Testimony of Nate Merrick in the
Trial of Arlo Looking Cloud
February, 2004

MR. MANDEL: United States would call Nate Merrick, Your Honor.

NATE MERRICK, called as a witness, being first duly sworn, testified and said as follows:


Q. Good afternoon, sir, could you state your name, please?

A. My name is Nathan Merrick.

Q. Mr. Merrick, where do you live these days?

A. I live in Walthill, Nebraska.

Q. What do you do down there?

A. I work for the Tribal Court, Omaha Tribal Court, I am a

public defender, paralegal.

Q. Back in 1975 were you employed on the Pine Ridge Indian


A. Yes, sir, I was.

Q. When did you start working there?

A. I arrived at Pine Ridge in 1973 just during the Wounded

Knee occupation. I was a police officer assigned there for

the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Q. Was that your first assignment?

A. No, just prior to that I was in Crow Creek at Fort

Thompson, South Dakota in 1972.

Q. Was that your first law enforcement job?

A. No. In 1969 I was a Tribal police officer for the Omaha

Tribe in Nebraska, so I kind of moved into the Dakotas in the

early seventies.

Q. In February of 1976 were you still there working for the

BIA on Pine Ridge?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. Did there come a time when you became involved in a

death investigation that occurred out on the Roger Amiotte

ranch south of Kadoka and east of Wanblee?

A. Yes, I was a criminal investigator for the BIA.

Q. Can you tell us how you got the call on that, what

happened, how you got involved in it, sir?

A. On, I can't recall exactly the day, but I remember that

it was a very sort of a warm day in February, and I was

notified by the police department through the radio dispatch

that investigators were needed, and the FBI was needed out

near the Amiotte ranch toward Wanblee and Kadoka, in that area.

Q. How come both the criminal investigators and FBI would

respond to something of that nature?

A. Any time a body was found or there was a need to, for an

investigation, they always send for BIA criminal investigators

and the FBI to conduct the investigation.

Q. Do you recall what you observed when you arrived there?

A. Yes, it was, like I said, kind of a warm day for

February, and about sixty to seventy yards west of the highway

between Kadoka and Wanblee we were told that there was a body

down in a ravine, laying down in a ravine, and it appeared to

be a female.

Q. What did you do then, sir?

A. We went, walked to the scene and we conducted a crime

scene investigation, but I went and took some pictures and

observed the area, and we picked up a little evidence.

Q. Can you tell us what evidence you collected there at the

scene that you recall?

A. I specifically remember we were picking up pieces of

hair strands off of the bank of the ravine. It was about like

an eighteen foot ravine, it was kind of high, but along the

edge of the bank there was strands of hair, I remember

collecting that. Also taking a picture.

Q. Pictures you said, did you take 35 millimeter pictures,

or Polaroids, or what?

A. Yes, I took 35 millimeter pictures and I also took

Polaroids together.

(Exhibit 5 marked For identification.)


Q. Sir, I am going to draw your attention first to what has

been marked Exhibit No. 5, do you recognize that photograph?

A. Yes, I recognize it.

Q. Can you tell us what is shown in that photograph?

A. This is a picture of a arm with a bracelet, an Indian

type silver bracelet with a turquoise stone in the middle of

it, and appears to be the right arm of the body of an unknown

female person.

Q. Is that a photograph that was taken at the crime scene that day?

A. Yes, it was.

Q. Do you recall you are the individual that took that photograph?

A. Yes.

Q. Does that accurately show that as you saw it?

A. Yes.

Q. And that one is a Polaroid photograph you said?

A. Yes, it's a Polaroid.

(Exhibit 23 marked For identification.)

Q. I ask you also to look at Exhibit No. 23 if you could.

Do you recognize that photograph, Mr. Merrick?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell us about that photograph and how, when and

how that was taken?

A. It is the same picture of the same individual, same

person, same bracelet, same hand, same arm that I just

described in the other picture.

Q. Was that a photograph that you also took on that day?

A. Yes.

Q. Does that accurately show things as they appeared at that time?

A. Yes, they do.

(Exhibit 28 marked For identification.)

