Native Sun News: John Graham guilty for Aquash murder in 1975
The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk. All content © Native Sun News.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA — John “Boy” Graham was found guilty of felony murder committed during a kidnapping by a Rapid City jury last week.

The family of Anna Mae Aquash, who waited nearly 35 years for a measure of justice, said at a press conference last week that they were pleased with the verdict handed down last Friday. Aquash, a member of Mi’kmaq Tribe of Nova Scotia and prominent member of the American Indian Movement in the 1970’s was found murdered in the Badlands on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in February of 1976.

The trial which lasted nearly two weeks culminated last Friday when a five-man and seven-woman jury found AIM member Graham, a Southern Tutchone Athabaskan from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, guilty on one count, but found Graham not guilty on a second charge of premeditated murder.

Graham and two members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Theda Clark and Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud were alleged to have kidnapped Aquash from a Denver home and driven her to a Rapid City home to face charges from AIM leadership that she was a government informant.

In January of 2003, Looking Cloud and Graham were indicted by a federal grand jury on murder charges in connection to the death of Aquash. Looking Cloud was found guilty by a federal grand jury on February 6, 2004 and sentenced to life in prison.

Looking Cloud a key witness in the Graham trial testified last Wednesday that he saw Graham shoot Aquash and watched as her body fell over a cliff.

An Oglala woman charged in connection to the murder of Aquash, Thelma Rios plead guilty to accessory to kidnapping in November and expected to be called as a witness in the Graham murder trial, was not called to testify.

Another Oglala man, Richard “Dickie” Marshall who was indicted on federal charges accused of providing the .32-caliber pistol used to kill Aquash, but found not guilty, was called to testify. Clark now 87, and living in a Nebraska nursing home was also called to the stand but declined to testify exercising her right against self incrimination.

During the 5 ½ days of testimony more than 19 witnesses were called by the prosecution and related similar stories about how they saw Graham, Clark and Looking Cloud take Aquash with her hands tied in front of her and place her in a red Ford Pinto.

Former U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley, now the South Dakota’s Attorney General served as lead prosecutor in the case assisted by Robert Mandel, prosecuting attorney in the 2004 trial of Looking Cloud and Ron Oswald.

Graham was represented by attorney John Murphy of Rapid City and paralegal Roxanne Ducheneaux. Seventh Circuit Judge Jack Delaney heard the case.

The jury began deliberations on Thursday after the defense declined to call any witnesses to the stand.

On Friday at about 4 p.m. Judge Delaney was handed a note informing him that the jury was deadlocked in both murder counts. Shortly thereafter, the jury reported it had a verdict on one count. Jackley asked the court to accept the verdict on one count and declare a mistrial on the second so the state could retry Graham on that charge. Defense attorney John Murphy responded by saying he would oppose a partial verdict.

Then about 4:30 jurors reported they had reached a decision on both counts.

According to Rapid City Journalists Heidi Bell Geise who has reported extensively on the Aquash case, “tension in the courtroom was thick when the jury returned. Graham showed no emotion when the verdict was read. His daughter, Naneek Graham, who has attended the entire two-week trial, wept quietly, resting her head against that of her brother, J.T. Papequash.

Aquash’s daughters, Denise and Debbie Pictou Maloney, tearfully embraced one another and then hugged prosecutors.

After the verdict, defense attorney Murphy and Graham’s supporters left the courtroom without comment. Graham remained in custody pending sentencing.”

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at: