- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Skipp Miller heard the news after she’d traveled most of the night to get to an early morning speaking engagement.

She arrived at Fort Totten ready to address an audience about substance abuse, but a friend who already knew took her by the shoulders, guided her toward a telephone, and told her to call the Minot Police Department.

The officer on the other end of the line delivered crushing news. Miller’s 16-year-old son, Chaska Running Shield, was dead. He’d been stabbed during a street fight the night before and died at the hospital while Miller was driving away from town, Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1XjQiqw ) reported.

It was Aug. 25, 1993.

Miller took three days off, then resumed her studies at Minot State College and went back to working at Job Corps. For the next two decades, she worked in the mental health field, helping others untangle problems, but failing to address her own broken heart.

Finally, Miller, 71, who’s lived in Williston for the past 16 years and sought help from a counselor late last year, is realizing that she never gave herself a chance to come to terms with her son’s death.

“I had always put other things as a priority rather than taking time to deal with my loss,” she said. “I pushed my issues to the back for another day, and now that time is here. I want to get my son taken care of before I die.”

___

Over the past few months, Miller has written about 15 letters, reaching out to many who were involved in events surrounding her son’s death and its aftermath. She is seeking records, reports, and insight into what happened.

So far, she’s received no response, save for the attorney of the man who wielded the knife that night. The lawyer wrote to Miller that he could not release information or conversations he’d had with clients.

When contacted by the Herald, an employee in North Central Judicial District Judge Douglas Mattson’s office said Mattson, who was Ward County’s State’s Attorney at the time of Chaska’s death, had no comment on Miller’s written request to meet with him.

Meanwhile, the Ward County Clerk of Courts office says records there are available, although those dating back to 1993 may not be computerized, and the Minot Police Department is processing Miller’s request.

“We’ll get her what we can,” said administrator Allison Elder.

___

The day of Chaska’s death, Miller and her youngest son, who was 11 at the time, were in Williston for a wedding, and returned to Minot late in the evening to find Chaska not at home. A friend arrived to pick them up for the overnight drive to Fort Totten, and noted, in passing, that there were a number of kids out on the street. Miller, focused on the next day’s plans, thought little of it, and although she’d planned to bring Chaska on the trip, decided he’d be fine on his own for the night.

Unaware that her son had been drawn into a gang-related street fight nearby, Miller left town. The brawl escalated until, in a scenario that Miller still wonders about, a young man stabbed Chaska in the chest and a teenage girl drove him to the hospital.

The man claimed he used the knife in self-defense, and no one was ever charged.

“I have questions about that,” Miller said.

She buried Chaska in Trenton, where he spent most of his childhood before the family relocated to Minot.

In 1999, Miller moved to Williston, finally retiring three years ago, and soon found that quieter days meant time to think.

“It’s been on my mind an awful lot. I’ve often wondered, what could I do. Would I ever get a chance to know what actually happened. there’s things missing,” she said.

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Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com


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