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Suspect in Lodge Grass triple homicide makes court appearance

Suspect in Lodge Grass triple homicide makes court appearance

  • Updated

Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, made an initial appearance in federal court in Spokane, Wash., on Thursday.

He was ordered held on three counts of first-degree murder in the killing of his grandmother, cousin and cousin’s boyfriend at their rural Lodge Grass home on Tuesday.

His bail hearing will be held after he is returned to Montana. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Chase, dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and wearing leg shackles, gave yes and no answers to a series of questions from U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno, and asked to be returned to Montana as soon as possible to face the charges.

An FBI affidavit released Thursday offered details about the shootings.

Investigators said Chase left his mother’s home on North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation on Monday. He took a Sitting Bull commemorative rifle, typically a Winchester Model 94 .30-30 caliber.

Investigators said Chase’s 21-year-old cousin, Levon Driftwood, sent a text message to Chase’s mother at 11:48 a.m. on Tuesday saying he was at Gloria Sarah Goes Ahead Cummins’ house. He had been attending college and living with extended family in a small cluster of houses about 10 miles outside Lodge Grass on the Crow Reservation.

Cummins, 80, had suffered a stroke several years ago and was cared for by Driftwood. Driftwood and boyfriend Ruben Jefferson, 20, had 2-year-old and 3-year-old sons and also lived at the home. The affidavit indicates two children were home when Chase arrived.

A 3-year-old told police that Chase and Jefferson were fighting and that Chase shot Jefferson, then Cummins and Driftwood.

“During an interview of one child, age 3 years, he disclosed Chase and RCJ (Jefferson) were fighting and Chase shot RCJ. The child further stated Chase also shot GSC (Cummins) and LFD (Driftwood),” the affidavit stated.

When police arrived at Cummins’ home, they found Jefferson dead on the ground with a gunshot wound to the face. Investigators went into the home and found Cummins and Driftwood dead, both with gunshot wounds to the head and face.

A neighbor who reported the shooting said she saw Chase driving toward Lodge Grass at 12:10 p.m. Her son went to Cummins’ home and saw two of the victims.

Chase has a history of mental illness and had stopped taking his medication before the shootings, the affidavit said, although it did not specify when he stopped taking them or what the medications were.

He was arrested Wednesday afternoon without incident near the Spokane Valley Mall, more than 600 miles west of Lodge Grass, by a team of federal and local law enforcement officers.

Frank Harrill, FBI supervisor in Spokane, said agents learned that Chase was in the Spokane area and converged on the scene. He declined to reveal how agents got their information.

Eric Barnhart, FBI supervisor in Billings, said investigators were still trying to piece together the events that led to the shooting.

“At this point, we still don’t know,” he said after Chase’s capture. “With some history of mental illness, that’s an X factor.”

Joint funeral services for Driftwood and Jefferson are set for Saturday in the Lodge Grass High School Gymnasium. Interment will follow in the Lodge Grass Cemetery.

Funeral mass for Cummins is set for Monday at the Lodge Grass Catholic Church.



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