(1999) WWW online plea could be last chance to bring closure

Dever Detective puts Aquash murder case online

WWW online plea could be last chance to bring closure to case.


Late April, 1999
Interview with Lori Townsend

Transcribe by Trace A. DeMeyer, News From Indian Country

Will the Internet help bring closure to the 24 year old murder case of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash? One police officer hopes so.

Denver Police Detective Abe Alonzo with the Intelligence Bureau is looking to the Internet for information and leads on the kidnapping/murder of Anna Mae.

In a March 15, 1999 letter, printed in the late March issue of News From Indian Country, and posted on the World Wide Web under Aquash, Alonzo writes, "I'm asking anyone that can assist me with this investigation to call me, write me or email me with any information so we can close the investigation on Anna Mae's murder."

Alonzo spoke to Lori Townsend of WOJB-FM radio in Lac Courte Oreilles, Wisconsin on March 20. The following is a transcript of that interview.

Lori Townsend: How did you get involved in this case? You've been working on this investigation since 1994?

Abe Alonzo: Yes. I was introduced to the case, at that time, by Robert Ecoffey, the United States Marshall for the state of South Dakota. He'd come to Denver looking for some assistance with the investigation. The investigation started in the Denver area when Anna Mae was kidnapped from Denver and then taken up to South Dakota.

Townsend: Is it unusual for you to still be pursuing a case after 24 years?

Alonzo: Well, there is no statute of limitations on a murder investigation. It's obviously continuing and there are several elements that has kept this case active.

Townsend: The letter you sent, was it sent out on the Internet?

Alonzo: The letter went out on the Internet on AltNative and also under Aquash.

Townsend: Is this normally done, requesting leads in the investigation by getting information out on the Internet?

Alonzo: It may be the first in the country. I've received a lot of comments from other agencies. This is the first time that I know of that the Denver Police Department is utilizing the Internet to try and obtain additional information and try to make contact with individuals around the country that may be able to provide us with additional leads concerning this case.

Townsend: Detective, why this case?

Alonzo: I think this case has a lot of personal feelings with me as far as learning a bit about Anna Mae, learning more about Native Americans. We're at a point where we're very close to bringing final closure to this investigation. Although this case has been going for the last 24 years, I think there are folks out there that may be able to assist me with some pertinent information concerning Anna Mae's last few days.

Townsend: You mention in your letter that since 1994, the investigation has lead to three individuals who are responsible for taking Anna Mae from Denver and then to the northeast end of Pine Ridge and killing her. It sounds as if you know who the perpetrators are?

Alonzo: At this point, there is approximately a 24-hour time period after Anna Mae was taken from Denver to South Dakota. There was a meeting in South Dakota, as to what should be done with Anna Mae. And there were several individuals that were involved in that meeting that are aware of what was transpiring at the time. That particular time period is very crucial to this investigation. We are able to pinpoint how the three individuals took Anna Mae from Denver, up to the point where she was murdered on the reservation, but again, that 24-hour period in South Dakota, there are several individuals that may have some very pertinent information as to what transpired, just prior to Anna Mae being murdered.

Townsend: Are you aware of News From Indian Country's investigative reporting on this case, and the time line (www.indiancountrynews.com) they published?

Alonzo: Yes, I am.

Townsend: Was that a credible representation of the information as you know it?

Alonzo: Yes, credible to some points. Unfortunately, due to the investigation, I'm not able to indicate during that time period things that may not be accurate. But the majority of the information on that time line is fairly accurate.

Townsend: Detective, there has been a lot of conversation about COINTELPRO, the FBI's involvement. One of the things that you mention in your letter is you've found many inconsistencies with the tactics used by law enforcement in the mid and early 1970s. What specifically are you talking about? You also said that Anna Mae's life didn't matter; to who did it not matter?

Alonzo: Well, I'm certainly not at liberty to discuss the way things were handled back in the 1970s. What I found in my investigation is that there may not have been the tools to use to investigate a homicide case. The unfortunate thing, besides Anna Mae, there were several other Native Americans that were found dead on the reservation. All of them, for the most part, were ruled as dying from exposure. That leaves a lot of uncertainties in those type of investigations. I think there was probably a lot of difficulties during that period time, with Native Americans and law enforcement. Again, it may be the fact that 24 years ago, they didn't have the tools or the investigative experience to deal with those type of cases. I know one question that is still puzzling, and one that we may not be able to answer, is the fact that originally Anna Mae was found to have died from natural exposure, which was totally incorrect. After a second autopsy was performed, at that point they found that she was shot in the head.

