BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A man described by authorities as a transient was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for dumping the body of a woman who was murdered on Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, after prosecutors indicated that the badly decomposed state of the victim prevented them from pursuing further charges.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters sentenced Garrett Sidney Henderson Wadda, 36, originally of Fort Washakie, Wyoming, during an emotional hearing in Billings. Family members of the victim, 21-year-old Hanna Harris, told Watters that he was getting away with murder.
Wadda had previously pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact for dumping Harris’ partially clothed body at the Lame Deer rodeo grounds in July 2013.
The judge expressed frustration that many details of Harris’ killing remained unknown because of Wadda’s efforts to conceal the crime and protect his common-law wife, Eugenia Ann Rowland. Rowland was sentenced in February to 22 years in prison on a charge of second-degree murder.
“Due to your actions, we don’t know what happened and never will,” Watters said.
Wadda, who was raised in Lame Deer, pretended to help in the search for Harris after her disappearance. Her maggot-ridden body was not discovered until four days later, and a cause of death could not be determined.
Watters cited Wadda’s false help in the search and the state of Harris’ body when it was found for imposing a prison term longer than called for in federal sentencing guidelines, which is about six to more than seven years.
Hanna Harris had a 10-month-old son when she was killed.
“People say if you want to get away with murder, go to the reservation. I think it’s true,” said the victim’s mother, Malinda Harris Limberhand. Directly addressing the defendant, she added: “You may not yourself have killed her but you were responsible.”
Limberhand and other family members had previously criticized the plea deal with prosecutors, but thanked them for their efforts in the case after Thursday’s hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Suek had requested 15 years in prison for Wadda.
Defense attorney Vernon Woodward asked for 6 1/2 years, calling it a senseless crime rooted in the fact that both defendants and the victim were heavily intoxicated on the night of the murder.
Wadda told the judge that he was remorseful. He did not apologize, which he said was out of respect for Harris’ family.
Rowland told her sister-in-law in January that she had blacked out from drinking on the night of Harris’ disappearance and was awakened by Harris screaming that Wadda was raping her, according to documents filed by prosecutors.
Rowland said she tried to help Harris, but that Harris hit her, which made her angry and then both she and Wadda beat Harris. Rowland told her sister-in-law that they wrapped Harris’ body in a sheet and dragged it outside, according to court filings.
Those accusations were not repeated Thursday and Wadda’s sentence was based solely on what he did to Harris’ body after her death.
Wadda admitted to moving the body, but has denied harming Harris.
Before the defendants were arrested - almost nine months after Harris’ death - frustration with the pace of the investigation drew hundreds of people to a rally on the southeastern Montana reservation, where they demanded justice for Native American victims of unsolved murders across the U.S.
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