- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A man accused of raping and killing a woman on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lance Summers, 29, made his first federal court appearance Wednesday in Bismarck. He answered a judge’s questions about his education and competency before pleading not guilty to charges of murder and sexual abuse in the slaying of 38-year-old Natalie White Lightening of Cannon Ball.

Authorities said White Lightening died on or around March 18. According to her obituary provided by the funeral home, White Lightening’s body was found April 22 in Fort Yates.

The indictment says White Lightening was killed “during the perpetration of sexual abuse” and was physically incapable of communicating her unwillingness to have sex with Summers. No further details have been made available.

“We have not commenced our investigation of the case but will do so soon,” said Neil Fulton, head of the public defender’s office for the Dakotas. “While these are significant charges, they are only charges. Mr. Summers remains presumed innocent and the government retains the burden to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at his jury trial.”

U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon declined to comment.

Trial has been scheduled for Aug. 19 in Bismarck. Summers has been ordered to be jailed until the results of a detention hearing scheduled for Monday.

The Standing Rock reservation straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border.

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