A transient suspected of killing a Lame Deer woman last year denied federal murder charges during an arraignment Wednesday in Billings.
Garrett Sidney Henderson Wadda, 44, who was arrested last week in Wyoming, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with first degree murder and aggravated sexual abuse during a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby.
Wadda and a co-defendant, Eugenia Ann Rowland, 41, of Pine Ridge, S.D., are charged in connection with the death of Hanna Harris, who went missing on July 4 in Lame Deer and was found dead near the town’s rodeo grounds several days later.
Harris’ mother, Malinda Harris Limberhand, has said Wadda and Rowland, who have ties to Lame Deer, are the people she suspected of killing her daughter.
Harris was a single mother who graduated from Billings West in 2010 and had a 10-month-old son when she died.
The indictment alleges Wadda killed a person identified as H.H. on July 4 near Lame Deer. He is accused of murdering the victim with “malice aforethought” while forcing the victim to engage in a sexual act. The court records do not provide details on the circumstances of the death.
Rowland is facing second-degree murder charges and had an initial appearance last week in Rapid City, S.D. She is to be extradited to Montana. As of Wednesday, Rowland was no longer listed as an inmate in the Pennington County jail in Rapid City. An arraignment date has not yet been set for her.
Wadda’s attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Steve Babcock, told the judge that Wadda had last worked in May 2013. Since July 2013 until his arrest, Wadda lived with family in Montana and Wyoming, he said.
The courtroom was packed with more than 20 members of Harris’ family, many of whom wore big color buttons that said “Justice for Hanna” with photographs of Harris.
After the hearing, Kateri Foote, Harris’ aunt, called it a relief that Wadda and Rowland were in custody.
Foote also said she and family members suspected Wadda and Rowland and watched the pair get into a vehicle with Wyoming license plates and leave after Harris went missing.
Harris’ grandmother, Theda Foote, said the family suspects Wadda and Rowland because they were the last ones to be seen with Harris. The arraignment, she said, was the beginning of some closure.
Last August, as many as 200 people marched in Lame Deer demanding justice for Harris and other victims of unsolved murders in Indian Country. The “Justice for Hanna” rally called on local, tribal and federal officials to step up efforts to solve Harris’ death and other unsolved murders of tribal members across the country.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Wadda faces a mandatory life in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.
Ostby ordered Wadda to remain in custody pending trial. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.