Crow Tribe mourns 3 killed in family shooting

AP News
Posted: Oct 07, 2011 8:29 PM
Crow Tribe mourns 3 killed in family shooting

The tragedy of a triple slaying on the Crow Indian Reservation is "snowballing" across the victims' large and tightly knit families ahead of funeral services set for Saturday, the chairman of the Montana tribe said.

The alleged gunman's grandmother, cousin and cousin's boyfriend were killed in Tuesday's shooting near Lodge Grass.

Crow Chairman Cedric Black Eagle has known the family since he was in preschool and is distantly related.

He said the initial shock _ from the shootings, a tense lockdown on schools and hospitals, and a multi-state manhunt culminating in Wednesday's capture of 22-year-old Sheldon Chase _ has given way to deep mourning.

More on what happened will unfold, but that now is a time for the families to be respected, Black Eagle said.

Gloria Sarah Goes Ahead Cummins, 80, Levon Driftwood, 21, and Driftwood's boyfriend Ruben Jefferson, 20, were killed Tuesday at a log home they shared with Chase about 10 miles outside Lodge Grass, a town of about 500 people near the Wyoming border.

"We all know one another's family. The effect is snowballing," said Black Eagle, who grew up in Lodge Grass.

Services for Driftwood and Jefferson were scheduled for Saturday at Lodge Grass High School. Cummins' funeral Mass will be Monday at Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church.

The 12,000 members of the Crow tribe fall into an extensive clan network, and Driftwood's lengthy list of survivors gives insight into how many were affected by the killings: 19 "sisters," 15 "brothers," 12 aunts and uncles _ plus 14 entire families considered part of her "extended family."

Driftwood and Jefferson had two children and were described as "together since grade school" in Driftwood's obituary.

Chase has been jailed in Washington state. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr said Friday he's expected to be transferred to Montana in the next two weeks to face three charges of first-degree murder. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Friends and relatives say Chase was close to his grandmother, acting as her chauffeur after she suffered a stroke several years ago. He grew up on North Dakota's Fort Berthold reservation but had lived with Cummins for much of the last year while he took Crow language classes at Little Big Horn College.

The case is being handled by the FBI, which has jurisdiction in major crimes involving American Indians. An FBI agent this week filed an affidavit in which he said Jefferson's 3-year-old son described a fight between Chase and Jefferson moments before the shooting.

Chase also had allegedly stopped taking medications for an unspecified mental illness.

But for family members, the details still don't add up to an explanation for a tragedy that has touched four generations and reverberated through a community.

"It will never make sense to us," said John Cummins III, a grandson of Gloria Cummins and cousin to Chase and Driftwood.