Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Four Points Press on May 4, 2022
A justice rally will be held in honor of Kaysera Stops Pretty Places at 11 a.m. on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People’s Day, Thursday, May 5, 2022, in front of the Big Horn County Courthouse in Hardin, Montana.
The family of Kaysera Stops Pretty Places are inviting the public to attend the rally to honor the memory of Kaysera, as well as others who have gone missing or who have been found murdered in Big Horn County.
The justice rally will be held in honor of Stops Pretty Places at 11 a.m. on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People’s Day, Thursday, May 5, 2022, in front of the Big Horn County Courthouse in Hardin, Montana.
“The failure of Big Horn County to investigate Kaysera’s murder, as well as the countless others who have been murdered here in the last few decades, reveals a degree of prejudice and corruption that the United States has a duty to address,” said the family’s attorney, Mary Kathryn Nagle in the press release. “The federal government has a trust duty and responsibility to ensure that local law enforcement agencies do not act to protect and shield from liability the individuals who kill Native women and children. On this May 5, we are calling on the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, to investigate the discriminatory practice of Big Horn County to systemically refuse to investigate the criminal homicides of Native people in Big Horn County. The victims’ families have waited long enough.”
Stops Pretty Places was an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe and a descendant of the Northern Cheyenne, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Tribes. She played basketball and football, ran cross country, and performed in several school theater productions. The family has said she had dreams of becoming an actor and a performer. Stops Pretty Places was known for her warm, kind-hearted personality. She also participated in Sundance and attended Crow Fair.
“She was raised by many communities and relatives that deeply miss her,” the family said in the press release. “Her family, as well as our communities, have suffered a tremendous loss because Kaysera was loved, and her life was worth everything.”
Stops Pretty Places, 18, daughter of Geralyn Bulltail and Alan Stops, went missing on August 24, 2019, in Hardin, Montana. Her body was found four days later, on August 29, 2019, in a yard next to the Mitchell Avenue and Rangeview Drive intersection in Hardin.
The Montana State Medical Examiner’s Office returned an undetermined cause of death to the county after an autopsy.
“Her family, however, has not given up. For the last year and a half, the family has repeatedly asked the Operation Lady Justice Task Force Cold Cases Unit at the Department of the Interior to undertake an investigation into Kaysera’s murder,” the family said in a press released. “After waiting a year and a half for an answer, the family found out this month that the MMU will not be investigating Kaysera’s murder.”
The task force now re-named the “Missing and Murdered Unit” under Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, has not taken the Stops Pretty Places case because, according to family, the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office refuses to share the case file.
“This constitutes a grave injustice. Big Horn County Sheriff Lawrence Big Hair has made clear he is willing to abdicate his duty to investigate the homicide of a young girl within his jurisdiction — but now it is clear he is also willing to go out of his way to ensure that no other law enforcement agency is able to,” they said in a press release. “If what Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office says is true — that they simply do not believe Kaysera was murdered and think she died of ‘natural causes’ — then why are they unwilling to share the case file with the federal MMU? The only reason they would refuse to share the case file is to protect the individual who murdered Kaysera, or to save themselves from the public scrutiny that will result when public citizens realize they sat on their hands and did nothing to investigate the murder of a young Native girl.”
According to the public report of the Stop Pretty Places case issued by Big Horn County Attorney Gerald “Jay” Harris, “on July 7, 2021, the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services Missing and Murdered Unit established pursuant to ‘Operation Lady Justice’ offered Big Horn County their assistance in further investigative efforts into the death of Kaysera Stops Pretty Places. The County Attorney’s Office has accepted this offer on the premise that the federal authorities work cooperatively with the County Sheriff’s Office and other State authorities.”
Harris emailed a copy of the public report of the Stop Pretty Places case to Bureau of Indian Affairs Missing and Murdered Unit Special Agent Steven Red Cloud on August 13, 2021, stating the following: “We greatly welcome your offer for assistance with the condition that the BIA-OJS (and other federal authorities) work cooperatively with the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office and other State authorities. Please advise as to where we may send a copy of the evidentiary items for your review.”
It has been 20 months since her body was discovered in Hardin. The case was investigated as suspicious death/homicide and remains open, according to Harris.
“We will not stand by and watch this injustice play out in silence,” said Kaysera’s grandmother, Yolanda Fraser said in the press release. “Big Horn County has one of the highest rates of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Persons in the country. Kaysera’s case is one of many examples where our children and our relatives have gone missing or are murdered, and the County — as well as the State of Montana — refuse to do anything. Our lives matter. We are citizens of our Tribal Nations — but we are also citizens of Big Horn County and of the State of Montana. Since the County and State have decided that our lives are not worth protecting, we will take action. Please join us on May 5, on the National Day of MMIP Awareness, to demand justice in Big Horn County and in Montana.”