Law | National

Pine Ridge man sentenced for burning down ex-partner's trailer

The former trailer home of Jessie Waters and Duane Benson on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota was destroyed by a fire in December 2014. Benson has pleaded guilty to arson for the fire. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News

A member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who burned down his ex-girlfriend's trailer was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison last week as the victim's family continues to await justice for her death.

Relatives of Jessie Waters, whose home was destroyed by the December 2014 fire, spoke at the sentencing of Duane Benson, according to minutes from the April 21 hearing. They believe he knows something about the death of the young mother, who passed away on April 30, 2015.

Benson, however, has not faced any charges in connection with the tragedy. Waters was three months pregnant when her body was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She left behind two other children.

"It’s been ten months since my cousin Jessie and her baby boy were violently taken from us and to date there still hasn’t been any charges filed for their deaths. All along we have been told that the investigation is pending,” Anna Salomon, Waters’ first cousin, told The Lakota Country Times in February.

Jessie Renae Waters, 1984-2015.

Waters had last been seen with Benson on April 11, 2015, the day of her 31st birthday, The Native Sun News reported last year. She had taken out a temporary order of protection against him in tribal court and President John Yellow Bird Steele has attributed her death and that of her unborn child to domestic violence.

"Jessie Renae Waters and her unborn son’s lives ended as a result of Domestic Violence in its most extreme form on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation when she became a homicide victim on April 30, 2015, the last day of the month that has been nationally observed as Domestic Violence Awareness Month," Steele wrote in a proclamation last June, The Native Sun News reported.

Benson pleaded guilty to one charge of arson, according to his sentencing document. In addition to his 57-month sentence, he was ordered to serve five years of supervised release.

Join the Conversation

Related Stories:
Native Sun News: Wheels of justice slow for Oglala Sioux woman (04/08)
Lakota Country Times: Family brings attention to domestic violence (03/07)
Mary Annette Pember: Pine Ridge still lacks shelter for victims (08/19)
Native Sun News: Oglala leader blames deaths on domestic violence (07/06)
Arrest made in connection with death of Oglala Sioux woman (06/22)
Native Sun News: Oglala family demands justice for slain mother (06/11)