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"My efforts to raise the consciousness of Whites who are so against Indians in the States are bound to be stopped by the FBI sooner or later. But, no sweat, I'm Indian all the way and always will be. I'm not going to stop fighting until I die, and I hope I am a good example of a human and my tribe"
Anna Mae Pictou
January 8, 1998
W. Lee Rawls
Assistant Attorney General
Office of Legislative Affairs
U.S. Department of Justice Washington, D. C. 20530
Dear Mr. Rawls:I have recently been contacted by Robert A. Pictou-Branscombe of Rimrock, Arizona in reference to his efforts to have the murder of his cousin Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, properly addressed by federal officials. I have enclosed a copy of that correspondence for your review.
Mr. Branscombe provides articles summarizing the violent death his cousin endured. He reports that highly questionable tactics were used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in pursuing a resolution to this crime, including removing her hands from her body and sending them to the FBI crime lab....[the balance of this letter can be found here.]
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20535
January 27, 1998
Honorable Tom Daschle
United States Senator
Sioux Falls, SD 57101-1274
Your January 8th correspondence to the Department of Justice on behalf of Mr. Robert A. Pictou-Branscombe was referred to the FBI for reply. According to your letter, Mr. Pictou-Branscombe alleges that the FBI used questionable tactics in the investigation of the murder of his cousin, Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, and that her case has not been properly addressed federally.
The FBI's investigation of the murder was initiated in February, 1976, upon the discovery of a partially decomposed female corpse on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. There was no identification on the body, and the cause of death was not immediately apparent. In an effort to determine the identity of the decedent, the hands were removed and forwarded to the FBI Laboratory's Latent Fingerprint Section, which did, in fact, lead to the identification of Ms. Pictou-Aquash. Decomposition was to such an extent that no normal field-level lifting procedures for inked impressions were possible. Removal of hands in such a case is a routine procedure accepted as a standard practice throughout the law enforcement community. Additionally, the local pathologist who initially examined the corpse did not perform a full forensic autopsy and, based on a cursory external examination, concluded the cause of death was due to exposure. When the FBI discovered a full forensic autopsy had not been performed, we vigorously pursued a court order to have the body exhumed to have a full forensic autopsy done. This was accomplished, and the subsequent cause of death was determined to be a single gunshot wound to the head.
We do sympathize with Mr. Pictou-Branscombe over the violent death of his cousin, and our Minneapolis Office has assured me that in view of the circumstances surrounding this crime, the Agents assigned to this investigation have worked exhaustively for over 20 years to gather sufficient evidence to obtain a successful prosecution of the person(s) responsible. Every logical course of investigation was pursued, and all of the facts were presented to the United States Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota, for prosecutive opinion. By letter of September 27, 1996, prosecution was declined; however, the decision is subject to review at any time in the event facts are developed in addition to what has already come to light. If Mr. Pictou-Branscombe has any credible information which would support further investigation into this heinous crime, we would very much like to talk to him. He can contact our office located in Room 303, Federal Building, 225 South Pierre Street, Pierre, South Dakota 57501-1233, telephone (605) 224-1331.
In addition to the FBI, many other law enforcement agencies have participated or assisted in this investigation over the years, including the Law Enforcement Branch of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I hope this information will demonstrate to you and to Mr. Pictou-Branscombe law enforcement's desire to bring this heinous crime to a successful resolution.
John E. Collingwood
Office of Public and Congressional Affairs