Roughly three months after charging a man with second-degree murder in a Lame Deer death that sparked community outrage, prosecutors dismissed the case.
Reuben Charles Blackwolf, 44, was charged in U.S. District Court on Oct. 23 with second-degree murder in the death of Corey Blackwolf. The 43-year-old victim died of multiple blunt force trauma injuries from an assault on Aug. 10.
The familial relationship between the two men was not immediately clear.
Reuben Blackwolf, the defendant, pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and to a single count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury for allegedly assaulting another male victim on the same day.
Video of several people trying to move Corey Blackwolf’s body into a vehicle was posted to Facebook and widely circulated with a message saying he was killed “in broad daylight” and some witnesses said “that they couldn’t get the cops to show up.”
It was unclear who all was captured in the video or exactly what role it might have played in Reuben Blackwolf's case.
The video was later taken down.
In January, defense attorney Gillian Gosch asked the court to order a man being held at the Hardin detention facility, Tyler Curley, to be brought to court for Reuben Blackwolf’s trial.
Gosch wrote that her office had interviewed Curley about Reuben Blackwolf’s murder charge, and “based upon the interview and other information, defendant believes that Mr. Curley is an important witness on his behalf at trial.”
The judge ordered Curley to be transported for the trial from the Rocky Mountain Detention Facility, where he is serving a tribal sentence.
Nine days later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana moved to dismiss the case without prejudice, saying only that doing so was "in the interest of justice.”
Dismissing a case without prejudice means it could still be refiled in the future.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the dismissal or specify if other charges would be filed in Corey Blackwolf's death.
Reuben Blackwolf was released from the Yellowstone County Detention Facility on Feb. 1, when Judge Susan Watters ordered the case dismissed, based on the motion from Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Dake.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the BIA.
Gosch, the defense attorney, did not respond to a voicemail and email seeking comment.
Corey Blackwolf's death was at least the second homicide this summer to spark anger by Northern Cheyenne residents toward the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the two law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction on the reservation, over their handling of the case. In June, 19-year-old Kymani Littlebird was found dead outside of Lame Deer.
Then-President of the Northern Cheyenne Rynalea Peña accused the BIA of creating a “lawless society” by not providing enough officers or maintaining a functional jail, and for not sharing crime statistics with the tribal government.
After the community spoke out, Sen. Steve Daines and Sen. Jon Tester urged the FBI to communicate with victims and coordinate with the tribe better, and to dedicate more resources to public safety on the reservation.
Gazette reporters Paul Hamby and Tom Lutey contributed reporting.