Stories of the MMIW: Faith Lindsey - Murdered
One very sad trend in cases pertaining to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is domestic abuse. Research has proved that Native American women face this grim reality at a far higher rate than women of other races. Why this is so is anyone's guess. Is it that the entire nation of Native Americans have been a target for racism for so long that everyone feels like they can get away with it? Or, like in this case of domestic abuse gone way too far, the recent McGirk ruling may make those with negative intentions feel invincible on Native American land. Help is available through the Domestic Abuse Hotline, their numbers I included in the first paragraph of my last MMIW story on Rose Downwind. Both numbers to call and text can be found there if anyone needs them.
The Ada News reported that Faith Lindsey was a 17-year-old member of the Chickasaw Nation when she disappeared on Monday, October 28, 2019. Now, almost three years later, her remains have yet to be found. Originally from Ada, Oklahoma, KXII states that she was a straight-A student in school. She was also known for being the kind of sweet soul that would help anyone with anything if they needed it. At that time, Faith was living with her boyfriend, Tanner Washington, reported by The Ada News as 26-years-old, but by NBC News as 24. Tanner was from Stratford, Oklahoma and the two were living in Pauls Valley when she vanished. She was employed at a local Sonic and was scheduled to work the day she went missing. She never made it to work that day.
Faith's sister, Justice, sat down with Dateline to speak about her sister and the case, according to NBC News. She said that on that Monday night, she received panicked text messages from Tanner, saying that Faith was missing and he couldn't find her. True Case Files fills in some of the gaps in this story, saying that Tanner claimed to have dropped her off at work at around 2:50 in the afternoon. He said that when he came back two hours later to visit her, she wasn't there. Faith's coworkers stated that they never saw her come in for her shift that day.
Justice said that shortly after Tanner messaged her, Faith supposedly sent her some very odd texts. These messages said that she was with someone that wasn't allowing her to leave and go home. There was a problem, though. Even in text messages, Faith had excellent spelling and punctuation. Whoever was sending these messages did not. It clearly wasn't her sister, making Justice all the more suspicious that something had happened to her. On November 4, her family filed a missing persons report.
The next thing she knew, Justice began getting phone calls. They were all from her sister's number, but no one ever spoke. These eerie calls raised her suspicions to a peak level. Every time she picked up the phone, longing to hear Faith's voice assuring her that she was okay, the mysterious caller would hang up. It's unknown if the intention was to give her hope that Faith was alive somewhere, or if it was simply a cruel attempt at freaking her out. Her murderer has never brought that or the location of her body up.
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office asked that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) step in, and they did so in November of that year. They offered a $5000 reward to anyone with information leading to Faith's remains as the investigation progressed. It didn't take them long to figure out that they weren't looking for a girl, they were looking for her body. The strange behavior and ever-changing story of her boyfriend is the very component that brought them to this conclusion. They were convinced that this man was guilty. His admission of being controlling in their relationship and getting physical when they fought sealed his fate in their eyes. News 9 reported that in late December 2019, the OSBI arrested Tanner for first-degree murder.
The arrest wasn't made in haste. The OSBI made sure their case against him was solid before they brought it to trial. Given his apparent notion of talking too much, gathering testimony against him wasn't any feat to accomplish. An ex-girlfriend of his told investigators that she and her husband were paid a visit by Tanner on October 29. He remarked to them that Faith had been shot and he was the reason. They noticed the blood that was staining his shoes, pants, and phone. He had also told some others that she had been shot in the head.
Search warrants were obtained and several items seized. His Camaro, the clothes and shoes he was wearing that day, and a truck that he had recently sold since his girlfriend's disappearance. DNA samples were taken from her parents for comparison, and they were a perfect match. The samples taken from Tanner's clothes, car, and truck most definitely belonged to Faith Lindsey.
Unfortunately, this conviction would not stick. His charges were dropped in light of the August 2020, McGirt Supreme Court ruling. This ruling overturned the conviction of a child rapist named Jimcy McGirt on the grounds that the Creek Nation's reservation was never disestablised for criminal jurisdiction. According to Oklahoma.gov, state courts no longer have the authority to prosecute crimes committed by or against Native American tribe members living in Oklahoma. After this ludicrous ruling, Tanner's attorney filed to have the case dropped since the crime had taken place on Native American land. He won and his state charges were dropped. What he didn't count on was the federal government coming along to pick up the ball that Oklahoma dropped. In May 2021, a federal complaint was filed against him in federal court for first-degree murder.
Just weeks ago, Tanner Washington took a plea agreement, confessing to the murder of his girlfriend. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Although his confession is part of his plea deal, The Ada News points out that he has no agreement with the federal government. While it's not yet known what kind of sentence he will receive, he's looking at any number of years up to life in prison for his heinous act. Oklahoma News 4, or Kfor.com, published his confession from court documents. He admitted to everything, except where he put the body, saying, "I did unlawfully kill Faith Lindsey with malice aforethought." He even admitted to telling others that she had been shot in the head over the weekend.
Oklahoma News 4 quoted a legal expert that stated if Tanner had not taken the deal, he would've certainly been handed a life sentence at trial. He went on to say that his agreement will at least ensure that he sees the outside of a cell before he's 90. With DNA evidence in the defense's pocket, he knew there was no squirming out of this.
Though Tanner has been caught and thrown into a cell where he belongs, the search continues for Faith's remains, nearly three years later. Anyone with any information leading to her family's closure is urged to call the Pauls Valley Police Department at 405-238-5531, or the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation at 800-522-8017.