Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, was captured in Washington state Wednesday after a multi-state manhunt and made an initial appearance before a judge Thursday. He’s accused of killing his grandmother, cousin and cousin’s boyfriend at their rural home last Tuesday. A 3-year-old child witnessed the killing of three people in a remote area of Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation and named a family member as the shooter, according to an FBI affidavit.
The violence inside a prominent Crow family known for its adherence to traditional tribal values has roiled the reservation south of Billings.
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. 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.
Shortly before noon Tuesday, Chase’s 21-year-old cousin, Levon Driftwood, sent a text saying Chase had made it to the Crow Reservation, where he had been attending college and living with extended family in a small cluster of houses about 10 miles outside Lodge Grass. Driftwood and boyfriend Ruben Jefferson had two-year-old and three-year-old sons, and the affidavit indicates two children were home when Chase arrived.
Within minutes, a fight ensued between Chase and Driftwood’s boyfriend, Rueben Jefferson. Chase shot Jefferson, Cummins and Driftwood, and was seen by a neighbor driving away from Cummins’ house at 12:10 p.m.
“During an interview of one child, age 3 years, he disclosed Chase and RCJ (Jefferson) were fighting and Chase shot RCJ. The child further stated Chase also shot GSC (Cummins) and LFD (Driftwood),” the affidavit stated.
His capture Wednesday afternoon in Spokane followed a manhunt that stretched from the rugged Crow countryside across much of the northern U.S. Chase was arrested without incident near the Spokane Valley Mall, more than 600 miles west of Lodge Grass, by a team of federal and local law enforcement officers.
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