Aquash underwear at Rapid City FBI

By Carson Walker
Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) 7-08

The lawyer for a man charged with killing fellow Canadian Anna Mae Pictou Aquash is free to test her underwear for DNA, but there is no record of a sanitary napkin from the crime, prosecutors wrote in a court document.

John Graham stands trial starting Oct. 6 in Rapid City on first-degree murder for the December 1975 slaying of Aquash on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Both were members of the American Indian Movement.

A rancher found her unidentified body Feb. 24, 1976, north of Wanblee.

Graham’s attorney, John Murphy, asked a judge in February to make the government reveal the location of and make available for testing Aquash’s panties and a disposable pad said to have been taken from the first autopsy.

That autopsy found evidence that Aquash had sex or was raped shortly before she was killed. Murphy wrote that if DNA other than Graham’s is present, the defense should be allowed to compare the samples to databases, which could help clear Graham if someone else’s DNA were present.

U.S. Magistrate Veronica Duffy told the government last month to do a thorough search for the sanitary napkin. She gave prosecutors 20 days to turn over to the defense the underpants and pad, if it is found.

U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Mandel filed a response showing they sent a letter to Murphy indicating the panties are at the FBI evidence room in Rapid City. They also asked which of three testing options he preferred:

– Resubmit the underpants to the FBI lab for semen and blood testing;

– Have access to them at the Rapid City FBI office for inspection and nondestructive testing by a lab of his choice;

– Send them to a reputable commercial lab for nondestructive testing.

The prosecutors included in the court file an April 16, 1976, FBI report indicating no blood or semen was found on the panties – or Aquash’s other clothing – so no DNA comparison testing had been done.

Regarding the sanitary napkin, Jackley and Mandel wrote that W.O. Brown, the coroner who did the first autopsy, did refer to a “Kotex pad” in his autopsy report.

But no such item was included in the list of things taken from the autopsy, nor was it on the list of clothing and jewelry received by the FBI, the prosecutors wrote.

Included with the prosecution’s filing is a transcript of a conversation with John Munis of Billings, Mont., the retired FBI agent present during the first autopsy, who said he had no recollection of a pad being collected.

Prosecutors also included two other transcripts indicating that the Minneapolis pathologist who conducted a second autopsy has no memory of seeing a sanitary napkin, and none of Brown’s files prior to 1980 were preserved.

Brown said he found strong acid phosphate in the vagina, which “does constitute evidence in support of the allegation that Defendant John Graham raped the victim at Thelma Rios’ apartment on or about December 10-11, 1975,” Jackley and Mandel wrote.

In that first Feb. 25, 1976, autopsy, Brown ruled the cause of death as exposure to the cold.

The FBI then used an identification procedure common at the time that involved cutting off the hands, and weeks later identified the body as Aquash.

The remains were exhumed from an Oglala grave and a second autopsy by Garry Peterson revealed she had been shot in the back of the head with a .38-caliber handgun. He ruled the death a homicide.

Brown, now deceased, then wrote that he “inadvertently overlooked” the bullet, although Peterson said a nurse at the first autopsy remembered seeing blood flowing from the head wound.

The peculiar circumstances compounded allegations that federal agents were involved in the slaying, which they have denied. They have said AIM leaders ordered the killing.

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Arlo Looking Cloud

The allegation that Graham raped Aquash before she was killed came up at the 2004 trial of the other man charged with killing Aquash, Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud, who was convicted and sentenced to a mandatory life prison term.

Looking Cloud’s lawyer was denied a request to have Aquash’s body tested for DNA evidence before the family exhumed her body and took it to her native Nova Scotia for reburial.

At Looking Cloud’s trial, witnesses said he, Graham and another AIM member, Theda Clark, drove Aquash from Denver and that Graham shot Aquash in the Badlands as she begged for her life.

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Theda Nelson Clark

Clark has not been charged. She lives in a nursing home in western Nebraska and has refused to talk about the case.

Graham, a Yukon native also known as John Boy Patton, denies killing Aquash, though he acknowledged being in the car with her from Denver.

Murphy could not be reached and federal prosecutors are not allowed to comment about pending cases.

 

 



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