FORT TOTTEN, N.D.-Federal murder charges have been filed in connection to the deaths of Carla Jovon Yellowbird and Amanda Engst, two women whose bodies were found on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.
Dakota James Charboneau, 24, of Fort Totten, and Daylin Takendrick St. Pierre, 20, of Devils Lake, have been accused in U.S. District Court in North Dakota of killing Yellowbird, a 27-year-old from Mandan, N.D., whose body was found September 2016 near St. Michael, N.D. Both men face federal charges of murder, conspiracy to commit robbery and use of a firearm in a felony crime of violence.
In a separate case, federal prosecutors charged Billy Joe Herman, 38, of Warwick, N.D., with the kidnapping and murder of Engst, a 36-year-old woman, whose body was found in early February 2016 in the Sheyenne River south of Warwick. He also faces a federal charge of assault with intent to commit murder.
The two cases are unrelated but both happened on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, U.S. Attorney Christopher Myers said Thursday, June 21, in Grand Forks as he announced the unsealing of the indictments.
"This is an investigation that has resulted from great partnerships among law enforcement," Myers said.
Charges against Charboneau and St. Pierre detail what happened to Yellowbird. Court documents describe Suna Felix Guy driving Yellowbird from Bismarck to the Spirit Lake Nation on or about Aug. 23, 2016, "in order to effectuate a plan for Carla Jovon Yellowbird to sell narcotics to others on the Spirit Lake Reservation."
Guy and Charboneau exchanged Facebook messages to devise a plan to rob Yellowbird, according to court documents. The three drove to Charboneau's camper on the reservation on or about Aug. 24, 2016, where they met St. Pierre, the documents said.
Charboneau gave St. Pierre a firearm and keys to a vehicle before telling St. Pierre and Guy to drive Yellowbird "in the country" to rob her, court documents said. Court documents don't say whether Charboneau ordered Yellowbird's death, but St. Pierre fatally shot her, dragged her into a thicket of brush and concealed the body, court documents said.
The two men then returned to the camper to report Yellowbird's death to Charboneau, according to court documents. Charboneau then told St. Pierre to burn evidence, including his clothing and Yellowbird's belongings, to conceal the crime.
It's unclear how Yellowbird's body was found or what led officers to the suspects.
A search of court cases indicated Guy, who was born in 1978, lived in Fort Totten as of May 2017 and around the time of Yellowbird's death.
Guy pleaded guilty on June 8 in federal court to his part in the murder of Yellowbird and is awaiting sentencing, Myers said. Court documents detailing those charges were not available Thursday.
The federal indictment against Herman gives few details on what led up to the death of Engst, who disappeared in the fall of 2015. However, he and his wife, Crystal Marie Herman, were connected to Engst's disappearance after investigators found her vehicle in the couple's possession, according to Herald archives.
The Hermans are serving time behind bars for a string of burglaries in Minnesota and North Dakota. Court documents filed Aug. 9 in Eddy County District Court against Crystal Herman say she helped her husband kidnap and kill Engst.
The federal indictment alleges Billy Joe Herman strangled Engst with a cord and bludgeoned her with his fist and feet.
Crystal Herman pleaded guilty earlier this year in Eddy County to a Class AA felony of accomplice to murder. She faced life in prison but was sentenced May 10 to 20 years in prison. Federal charges have not been filed against her.
All defendants in the cases are in custody and are expected to appear in federal court at a future date, Myers said. He declined to answer questions beyond what was in the indictments, citing the pending nature of the cases.
The indictments represent the commitment law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Attorney's Office and other partners have to "ensuring people who commit crimes like this on our reservations are held accountable," said Robert Perry, FBI assistant special agent in charge for North Dakota, South Dakota and northern Minnesota.
"Without those partnerships, we wouldn't be nearly as successful," he said.