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Patrick Springer, Published August 02 2012

Spirit Lake infant’s autopsy done, but kept secret

FARGO – The state forensic examiner completed an autopsy on a 2-month-old girl whose relatives worried could be a neglected child, but an investigation of the death continues.

Debra Kay Anderson Dogskin died at her mother’s home in St. Michael on the Spirit Lake reservation, on July 7. Her autopsy was performed two days later, on July 9, according to the office of the state forensic examiner in Bismarck.

The results of the autopsy can only be released by an investigative agency, a spokeswoman for the forensic examiner said.

Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota, has said the death is under investigation but has otherwise declined to comment on the case.

The Anderson infant’s death became public after a federal official said it was the latest example of serious problems involving the protection of endangered children on the reservation.

Patricia Anderson, a great aunt, was one of the family members who filed multiple reports of suspected child neglect for Debra Kay and two other young children, whose mother they suspected was abusing drugs.

Anderson said the family’s reports were met with inaction, in no small part because of jurisdictional conflicts between social services officials on and off the reservation.

Although some family members have said they believe the infant’s death could have been prevented, Anderson also has said the family was hoping the cause of death would turn out to be Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

Almost one month after the child died, the family is eagerly awaiting the autopsy report and the outcome of the investigation, she said.

“Our whole family would like the results of that autopsy,” she said.

The girl’s two surviving siblings are safe and in the care of an aunt and uncle, Anderson said.

Meanwhile, in another case involving endangered children at Spirit Lake, the father of two murdered children has been released from custody.

Travis Dubois of St. Michael had been in jail since he was arrested on the day two of his children, a 6-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl, were found slain in his home on May 21, 2011.

Dubois was serving sentences for public intoxication and reckless endangerment. Federal authorities would not say whether he was a suspect in the murder of his children.

On July 19, Valentino James Bagola was indicted for the murders and is in jail awaiting trial.

Joe Vetsch, the Spirit Lake tribe’s prosecutor, said Thursday that Dubois was released Monday after repeated requests by him and his family.

The release, ordered by tribal judge Shirley Cain, requires Dubois to complete inpatient alcohol counseling, Vetsch said. The prosecution did not oppose the early release for Dubois, who had served about half of his sentence of two years and two months.

Before Bagola had been indicted, federal authorities had opposed Dubois’ early release, Vetsch said.

“Up until recently they’ve resisted it,” he said. No opposition from federal authorities, who have jurisdiction for major crimes on the reservation, came after Dubois’ release.

“I had very little notice,” Vetsch said, saying he learned Monday morning of a hearing set for that afternoon.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522