Q. Finally, sir, I am going to ask you to look at what has

been marked Exhibit No. 28. Do you recognize that photograph?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell us what is shown in that photograph?

A. It is a photograph of a decomposed body of an Indian,

appears to be a female with black hair with sort of a red

light jacket with a white colored blouse, bluejeans, lady

wearing bluejeans.

Q. Is that also a photograph that you took on that date?

A. Yes, it is.

Q. Does that accurately show things as they were at that time, sir?

A. Yes.

MR. MANDEL: Your Honor, at this time I would offer

Exhibits number 5 and 23. I am going to reserve my offer on 28.

MR. RENSCH: No objection.

THE COURT: Exhibits 5 and 23 are received.

MR. MANDEL: May I publish those, Your Honor?

THE COURT: You may.


Q. Mr. Merrick, can you see that on the screen just to your right?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. Can you tell me why you particularly took that

photograph on that date?

A. The reason was because the bracelet was something that I

thought that somebody might be able to recognize, because we

obviously had a person who wasn't identified. That's the

reason I took the picture of that bracelet.

Q. When you were there at the scene, can you describe

generally what the condition of the body was?

A. It was dark in color, and decomposed, and like the body

had been there for some time, that's how I can describe it best.

Q. Did you feel from what you saw at that time that the

face was recognizable?

A. No. I couldn't recognize the face. It was all dark and

disfigured, so it was deteriorating.

Q. What action was taken at the scene then in terms of

removing the evidence and removing the body?

A. At that time the body was taken out of the ravine and I

believe transported by the ambulance service. We didn't take

any of the clothing at that time, all that was taken to Pine

Ridge to the hospital where the morgue was. We didn't take

anything at that time, just except the pictures, and then did

a crime scene.

Q. By doing a crime scene, what would that entail?

A. Well, mostly photographs, and then at that time just

trying to collect any evidence, or see if there was any

evidence on the area above the ravine. And the only thing we

found was that hair, and was looking for tracks, but we

couldn't find any tracks because of the condition of the

ground and everything, and probably been there for some time.

So we were not able to. And I did take some measurements from

the highway to the location of the body, and I did a small sketch.

Q. Mr. Merrick, as criminal investigator on the scene did

you have any idea what the cause of death was at that time?

A. At that time looking at the body and the way the

condition was, general consensus was that she probably was

murdered or killed by someone. There was blood underneath of

her head. The hair coming from the side of the ravine. And I

just felt that somebody threw her down in the ditch, down into

the ravine.

Q. Was there any evidence collected at the scene other than

the hair that supported that?

A. Not that I can recollect.

Q. Was there any evidence of any guns being discharged there?

A. We couldn't find any evidence of that.

Q. Did you search for such evidence?

A. We looked around the area as thoroughly as I thought we

could, but I couldn't see any evidence of that, any guns, no.

Q. So what was the next action that was taken in order to

further this investigation?

A. The body was transported back to Pine Ridge, and then we

met with our, my supervisors, and then there was plans being

made for an autopsy. That was the next thing that I remember

being involved with.

Q. Was there a pathologist there in Pine Ridge?

A. At that time the Bureau of Indian Affairs law

enforcement, I believe we had the services of a Dr. Brown from

Scotts Bluff, a pathologist who came regularly to conduct

autopsies for us.

Q. Was he summoned to come up there and perform that autopsy?

A. Yes, he was.

Q. Were you present during any part of that autopsy?

A. When the autopsy began I was present. When Dr. Brown

arrived and went into the autopsy room, I was present in there then.

Q. Sir, can you describe as best you remember who else was present?

A. It's been a lot of years ago, and the best I can

remember, it was an FBI agent and I think maybe two FBI agents

and myself. I can't remember any more than that.

Q. Were you there then when the autopsy proceeded, sir?

A. When the autopsy first started I was in the room, yes.

Q. Did you leave the room at some point?

A. Yes, after we got into the room and the smell and the

stench of everything was overcoming to me, and I didn't stay

in there very long. I walked out of the autopsy room.

Q. Do you recall did anybody staying there other than the doctor?

A. I recall that when I walked out, others walked out with

me, the other FBI agents. We just walked out in the hall

because the stench and everything was really overcoming to me.

