Couple pleads not guilty over death of Yankton Sioux toddler

A young couple entered not guilty pleas in connection with the death of a two-year-old girl from the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.

Taylor and Laurie Cournoyer, 21 and 29, are each charged with five counts of felony child abuse, failure to report the death of a child, possession of a controlled substance, maintaining a place where drugs are used or sold, and possession of marijuana. Authorities say they were on drugs when RieLee Lovell died in their home at a tribal housing complex.

The child abuse charges related to RieLee and other children who lived in the home. But defense attorney said the indictment is too vague.

“We really don’t know what we’re supposed to defend against,” Tom Deadrick, Taylor Cournoyer's lawyer, told The Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

“To look at this indictment and to try and figure out what our clients are charged with having done is virtually impossible,” added Laurie Cournoyer’s lawyer, Scott Swier.

Tribal leaders and activists say the death highlights the methamphetamine problem on and off the reservation, which the courts have ruled has been diminished. The sheriff in Wagner, the town where RieLee died, has been charged with covering up his girlfriend’s meth use.

Get the Story:
Charges vague, defense argues in Wagner toddler death (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 8/22)
Tribal officials pledge action against meth (The Mitchell Daily Republic 8/20)
Meth activist gains protection orders against harassment (The Mitchell Daily Republic 8/20)

Related Stories:
US Attorney talks drug issues on reservations in South Dakota (8/8)
Editorial: Girl's death shows problems for Yankton Sioux Tribe (8/6)
Yankton Sioux Tribe didn't use $157K methamphetamine grant (8/3)
Child abuse charges added for death of Yankton Sioux toddler (7/31)
Memorial walk planned in honor of Yankton Sioux girl who died (7/19)
Yankton Sioux leader calls methamphetamine a major problem (7/17)
Adults charged in connection to death at Yankton Sioux complex (7/13)
Adults might face charges for murder at Yankton Sioux complex (7/12)
Yankton Sioux Tribe shocked by murder of two-year-old toddler (7/11)

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