United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE
January 2016, Emily Bluebird was killed. It happened in a
home in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Only three people were in
the room: Elizabeth Ann LeBeau, Fred Quiver and Emily
Bluebird. Ms. LeBeau and Mr. Quiver were indicted for the
killing. Ms. LeBeau signed a sworn statement setting out in
plain terms that Mr. Quiver killed Ms. Bluebird. A sworn
statement from Mr. Quiver makes it clear that Ms. LeBeau
killed Ms. Bluebird. The prosecutor signed both Ms. LeBeau
and Mr. Quiver's statements. Codefendants pointing
fingers at each other is neither unusual nor a problem. But
problems do arise when the government affirms two utterly
irreconcilable factual statements identifying who caused Ms.
Bluebird's death. It is the court's responsibility to
unwind this issue and forge a workable path forward for this
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
January 26, 2016, a grand jury indicted Ms. LeBeau and Mr.
Quiver for the killing of Emily Bluebird. (Docket 1). Ms.
LeBeau and Mr. Quiver were charged as codefendants in the
case. Id. The indictment alleged Ms. LeBeau
committed first degree murder and Mr. Quiver was an accessory
to first degree murder. Id.
a year later, Ms. LeBeau entered a plea agreement with the
government on February 17, 2017. (Docket 59, later amended at
Docket 76). She pled guilty to second degree murder which
carries a maximum custody sentence of life imprisonment.
(Docket 76 at p. 2). The amended superseding information she
pled to states she “did unlawfully kill Emily Bluebird,
by holding Emily Bluebird's hands down while she was
strangled . . . .” (Docket 71 at p. 1). It does not say
who strangled Ms. Bluebird.
of her plea agreement, Ms. Lebeau signed a factual basis
statement setting forth the facts underlying her offense.
(Docket 62). Assistant United States Attorney Megan Poppen
and Ms. LeBeau's attorney Dana Hanna also signed the
statement, which begins, “[t]he undersigned parties
stipulate that the following facts are true and establish a
factual basis for the plea in the action pursuant to Federal
Rules [sic] of Criminal Procedure 11(b)(3) . . . .”
Id. at p. 1, 5. As to the moments surrounding the
killing of Ms. Bluebird, the factual basis statement reads:
LeBeau saw Quiver had a cord in his hand. It looked like an
electronics cord. Quiver rapped [sic] the cord around
Emily's neck and pulled her back. Quiver went to his
knees as he was choking her from behind. Emily grabbed at the
cord. Quiver yelled at LeBeau, “Liz grab her fucking
hands!” LeBeau grabbed Emily's hands and held them
down while Quiver choked Emily. Quiver stopped choking Emily
when she stopped moving.
Id. at p. 3.
LeBeau appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Daneta
Wollmann for a change of plea hearing. (Docket 77). At the
beginning of the hearing, Magistrate Judge Wollmann placed
Ms. LeBeau under oath. (Docket 97 at pp. 2-3). Magistrate
Judge Wollmann walked Ms. LeBeau through her factual basis
statement. Id. at pp. 14-15. Ms. LeBeau affirmed she
had “an opportunity to read through the factual basis
statement and discuss it with [her] lawyer before [she]
signed it[, and that] all of the facts contained in [it are]
true and correct[.]” Id. at p. 14. Magistrate
Judge Wollmann issued a report and recommendation for the
court to accept Ms. LeBeau's plea of guilty to second
degree murder as charged in the amended superseding
information. (Docket 77). The court adopted the report and
recommendation in full and scheduled Ms. LeBeau's
sentencing. (Docket 79).
days after Ms. LeBeau's plea agreement was filed, Mr.
Quiver entered a plea agreement with the government. (Docket
64, later amended at Docket 70). Mr. Quiver pled guilty to
accessory to second degree murder, a crime with a maximum
custody sentence of 15 years. (Docket 70 at p. 2). The
superseding information Mr. Quiver pled guilty to states:
Elizabeth Ann LeBeau . . . did unlawfully and with malice
aforethought kill Emily Bluebird by asphyxia, secondary to
strangulation with the use of a household electronics cord,
and the defendant, Fred Quiver . . . did receive, relieve,
comfort, and assist [Ms. LeBeau's] apprehension, trial,
and punishment . . .
(Docket 72 at p. 1).
Ms. LeBeau, Mr. Quiver signed a statement delineating the
facts supporting his guilty plea. (Docket 65). His attorney
Ashley Parr and Assistant United States Attorney Megan Poppen
signed the factual basis statement. Id. at p. 4. The
document opens, “[t]he undersigned parties stipulate
that the following facts are true and establish a factual
basis for the plea in the action pursuant to Federal Rules
[sic] of Criminal Procedure 11(b)(3) . . . .”
Id. at p. 1. The moments around Ms. Bluebird's
death in Mr. Quiver's statement are as follows:
Quiver saw LeBeau grab a nearby cord and wrap it around
Emily's neck multiple times. LeBeau applied pressure by
pulling the cord away from the front and side of Emily's
neck. LeBeau strangled Emily with the cord until she stopped
breathing. . . . ...