By Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, Published June 20 2013
Woman charged in death of child on Spirit LakeGRAND FORKS – A 31-year-old St. Michael woman appeared in U.S. District Court in Grand Forks on Thursday, charged with abuse or neglect of a child resulting in serious bodily injury in connection with the June 13 death of a Spirit Lake Nation toddler.
According to the criminal complaint, Hope Louise Tomahawk Whiteshield, the wife of the toddler’s grandfather, threw the girl down an embankment by the family’s home near St. Michael on the evening of June 12.
When she was asked why she had thrown the girl down the hill and then pushed the girl’s twin sister over, Whiteshield replied, “like I was getting depressed,” the complaint states.
Asked what she was depressed about, she responded that she “was getting depressed about having kids all the time.”
The girl, a month shy of 3 years old, was found unresponsive the following day. She was taken to Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake, where she was pronounced dead.
In an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, an FBI special agent stated that a Grand Forks medical examiner’s provisional autopsy report listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Miller Jr., presiding by video conferencing from Bismarck, scheduled a hearing for Monday to determine whether Whiteshield should be held in federal custody until further proceedings.
He said a preliminary hearing would be held within 14 days and that a public defender would be appointed for her.
The final charge against Whiteshield will be determined later by a federal grand jury, Miller said.
The arrest and charge followed several days of widespread and intense public discussion concerning what the FBI called a “mysterious death” at Spirit Lake, the latest chapter in a lengthy debate over child protection issues on the reservation.