There are a lot of difficulties with that first autopsy. Why didn't they find the trauma that Anna Mae experienced? Again, it could be the inexperience of law enforcement at that time. Through my investigation, I know there's not a whole lot of trust in law enforcement, and understandably why. I'm hoping with this new direction that I'm trying to take, as far as bringing this to light on the Internet, and to various other media, that folks will come forward and try to appreciate the fact that there are some dedicated law enforcement officers that would like to bring final closure to this Anna Mae investigation.

Townsend: Detective, I'm not certain what you can and cannot mention, so I'm going to ask this question. There has been speculation that Anna Mae was killed by the FBI. Others have said she was killed by members of the American Indian Movement, who she was supporting. What are your thoughts?

Alonzo: Our investigation has lead to three individuals that are not associated with the FBI, but were active members with AIM at the time, back in 1975. Our investigation is concentrating directly on those three individuals. We have not found anything that would implicate any other law enforcement agency that may have been involved in this murder investigation.

Townsend: The three individuals that you refer to and the missing crucial block of 24 hours, can you go back over it again, and what you are looking for. Were the three people you mention with her throughout the entire last period of time, up to the time of her death?

Alonzo:It's our understanding that these three individuals were, in fact, with her from the time that she was kidnapped from Denver then taken to site where Anna Mae's body was found. The crucial area, the 24 hours of time I'm talking about, is when Anna Mae was taken to a house in South Dakota, and at that point in time, apparently there was a meeting that was held to determine what should be done with Anna Mae. During that 24 hour period, these three individuals were still in control of Anna Mae. However, the legality of situations such as this, is we cannot have defendants testify against each other, so what we're looking for are individuals that may have been at that house, or have direct information as to who may have been at that house, during that period of time.

Townsend: Why can you not have defendants testify against each other?

Alonzo: It's very difficult, in order to present a case. It's done but it doesn't lead to a very strong case when you have co-defendants testifying against each other. It makes it very difficult to bring credibility to an investigation, such as that. We're hoping that if we can develop independent witnesses, it would certainly make the case a lot stronger.

Townsend:When did you post your letter on the Internet?

Alonzo: March 16.

Townsend: Have you had any responses?

Alonzo: I had 24 emails and 22 phone calls within 48 hours. Most of the information I received were from well-wishers and folks that were very considerate of the fact that this case hasn't been forgotten, that Anna Mae hasn't been forgotten. Calls came from several media types that were interested, for the mere fact a case of this magnitude was put on the Internet, requesting assistance for themselves. The response I thought was very good.

Townsend: But as of yet, no solid leads or information.

Alonzo: Not at this time. I can understand again, that there are many individuals, and not just Native Americans, that are reluctant to talk to law enforcement, for fear of being exposed. I'm hoping that those that do come forward with information, as I mentioned in my letter, I will keep in the strictest of confidence. Although, I will be very honest with those who read my article or hear this interview, we can't proceed with, for example, if we do have a witness that can assist us with that 24 hour period of time, those individuals would have to testify in court. I know it's a very difficult situation, but those are the types of things we're going to need in order to prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law.

Townsend: You've been in law enforcement for over 27 years, and have obviously seen many cases that garnered a lot of attention. What is it about this particular case, after this many years, keeps you still actively pursuing it?

Alonzo: I think the mere fact that the method in which Anna Mae was murdered, we obtained information that Anna Mae had requested to pray prior to being, she knew at the time she was going to be murdered, she wasn't allowed to do that. I think it was a very coward act on the individuals that did kill Anna Mae.

Seeing the crime scene pictures, it was very difficult to see a young lady that was just laying in the bottom of a ravine, and she'd been there for approximately three months. From everything that I got, I think that Anna Mae was a very good person and didn't deserve to die the way she did. It's really hard to explain, but it stuck with me. I keep my investigative files on my desk. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her.

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