FBI: 3-year-old witnessed triple slaying in Mont.

October 6, 2011 - 12:20 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 3-year-old child witnessed the killing of three people on Montana's Crow Reservation and named a family member as the shooter, according to an FBI affidavit.

Sheldon Bernard Chase, 22, was captured in Washington state after a manhunt and is due before a federal judge on Thursday to face charges that he killed his grandmother, cousin and cousin's boyfriend at their rural home on Tuesday.

The cousin and boyfriend had two-year-old and three-year-old sons.

Authorities and people who know Chase say he suffers from mental illness. The FBI affidavit said Chase had stopped taking his medications prior to the shootings, although it does not specify when.

Chase had left his mother's house in North Dakota the day before the shooting, taking with him a "Sitting Bull commemorative gun," according to the affidavit.

Shortly before noon Tuesday, Chase's 21-year-old cousin, Levon Driftwood, sent a text saying Chase had arrived on the Crow Reservation, where he had been attending college and living with his grandmother, Gloria Cummins.

A fight ensued between Chase and Driftwood's boyfriend, Rueben Jefferson. Chase shot Jefferson, Cummins and Driftwood and was seen driving away from Cummins' house at 12:10 p.m., according to the affidavit.

"During an interview of one child, age 3 years, he disclosed Chase and RCJ (Jefferson) were fighting and Chase shot RCJ. The child further stated Chase also shot GSC (Cummins) and LFD (Driftwood)," the affidavit stated.

Chase's capture Wednesday night in Spokane followed a manhunt that stretched from the rugged Crow countryside across much of the northern U.S. Schools on reservations in southeastern Montana and western North Dakota were closed and residents stayed indoors for safety during the search.

Eric Barnhart, FBI supervisor in Billings, said investigators were still trying to piece together what led to the shooting.

"At this point, we still don't know," he said following Chase's capture. "With some history of mental illness, that's an X factor."

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Geranios reported from Spokane, Wash.