A federal judge has ordered a suspect in the death of a child on Spirit Lake Reservation to remain jailed until trial, after hearing testimony about a criminal background that allegedly includes a history of child neglect and endangerment.
Hope Tomahawk Whiteshield, 31, of St. Michael, faces a child abuse charge in the death of Laurynn Whiteshield, who was a month shy of 3 years old when she died. Authorities allege that Tomahawk Whiteshield pushed the child down a hill near her home on June 12, then bathed the unresponsive girl and put her to bed. The girl was found dead the next morning, and an autopsy concluded she died of a head injury.
Public defender Richard Henderson on Wednesday asked Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal to allow Tomahawk Whiteshield to stay with relatives or at a halfway house, or to put her on electronic monitoring, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Janice Morley objected, citing the nature of the alleged crime and the suspect's criminal record. Morley led Spirit Lake Tribal Prosecutor Joseph Vetsch through an examination of Tomahawk Whiteshield's record in tribal court, which Vetsch said included half a dozen cases between 2005 and 2009 of child abuse, endangerment and abandonment, as well as public intoxication and mischief.
Senechal ordered Tomahawk Whiteshield to remain in custody but said the option of placing her in a halfway house could be revisited if any openings occur in area facilities.
Tomahawk Whiteshield is married to Freeman Whiteshield, Laurynn's grandfather. Laurynn and her twin sister had been with a foster family in Bismarck for two years and were transferred back to the reservation about a month before Laurynn's death, according to the FBI.
The safety of vulnerable children on the reservation has been an issue for months. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs took over the tribe's child protection services last October.