Montana man charged in 4-year-old girl's abduction

AP News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2016 7:36 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A suspect in the abduction of a 4-year-old girl taken while playing in a park on Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation was charged Tuesday with kidnapping, attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault of a minor.

John William Lieba pleaded not guilty to the charges during an initial appearance in Fort Peck Tribal Court, court officials said. Judge Marvin Youpee ordered him held without bail.

Lieba, 20, is accused of forcibly removing the girl from the park on Friday night and holding her against her will "for a significant period of time," according to a criminal complaint filed by Fort Peck Chief Prosecutor Adrienne Weinberger.

During that time, Lieba raped and attempted to strangle the girl at an undisclosed location in or around the town of Wolf Point on the northeastern Montana reservation, according to the complaint.

He faces up to nine years in prison and $45,000 in fines if convicted on all three counts, according to the complaint.

Federal charges also are anticipated in the case, FBI Special Agent Todd Palmer said.

The Associated Press is withholding the girl's name because she is an alleged victim of sexual assault.

The suspect was apprehended while driving around Wolf Point on Saturday, after being identified by witnesses to the abduction.

After an intensive search, the girl was found a day later at an undisclosed location about six miles from the abduction site, according to the FBI. The federal agency is jointly investigating the case with the Fort Peck Tribal Police and Roosevelt County Sheriff's Office.

Both Lieba and the victim are American Indians. They are not related by blood, Roosevelt County spokesman Lee Allmer said. The Fort Peck Reservation is home to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes and has a population of about 10,000 people.

It was not immediately clear who represented the suspect during his Tuesday court appearance. County officials said Lieba was being held at the tribal jail, and he could not be reached directly for comment.

The federal government has jurisdiction over many crimes on Indian reservations. Potential punishments in federal court typically are far more severe than in tribal court.

Palmer said the victim was in a safe location but released no further details. After an initial health assessment on the reservation, the girl was to be taken to Billings for further examination, Allmer said.

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