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Judge Issues Life Sentence for North Dakota Man in Child Abuse Death of 5-Year-Old Native American Girl on Reservation


Erich Longie, Jr. appears in a mugshot

A North Dakota man was sentenced to life in prison earlier this week after pleading guilty to murdering one child and abusing multiple others on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.

Erich Longie, Jr., 44, previously admitted legal culpability by pleading guilty felony murder in the first degree within Indian Country, three counts of child abuse in Indian Country, and one count of child neglect in Indian Country.

The investigation began in May 2020, when FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs agents responded to the defendant’s home, which he shares with his wife Tammy Longie, 47, on the reservation.

There, a “five-year-old female” child was found dead by Tammy Longie, her foster mother, the federal criminal complaint affidavit indicates. An emergency responder told one of the investigating federal authorities that “the foster parents showed no emotional signs that one would typically expect to see from a caregiver,” the court document says.

Authorities moved to clear the residents from the house and subsequently found a “seven-year-old male child” in the back of a truck at the residence and took him to a hospital in Fargo, N.D., “as he required a higher level of medical care for injuries” that were “suspected to be caused by non-accidental trauma,” the affidavit goes on.

A doctor at the hospital allegedly told federal agents that the boy’s injuries were consistent with abuse.

An investigation ensued. According to federal authorities, Tammy Longie said the girl who had just died had not been eating much over “the past couple of days” and was additionally complaining about stomach pain, moaning, and “would not use the bathroom.”

The complaint affidavit documents how the girl was found on the sad day in question:

TAMMY stated that she woke up around 6:00 AM on May 6, 2020 and did not see CHILD 1. She yelled outside for CHILD 1 and then went downstairs to the basement. TAMMY did not want to go downstairs because she “had a funny feeling” but did not know why. TAMMY saw CHILD 1 lying on the floor. She called CHILD 1’s name but there was no answer, then TAMMY touched her and she felt cold. TAMMY ran upstairs, woke up ERICH, and told him that she thought CHILD 1 was dead.

When questioned about the girl’s death, both Erich and Tammy Longie are said in the court paperwork to have denied being particularly abusive. Tammy Longie allegedly told investigators that she only spanked her children, put them in time-out, or sent them to bed early in order to punish them.

Interviews with the surviving children, however, cast doubt on those claims.

A third and fourth child were “forensically interviewed” by federal agents, the complaint affidavit says, and claimed that Tammy Longie hit and kicked them all over their bodies when they refuse to go to sleep, sometimes “laughing” after she kicked them. There was some internal inconsistency, however, with one of the children saying that the deceased girl and the boy found in the truck were the ones subject to abuse. The other child allegedly said that Tammy Longie abused the deceased girl as well as two other children in the house.

The boy who was found in the truck was later interviewed separately and allegedly told investigators that Erich Longie “spanked him the most” and “hurt him by spanking him.” This child allegedly went on to say that Erich Longie would also force him to wait outside when he misbehaved – and that Erich Longie would spank the girl who died.

A fifth child, who is otherwise not identified in the criminal complaint affidavit, said during an interview that no one in the house was abused by either of the two adults in question.

But, law enforcement noted, physical examinations showed signs of abuse on two of the children. An autopsy on the 5-year-old girl showed that she died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head, neck, chest, abdomen, and extremities. The doctor added that her injuries were likely caused by others assaulting her.

The male defendant’s plea agreement was fairly scarce – federal prosecutors simply agreed to recommend two downward sentencing departures. And, in the end, it didn’t really matter very much. Erich Longie’s life sentence was handed out for the murder charge, the neglect charge, and two of the child abuse charges. He was additionally sentenced to another 5 years in prison for one of the child abuse counts. If he ever is released from prison, he will be subject to five years of supervised release.

Tammy Longie plead guilty to murder in the second degree, three counts of child abuse in Indian Country, and one count of child neglect in Indian Country. Her sentencing is currently slated for Aug. 9.

[image via mugshot]

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