Q. Was there some problem with the equipment that day in

terms of doing everything that needed to be done at the autopsy?

A. Just prior to the autopsy I spoke with, I don't recall

names, but there was a young lady, a white lady who worked as

like an X-ray technician that worked there at the IHS

hospital, and I specifically asked if they could do an X-ray.

MR. RENSCH: Objection, hearsay.

THE COURT: No hearsay yet, but I suspect we are

getting to hearsay. So we will see. But not yet. So the

objection is overruled at this point. Go ahead.


Q. Was it possible to do an X-ray that day?

A. No.

Q. Why was that?

A. I was told the machine was broke. X-ray machine.

Q. So no X-ray was performed at that initial autopsy?

A. No.

Q. What took place after the autopsy, sir?

A. Right after the autopsy there was discussion about the

identification and what could be done to determine

identification, what could we do at that time. We talked about that.

Q. Do you remember who was involved in that discussion?

A. Another FBI agent, maybe two FBI agents and myself.

Q. Was the doctor involved in that at all, sir?

A. I think the doctor was standing by waiting for

instructions from us.

Q. Was some decision reached as to an action to take to

effect the identification?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know who made that decision?

A. The actual decision to do that was kind of a joint

agreement between all of the investigators that were there,

the FBI and myself. We decided that we should take the hands

from the corpse so that we can try to get some identification.

Q. Was that a procedure you were familiar with?

A. Yes. At that time that was probably the only way that

we were going to be able to find some identification through

the fingerprints.

Q. Was there some reason that the hands couldn't be

fingerprinted there?

A. Yes, that was part of the discussion. The hands were so

shriveled up, black, they were like shriveled up, dried up, no

possible way we could take fingerprints then, they would have

to be done in a laboratory or something.

Q. Did the doctor then remove the hands from the body?

A. At our request he did.

Q. Then what was done with them?

A. They were placed in a jar with like I believe it was

formaldehyde or something, and I took the jar.

Q. What did you do with them then?

A. He gave the jar to me, and then I in turn handed it off

to an FBI agent, and that was their person there that day for

him to see if he could get it to a laboratory for identification purposes.

Q. After the, you know that agent's name, sir?

A. Yes, I believe.

Q. Who would that have been?

A. It was Don Dealing.

Q. After that action was taken, then what happened

regarding the body, sir?

A. Repeat that question again?

Q. What did they do with the body after the autopsy, if you know?

A. That day after the autopsy was over I had an emergency

back in Nebraska, so I left the next day. As far as I knew

from my recollection was when I left that day that body was

still there at the hospital.

Q. It was with the intentions to keep it there until the

identification was made?

A. Yes.

Q. Is that what in fact happened, if you know?

A. I left for several days for an emergency home visit. I

live in Nebraska down about five hundred miles away. And then

I came back to the reservation at Pine Ridge about a week

later, so a lot of things did transpire while I was gone that

I wasn't aware of.

Q. Were you involved with the investigation of this case

further on after the body had been identified?

A. After that I believe the FBI took the major role in

conducting further investigation in to it, but that was all of

it, I did that time.

Q. That pretty much the end of it for you?

A. Yes.

MR. MANDEL: No further questions, thank you.

THE COURT: Cross examination.

MR. RENSCH: Thank you, Your Honor.


Q. Good afternoon, sir.

A. Yes, sir.

Q. You have a pretty good recollection of all this?

A. It's been a lot of years, I have some recollection of it, yes.

Q. You find that through the years you forget some of it?

A. That's possible.

Q. What does it mean when you process a crime scene?

A. It means we look for evidence and we document everything

that we see.

Q. You look for clues to try to figure out what happened,

don't you, sir?

A. Yes.

Q. And you looked for clues to try to figure out what

happened in the immediate vicinity of this body, didn't you, sir?

A. Yes.

Q. You actually, did you actually help move the body, turn

it over to take the photograph of the hand?

A. Did I actually move the body?

Q. Yes?

A. No, I didn't.

Q. Who moved the body so that the photograph of the hand

could be taken?

