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Case moves forward for woman murdered on Spirit Lake Indian Reservation over three years ago

Herman, Billy.jpeg
Billy Joe Herman

A Warwick, N.D., man will proceed to sentencing on a second-degree murder charge for killing a woman on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation more than three years ago.

Investigators linked Billy Joe Herman and his wife, Crystal Marie Herman, to the crime after 36-year-old Amanda Jean Stach Engst's body was found in the Sheyenne River on Feb. 4, 2016 south of Warwick, which is 25 miles south of Devils Lake.

Billy Herman, 39, filed a waiver of indictment in federal court Monday, April 29, meaning he will not go before a grand jury on the charges, but instead be sentenced directly from the information filed in the case. The recently filed information document said Billy Herman "did unlawfully kill a human being, namely, Amanda Engst, with malice aforethought."

He initially faced charges of felony murder, aiding and abetting, second-degree murder within Indian Country, kidnapping and assault with intent to commit murder. A jury trial was rescheduled four times.

A plea agreement filed last month called for him to serve life in prison, although a final sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19.

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Crystal Herman, 39, is already serving a sentence for accomplice to murder and is scheduled for release in 2034. She was prosecuted in Eddy County District Court, although her husband's charges were elevated to federal court.

His indictment reveals few details but said Billy Herman kidnapped Engst, "violently bludgeoning her with his fist and shod feet," and strangled her with a cord around Oct. 12, 2015.

An affidavit for Crystal Herman's arrest said she opened the car door near the east end of Battle Lake in Eddy County so her husband could strangle Engst outside the vehicle. She allegedly cleared the trunk to make room for Engst's body and watched as Billy Herman wrapped her in a tarp and placed the body in the trunk before driving to the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation. Crystal Herman held a flashlight as her husband beat Engst again and rewrapped her in the tarp before dumping her body into the river, the affidavit said.

Several court documents and convictions detail the couple's robbery and burglary spree in Minnesota and North Dakota around the time of Engst's disappearance. A court document said they were found in her car and arrested related to the robberies about a week before her body was found.

Engst went missing two months after Carla Jovon Yellowbird's body was found alongside a road on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation. Three men were sentenced for Yellowbird's death.

Engst grew up in Breckenridge, Minn., and was a mother to three children, her obituary said. She was a CNA and worked at Red River Human Services, where her obituary said she found joy in working with people with special needs.

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