Violent crime in ‘Indian Country’ gets little coverage

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By Carol A. Clark

Elvira Charley, 32, shot three of her six children dead on New Year’s Day 2002. The Navajo woman drank alcohol throughout the previous day and night, and had intended to kill herself but instead turned the rifle on her 9-, 10- and 11-year olds. They were lying in bed inside her trailer on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

“She had three younger kids she did not shoot,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade during the FBI Citizens’ Academy April 22. “She received six consecutive life sentences.”

Nevertheless, when he asked the class for a show of hands, no one had heard of the case. Wade then discussed another, similar case – but this one involved a Caucasian mother, and participants were already familiar with the details.

Andrea Yates, 36, drowned her five young children in the bathtub of her Texas home on June 20, 2001. The media swarmed Houston. News staff reported live in front of her home and camped out at the courthouse. Their stories filled nightly news.

Photos of her four small sons and infant daughter appeared in newspapers, magazines and flashed across television screens. The media stayed with the Yates story throughout the ensuing trial, 2002 capital murder conviction, subsequent appeal and 2006 “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict.

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