A. I believe it was -- see there were police officers at

the scene, too. I believe that they are the ones that sort of

moved the body over so I could get the picture.

Q. You didn't just let anybody who wanted to come in to

that area where the body was, did you, sir?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because it was basically a crime scene.

Q. Why would it be important to keep people out of a crime scene?

A. So that we can retain, or find evidence and keep it.

Q. You wouldn't want people walking around that body

because they might step on something, or cover it up, or

change it so that the evidence wouldn't be preserved, would

you agree?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you examine the area, the immediate ground around

the body?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you note anything unusual about the ground around

the body?

A. Nothing unusual, no.

Q. You didn't find any bullet holes?

A. No.

Q. You didn't find any ricochet marks or anything like

that, did you, sir?

A. No.

Q. You didn't find any rope any place?

A. No.

Q. These strands of hair, where did you find the strands of hair?

A. As I said, right off the embankment, coming off the

embankment, about halfway down the embankment.

Q. So they were about halfway down the embankment laying on

the dirt there?

A. They were like hanging down, you know, they were just.


Q. Did you ever try to get a metal detector out there to

see if you could detect any metal?

A. I never had a metal detector.

Q. You didn't find anything up above because it was grassy

up there, isn't that so, sir?

A. Well, how do you describe grassy, what do you mean?

Q. Well, there was grass up there, so there weren't foot

prints up there?

A. Well, there was sort of grass up there, but there was

ground. I don't know what you describe the ground like unless

you have been out there. It wasn't all full of grass, it was

dirt there. Dirt ground.

Q. And the ravine that this poor woman fell in to, that

wasn't full of vegetation, was it, sir?

A. No.

Q. It was dry dirt down there, wasn't it?

A. Yes, appeared to be.

Q. What color was the dirt?

A. Sort of brownish. Brownish colors, you know, different

shades of brown.

Q. Would you say light colored dirt?

A. It's possible it could have been light, different just

colors of dirt.

(Exhibits A - E marked For identification.)

Q. I show you Defendant Exhibits A through E, these are

blow ups of photographs you took. Look at them and tell us if

they are?

A. Are these Polaroid pictures?

Q. I don't know.

A. I can't tell if they are Polaroid or not. I know I took Polaroid and 35 millimeter, but I did take pictures of the body like this, yes.

Q. So that would fairly and accurately depict the scene that were you attempting to preserve by taking those photographs, would you agree, sir?

A. Yes.

MR. RENSCH: I move admission of Defendant's Exhibits A through E, Your Honor.

MR. MANDEL: May I see them?


MR. MANDEL: No objection.

THE COURT: Exhibits A through E are received. BY MR. RENSCH:

Q. How far out from around the body did you look for evidence?

A. Probably maybe around the entire area. Quite a ways. We went, if I remember, it was like we did a kind of a walking grid search all around on the upper part, about from there to the highway back and forth numerous times like in a pathway trying to find something that might be evidence from the highway to where the edge of the ravine was.

Q. How about down in the ravine itself, did you likewise search the area of the ravine?

A. Yes, I think I and some investigators looked around that entire area, around the body, and trying to find anything that we could.

MR. RENSCH: Nothing further, thank you.

THE COURT: Redirect.


Q. Just so I am clear, Mr. Merri?k. You examined the scene both at the top of that Bad Lands wall there and at the bottom where the body was found, correct?

A. Yes, I went up to the top and I looked down and I looked down, I looked up, I looked as much as I could.

Q. The body wasn't discovered until February 24th, is that correct, sir?

A. Yes. Right in that neighborhood, yes.

Q. Here is my question. Is it possible as you are up on the road there on Highway 73 to see that body from the road anywhere?

A. No.

Q. Where would you have to be to see it?

A. You would have to be on the opposite side of the ravine, or up in a high upper area to be able to look down toward it. You wouldn't be able to see it from the highway, no.

Q. Is it a fairly remote location?

A. Yes.

MR. MANDEL: Nothing further, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Anything further?

MR. RENSCH: Nothing further.

THE COURT: Thank you, you may step down. Well, is your next witness a shorted one or a long one.

MR. MANDEL: I have one that is, be pretty short, Your Honor.

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