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Details emerge in death of Wyoming reservation girl

Riverton, Wyoming (AP) April 2010

The 21-year-old brother of a slain girl told authorities he put her in a choke hold and then threw her against a weight bench after he caught her having sex with another teen, according to court records.

The body of 13-year-old Marisa Spoonhunter was found April 7 near Ethete on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Robert Spoonhunter, of Arapahoe, faces a federal charge of assault resulting in serious bodily injury, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Kyeren Tillman, of Arapahoe, faces a federal charge of sexual abuse of a minor that alleges he had sex with the girl in a trailer near Ethete. Court records identify Tillman, 19, as a step-cousin to Robert Spoonhunter.

Authorities have not released the victim’s name, but family members have publicly identified her.

John Powell, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Cheyenne, said more or different charges are possible for the two men.

Robert Spoonhunter waived his right to a preliminary hearing April 22. A call to James Whiting, Spoonhunter’s defense attorney listed in court records, was not answered and did not reach an answering machine. An e-mail inquiry wasn’t immediately returned.

Tillman was in the custody of reservation officials for an unrelated matter and will be formally charged in federal court when that matter is settled, Powell said. Information on Tillman’s defense attorney wasn’t available.

Authorities released a federal complaint that contained accounts of FBI interviews with Robert Spoonhunter and Tillman. They told FBI agents that they were drinking alcohol with Marisa in a trailer April 2 when Robert Spoonhunter “began to feel the effects of the alcohol and may have fallen asleep for a short time.”

When Robert Spoonhunter woke up, he went looking for the other two and found them having sex in a bedroom of the trailer, according to the complaint. Tillman admitted having sex with the girl, according to the federal complaint.

Robert Spoonhunter told FBI agents he became angry and threw Tillman off of his sister. The elder Spoonhunter then grabbed his sister and put her in a headlock for about 20 seconds, at which time she became limp. He then threw his sister against a weight bench and her head hit a metal post.

“Robert Spoonhunter believed (the victim’s) head impacted the metal supports, or uprights, of the weight bench, because he heard what sounded to him like her skull hitting the metal,” an FBI agent wrote in the complaint.

Robert Spoonhunter and Tillman then dragged Marisa’s body out of the trailer and left her under a tree, according to the compliant. The two agreed not to discuss the incident with anyone else.

Bureau of Indian Affairs police found Marisa’s body five days later after receiving a report from someone who saw it while unloading items at the property.

The body was taken for an autopsy in Loveland, Colo. An autopsy by Dr. James Wilkerson didn’t reveal the cause of death, but Wilkerson told FBI agents that that an injury to Marisa’s head was consistent with her head hitting a weight bench, and a burst blood vessels in the girl’s eye was consistent with pressure from a chokehold, according to the complaint6

 

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