The body of a Native American teenager of Montana, who had been missing since he disappeared from a roadside stop on New Year's Day, was found on Monday, ending a search that spanned three states and involved the FBI.
Selena Shelley Faye Fearless, 16, was found dead at 10:30 am, less than 1 mile southwest of the Interstate 90 stop between Billings and Hardin during a "systematic grid search" in the area, Sheriff Lawrence Big Horn County C Big Hair said USA today in a statement.
“We brought our baby home. Now she can rest in peace. Jackie and I want to thank everyone for helping us get our girl home, ”wrote Cheryl Horn, Selena's aunt, in a Facebook Post.
An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. The authorities do not expect foul play.
The teenager lived in the Crow reserve near Billings with her mother, Jackie Big Hair. She was among the six people driving from Billings to Hardin when the car broke down and restarted, sheriff officials said. Four people left the rest in the vehicle and the driver called a relative to pick up Fearless and another girl left behind.
Only one girl was at the rest stop when the relative arrived. She told police that Not Afraid had entered a nearby camp. Not Afraid was insufficiently dressed for temperatures close to freezing, the Associated Press reported.
Nearly 300 cases of missing Native American women and girls were reported to authorities in Montana in the year 2019 alone, the AP reported.
"A large percentage of these missing girls are indigenous," Horn told Dateline in an earlier interview. "But this is not just an indigenous problem. This is a human problem. And now, I have a voice. You have a voice. Those who are missing do not have a voice, and we need to be that voice for them."
Last November, Attorney General William Barr announced a national plan to address the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women during a visit to tribal leaders and law enforcement officers in Montana's Flathead Reserve.
The Justice Department Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Initiative will invest $ 1.5 million to hire specialized coordinators at 11 U.S. law firms in the United States, with significant case loads in the Indian country. Coordinators would be responsible for developing protocols for a better response from law enforcement to cases of missing persons.
Native American women experience some of the highest rates of murder, sexual violence and domestic abuse in the country. The National Institute of Justice estimates that 1.5 million Native American women have experienced violence during their lifetime, including many victims of sexual violence. In some reserves, federal studies have shown that women are killed at a rate greater than 10 times the national average.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.