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Two Lame Deer residents charged with killing children in separate alcohol-related accidents pleaded not guilty to federal involuntary manslaughter charges on Thursday in Billings.

The defendants, Russell John Tallwhiteman Jr., 36, and Priscilla Littlebear, 31, will remain free pending their trials.

U.S. Magistrate Richard Anderson ordered Littlebear not to drive in the meantime. Similar restrictions were imposed on Tallwhiteman at an earlier court appearance.

Littlebear was indicted in the death of 9-month-old Trinity Fawn Morrison, a passenger in the car Littlebear was driving near Lame Deer on April 25. The government maintains that speed and alcohol were involved in the 5:25 p.m. one-car rollover two miles north of town on Highway 39.

Neither Trinity nor her 3-year-old brother was in a safety seat. None of the three adults in the car was wearing a seat belt, said a Montana Highway Patrol investigator at the time.

All the occupants, except the 3-year-old, were thrown from the car, he said. The boy was not seriously injured. Littlebear and a 21-year-old passenger were treated for injuries.

But Trinity’s 22-year-old mother, Darcy Bishop sustained debilitating injuries. The indictment contains a count of assault, charging Littlebear with inflicting those injuries.

The charge of negligent homicide requires the government to prove that Littlebear acted with such gross negligence in the commission of a lawful act – driving – that she knew it might result in death.

Tallwhiteman was charged in a July 2, 2000, accident that took the life of 7-year-old Jamie Standing Soldier in a car-pedestrian collision in a residential area of Lame Deer. The government contends that Tallwhiteman was drunk at the time.

He had been charged earlier by indictment, but a new superseding indictment was handed down after his initial court appearance. The indictment also charges Tallwhiteman with witness intimidation.

According to the new indictment, he threatened Viola Biglefthand, a passenger in his car, by telling her not to talk with anyone or he would burn her father’s house and hurt her and her father.

After his appearance on the first indictment, Tallwhiteman was released from custody on conditions that he not drink, drive or have contact with witnesses in the case.

Lorna Thackeray can be reached 657-1314 or at lthackeray@billingsgazette.com

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