- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A Fort Yates man pleaded guilty Wednesday in the killing of a woman on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

Lance Summers, 30, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the slaying last year of 38-year-old Natalie White Lightening of Cannon Ball. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, but Summers’ plea deal calls for 10 years in federal prison.

He earlier pleaded not guilty to federal charges of first-degree murder and sexual abuse.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland set sentencing for Nov. 2.

White Lightening was last seen by friends on March 17, 2014, and her body was discovered on April 22 by two people walking through heavy vegetation on the 2.3 million-acre reservation that straddles North Dakota and South Dakota.

Court documents allege that Summers raped an unconscious White Lightening, who had been drinking heavily, on March 18. The affidavit says he choked White Lightening with one hand on her throat.

When Summers and a 17-year-old boy - both of whom appeared to have been drinking - realized White Lightening was not breathing, Summers called Fort Yates police, according to the documents. He said there was an unresponsive woman lying in the field where White Lightening’s body was later found, the documents say.

Summers and the 17-year-old were arrested at the scene after a brief foot chase. Charges against the teen are pending in juvenile court.

Court records say the boy was crying and told police, “There is a woman out there,” and, “Natalie’s still out there.” After they were arrested and placed in the back of a squad car, Summers told the boy not to “say anything about this,” the documents say. Officers searched the field in darkness but were unable to find White Lightening.

Jana Miner, a public defender representing Summers, said he made three calls to authorities on White Lightening’s cellphone but refused to tell authorities “where she was or who she was.”

Miner said there was no evidence that her client “had physical contact” with White Lightening. She said, however, that her client matched a DNA sample taken from a cigarette butt found near White Lightening’s body.

Miner and assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Delorme said an autopsy found that suffocation, hypothermia and alcohol intoxication were factors in White Lightening’s death.

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This story has been corrected to show that the victim’s last name is spelled Lightening.

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