Things That Matter

New Documentary Covers Unsolved Cases of Murdered Indigenous Women

Murder is the third leading cause of death among indigenous women — with a murder rate more than ten times the national average, according to federal statistics. In the wake of Gabby Petito’s case — which captured the world’s attention — many people are finally discussing the very real tragedies that happen to Black and Brown women on a daily basis, but are all too often ignored and forgotten.

A new documentary on Oxygen is looking to tell the stories from unsolved cases of Native American girls who vanished and were later found dead in Montana. It’s a shocking look into the ongoing crimes committed against Indigenous women and exposes the many reasons why so many of these cases go unsolved.

“Murdered and Missing In Montana” is set to debut this week on Oxygen.

The new documentary special set to air on Oxygen, “Murdered and Missing In Montana” takes a deep dive into the crisis affecting Indigenous women in this country. With a focus on the unsolved cases of three murdered Indigenous women — Henny Scott, Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, and Selena Not Afraid — former Los Angeles prosecutor and host, Loni Coombs reflects on the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis.

The special exposes the limited resources given to investigate these cases due to unclear jurisdiction, as well as exploring what can be done to protect the vulnerable. During the special, we get to watch interviews with victims’ family members, local law enforcement, forensic experts and local activists, who all point out how important media coverage is. It puts pressure on law enforcement to solve the case, and helps spread awareness. The lack of media coverage seems to devalue certain human lives.

The documentary premieres as the nation reckons with the fact that victims of color just don’t receive the same media attention as white ones.

Following Gabby Petito’s disappearance, it became even more obvious that there is disproportionate media coverage of people of color who go missing. For example, despite comprising 40% of all missing person cases, only a fifth of cases involving people of color are actually covered by the media.

That lack of attention has affected the Native American and Indigenous communities in particular, where one Native girl or woman goes missing in the U.S. every eight hours. These statistics reveal with them the families and friends of the victims who are left with unanswered questions and without any sense of closure.

Coombs explained how the crisis of Indigenous women disappearing has been overlooked for a number of reasons.

“The history is systemic racism, discrimination and sexism. It started out where the young girls were used as property to barter. And that attitude that they’re invisible, they’re not worthy of being protected or looked after, has carried on through the years,” Coombs told Oxygen.

Coombs also points to the difficulty law enforcement faces in rural communities where they struggle with lack of resources to investigate cases.

The crimes investigated in the special share the stories of three women who were part of a community.

Henny Scott, Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, and Selena Not Afraid were all reported missing and later found murdered on and around the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations — and all three crimes remain a mystery.

Henny Scott was the youngest victim at just 14-years-old. She was found dead in 2018, according to a 2019 government press release. Local reporters say that she was last spotted leaving someone’s home and 20 days later her body was found just 200 yards away from that home. The coroner listed her cause of death as accidental and caused by hypothermia, but her mother is skeptical.

“You know, this is ridiculous. I don’t think she died from hypothermia. I have pictures of her nose being broken, you can just tell her nose was broke and she had bruises. But they told me that there was nothing on her, that there was no foul play, but she was bruised, and she had her nose broke and had bumps on her forehead,” her mother, Paula Castro-Stops, told NBC affiliate KULR-8 in March 2019.

Kaysera Stops Pretty Places was found dead at just 18-years-old in Hardin, Montana, according to NBC News. The cause of her death remains a mystery, according to an autopsy report, which said, “Autopsy revealed no evidence of injury or natural disease. Toxicology testing of blood detected the presence of ethanol. Although no neck injuries were detected at autopsy, an asphyxia cause of death cannot be excluded,” according to a 2021 Billings Gazette report. Her loved ones are still searching for answers.

Selena Not Afraid was also found nearby where she was last seen. The 16-year-old left a house party on New Year’s Eve in 2019 but her body wasn’t found until January 20. An autopsy found she died of hypothermia, and her death was ultimately ruled an accident. But her family doubts the report’s findings.

“Selena wasn’t stupid. She’s very smart. When that happened to her sister and to Preston, we spent all our time telling her about how to be safe. What to do, where to go, who to run to,” her aunt Cheryl Horn told KULR8. “So the fact that they tell me she ran into a field — I don’t believe that.” 

Tune into Oxygen on November 12 to discover more about the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis affecting the community and how you can help.

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