an autopsy report, which said, "Autopsy revealed no evidence of injury or natural disease. Toxicology testing of blood detected the presence of ethanol. Although no neck injuries were detected at autopsy, an asphyxia cause of death cannot be excluded," according to a 2021 Billings Gazette report.
Her loved ones are still searching for answers.
"This is the third year we’ve held calls to action demanding justice for Kaysera,” Dr. Grace Bulltail, Kaysera’s aunt, told Dateline. “Our family has had to advocate for ourselves each step of the way. And we’re still fighting to hold law enforcement accountable to investigate her murder.”
Selena Not Afraid
Much like Henny Scott, Selena Not Afraid was found less than a mile from the place where she was last seen.
The 16-year-old girl had attended a house party on New Year's Eve in 2019. On January 1, 2020, she headed to Hardin with a group of people, but after they had car trouble, they pulled into a rest stop between Billings and Hardin on 1-90, according to a 2021 KULR8 report. Selena left the rest stop on foot and was last seen walking into a field next to the rest stop area, USA TODAY reported at the time.
Selena wasn't found until January 20, near the rest stop where she was last spotted. An autopsy found she died of hypothermia, and her death was ultimately ruled an accident.
"Selena wasn't stupid. She's very smart. When that happened to her sister and to Preston, we spent all our time telling her about how to be safe. What to do, where to go, who to run to," her aunt Cheryl Horn told KULR8. "So the fact that they tell me she ran into a field -- I don't believe that."
Watch "Murdered And Missing In Montana" when it premieres on Friday, November 12 at 8/7c on Oxygen to learn more about these cases.
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