Incident at Devils Lake

Flowchart for the federal case against Richard LaFuente and ten co-defendants for the 1983 murder of former policeman Jerome "Eddie" Peltier on the Devils Lake Sioux Indian Reservation in Ft. Totten, North Dakota.

1983-07-15 09:31:02


23 year-old Patty Demarce, a member of the Devils Lake Sioux tribe in Ft. Totten, North Dakota, called her half-brother Richard LaFuente in Plainview,Texas, and told him there was a percap, or distribution of money from the tribe, waiting for him on the reservation. An enrolled member of the tribe himself, and having received this type of payment before, Richard had no reason to doubt her. Little did he know it was a ruse in the making.

1983-08-04 09:31:02


Eager for the money, Richard set out on the 1200-mile journey in his souped up 1971 El Camino with his brother-in-law, John Perez, to collect the percap. Both were unemployed at the time and left Texas with what little cash they had, roughly $300, to cover gas and food. Once they had the check in hand, which Patty estimated would be approximately $15,000, they would easily make their way back home and Richard would pay John for his time and good company on the long trip.

1983-08-06 09:31:02


Lo and behold, Richard and John arrived on the rez to discover there wasn't a percap as Patty had promised. Rather, they learned Patty wanted Richard to rescue her little brother Wesley from life on the rez and take him back to Texas. Richard refused. Making the best of a bad situation, Richard and John spent the next few weeks visiting Richard's relatives, meeting new friends, and looking for work to get money to return to Texas.

1983-08-28 09:31:02


Not long after Richard and John arrived on the rez, the battered body of Jerome "Eddie" Peltier was found on a road in the early morning hours by an off-duty BIA policeman named James Yankton. Yankton, along with his brother Roger, a higher-up in the tribal council, and two other passengers, were allegedly on their way home from an all-night wedding party in nearby St. Michael. All had been drinking heavily, but trial testimony would later establish that no such party occurred.

1983-08-29 09:31:02


Although Eddie's death was initially classified as an accidental hit and run, questions remained and investigators interviewed numerous people who had seen him that night. They learned that Eddie had been to a number of bars and parties, and was last seen by his sister Andrea on the reservation at about 4:00 am, wearing white painter pants. When James Yankton found the body, it was clad in blue jeans.

1983-09-01 09:31:02


Frustrated with the investigation, Eddie's parents, Gladys and John Peltier, crawled around on their hands and knees at the spot where their son's body had been found and discovered evidence -- including a blood-smeared box from a twelve-pack of beer and a bloody piece of carpet. About the same time, a native boy found a necklace with the name "Eddie Peltier" stamped on a medallion. The necklace had been found less than a block from the home of Celeste Herman, James Yankton's sister, who had a party at her house that Eddie attended the night of his death. The Peltiers took the items to James Yankton, who was still leading the stalled investigation. All later mysteriously disappeared from evidence.

1983-09-01 09:35:02


A few days after Eddie's death, Richard and John, who were staying with Richard's aunt on the reservation, attended Eddie's wake, though neither had ever met Eddie. They followed a horse-drawn cart that pulled Eddie's casket to the cemetery. Not realizing they would be charged with the murder of her son, Eddie's mother Gladys graciously served them dinner after the service and joked with them that the stew they were eating was made from dog meat.

1983-09-15 09:35:02


A few weeks after Eddie was laid to rest, Richard, penniless, took out a small bank loan and bought John a bus ticket back to Texas. He later set about trying to sell the El Camino which by then needed repairs. Both were eager to get home; John had five small children to take care of, and Richard's wife was pregnant with their second child.

1983-09-30 09:35:02


Unable to sell the El Camino and still without any money to put gas in the tank, Richard left the car at a service station in Devils Lake and hitchhiked back to Texas. His first lift came from a priest who took him from Devils Lake to Grand Forks and prayed for his safe return to the Amarillo area. His next ride came from a semi truck driver who carried him from Grand Forks to Oklahoma City. A tired, elderly man in a Cadillac picked him up in OKC and let Richard drive them to Amarillo, where his brother-in-law John, who had already arrived home, picked him up.

1985-06-29 18:14:40


Two years later, BIA policeman James Yankton was called to the scene of a domestic incident involving Patty Demarce's intoxicated husband, Kenneth. While transporting Kenneth to the police station for detox, Kenneth volunteered information that his wife had information about the death of Eddie Peltier.

Incident at Devils Lake

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