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Kamiah man sentenced to more than 19 years for second degree murder

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (KIFI) – A Kamiah man was sentenced to 235 months in federal prison for second degree murder.

According to court records, Travis Dewayne Ellenwood, 44, beat and strangled his girlfriend, Bessie Blackeagle, killing her on October 31, 2020. Ellenwood maintains he was too intoxicated to remember what happened. Ellenwood is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, as was Blackeagle. Blackeagle was 28 at the time of her murder. She was a Nez Perce language speaker and well versed in Nez Perce traditions and customs. Her death has affected many in the tribal community.

Senior U.S. Ninth Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman also sentenced Ellenwood to serve five years of supervised release upon completion of his prison sentence and to pay a $2,500 fine. Ellenwood pleaded guilty to the charge on October 4, 2021.

U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr., of the District of Idaho made the announcement and credited the cooperative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nez Perce Tribal Police, and the Idaho County Sheriff's Office, which led to charges.

“Ms. Blackeagle’s murder is a tragic reminder of the danger Native American women face in the community,” said U.S. Attorney Gonzalez. “Generations of Native Americans have experienced violence or mourned a missing or murdered family member or loved one, and the lasting impacts of such tragedies are felt throughout the country. Native Americans face unacceptably high levels of violence, and are victims of violent crime at a rate much higher than the national average. Native American women, in particular, are disproportionately the victims of sexual and gender-based violence, including intimate partner homicide. Our focus remains centered on refining coordination between our office and our tribal partners so that no family must endure this kind of heartbreak in the future,” Mr. Gonzalez concluded.

"The FBI extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bessie Blackeagle. The pain and sorrow of a life taken in an act of egregious violence is a weight Bessie's loved ones will carry indefinitely," said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI. "Though nothing can bring Bessie back, the FBI remains dedicated to working with our tribal partners to investigate the most serious crimes affecting our tribal communities."

Gonzalez also encourages those experiencing domestic violence or those who know of someone in need of help to reach out, “everyone deserves a relationship free from domestic violence,” he said. If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to the free and confidential National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE, texting “START” to 88788, or visiting their website at www.thehotline.org.

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