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Patrick Springer, Published October 26 2012

Film casts critical eye on trial of convicted murderer

FARGO – Andrea Peltier has been standing in cold and blustery weather with a sign urging people to support a documentary film that will cast a critical eye on the prosecution of the man convicted of murdering her brother.

Her brother, Jerome “Eddie” Peltier, a former Devils Lake police officer, was murdered in 1983 near Fort Totten on the Spirit Lake reservation.

The trial of the man convicted by a federal jury in Fargo of Peltier’s murder, who is serving a life sentence, is the subject of a documentary film in pre-production, “Incident at Devils Lake.”

Andrea Peltier said she believes the man convicted of killing her brother, Richard LaFuente, is innocent.

“I want justice for my brother,” she said. She and other members of the Peltier family have been holding signs urging people to contribute money to the documentary project, which has an online fundraising goal $50,000 by Nov. 14.

The movie’s writer-producer, Todd Trotter of Los Angeles, is using the Kickstarter Internet site to raise money to begin filming next spring.

Trotter has been researching the case for almost a year and has amassed a large depository of records involving the case, believed to be the largest murder case in North Dakota history in terms of the number of defendants.

He launched the project after reading about the case in the Texas Monthly. LaFuente, who is half Dakota Sioux from Spirit Lake and half Mexican American, is from Texas and is serving his life sentence at a federal prison there.

Although LaFuente’s conviction ultimately was upheld on appeal, after a decision granting him a new trial was overturned, the murder convictions of his 10 co-defendants were reversed on appeal.

LaFuente has continued to assert his innocence, as have other defendants, and in 1994 refused a plea deal that could have secured his release if he would admit guilt.

“If he was guilty, he would have taken the key to the door,” Trotter said.

Prosecution witnesses said Peltier was beaten savagely and run over by a mob at a party Aug. 28, 1983. After the trial, two of four purported eyewitnesses, including Peltier’s brother, Fred, recanted their testimony.

“I know the truth,” Andrea Peltier said. She will maintain her fundraising vigil in support of the documentary production in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Devils Lake until the campaign ends Nov. 14.

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