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Stories of the MMIW: Rose Downwind-Murdered

According to research performed by the National Institute of Justice, more than four in five American Indian and Alaskan Native men and women have experienced violence in their lifetime. More than one in three have been subjected to violence within the last year. As this is a severe issue faced by those of all backgrounds, help is provided worldwide by those willing to end the cycle, many of which have walked a mile in those shoes and left them behind. In America, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24-hours a day to anyone that needs to call at 800-799-7233. If calling is not an option for you, text is available. Just text Start to 88788, and someone will respond quickly.

According to her obituary, done by Northern Peace Funeral Home, Rose Downwind was born on November 8, 1983, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her parents, Darla Banks and Francis "Boog" Downwind, were proud parents to their sweet, caring daughter. Her grandmother, Dennis Banks, was a co-founder of the American Indian Movement. Rose was a member of the Red Lake Nation and her Indian name was "Miskaabanookwe", meaning "Morning of the Red Dawn".

She was a very dedicated mother to five children. Motherhood was not only her passion, it was her calling. There was nothing in the world she loved or cherished more than her kids. They were the most important part of her life.

Rose was only 31-years-old and just weeks away from her birthday when she went missing. She was last seen on October 19, 2015, at her local Target in Bemidji, Minnesota. According to the Bemidji Pioneer's timeline of this case, Darla received a text that was supposedly from her daughter on October 21. This text said that she had gone to the Twin Cities. It would later be found that this text was sent by a friend of her ex-boyfriend, named Christopher Davis. On October 25, her family reported her missing.

A 50-day-long search ensued to find her. Although the first public search for her didn't get under way until November 14. About 150 volunteers came out that day to help find the missing mother of five. Fox9 reported the many agencies that took part in the investigation. Among them were the Bemidji police, the Baltrami County sheriff, Lakes Area Dive Team, Leech Lake tribal police, Red Lake tribal police, the Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force, Minnesota State Patrol, U.S. Border Patrol, and the FBI. None other than reality TV personality, Dog the Bounty Hunter, got involved, too. In an interview with Indian Country Today, he spoke about his search for Rose and her elusive ex-boyfriend.

Duane "Dog" Chapman described the odd behavior displayed by Rose's ex and his two friends after he and his partner, Sam, came into the search. The pair had suspicions about them from the very beginning. They were also dealing with the swarm of false leads that were being called in. The Dog stated that when Rose did not pick up her monthly benefits, they knew to expect the worst. This was her sole income for supporting her children. There was no way she would've just left it untouched. Reports of an abusive relationship that had only just recently ended prompted Sam and the Dog's belief that the ex was responsible.

For years, Rose had been involved in an abusive relationship with 40-year-old Marchello Anthony Cimmarusti. Shortly before she went missing, the two had an altercation that led to domestic assault charges and a no-contact order for Cimmarusti. Dog the Bounty Hunter explains in his interview how this information led him to the home of his mother and grandfather. They tried to cover for him, saying that he had fled to Mexico. Shortly after their visit, Cimmarusti began texting a source of theirs, saying that he had actually been in the home at the time of their visit.

They hadn't managed to locate Rose or draw her ex-boyfriend out for information in the days proceeding her disappearance. On November 2, Dog offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Rose's whereabouts. It was his thought that Cimmarusti did not work alone. After all, a man that couldn't do anything on his own would not be able to dispose of a body alone, either. Maybe if enough money was laid on the table, someone would start to feel noble.

On December 7, Cimmarusti turned himself into police. Feeling the walls closing in, he walked into the station with a story prepared. MPR News stated that on October 20, 2015, he returned to the home he had once shared with Rose and their five children. She met him on the stairs with her phone in hand, filming him as proof he was breaking the no-contact order. He tried to take the phone from her in fury, and the two began to struggle. In his rage, he claimed to have pushed her down the steps. When he saw her lying there with blood running from her mouth, he checked for a pulse and found none. Instead of calling 911 or attempting to perform CPR, he just callously dragged her limp body to the basement and made a couple of phone calls.

With the help of his friends, Brandon Rossbach and Christopher Davis, Cimmarusti loaded her body into the back of an SUV. They took with them a tank of gasoline and stopped off at the Bemidji Walmart for styrofoam bowls. Security footage caught them leaving the store together. The men drove north on Highway 89 before turning off on a remote ATV trail. After digging a shallow grave, they tossed Rose's body inside and doused her with gasoline before littering her remains with the styrofoam bowls. They watched for several hours after lighting the fire. All the while, Cimmarusti made justifications to his friends for his actions. He had to do this for his children, he claimed.

After spilling his guts to the police, he told them where they could find Rose's body. He obviously didn't expect the autopsy results to contradict his confession. When the shallow grave containing her remains was found on December 9, it was seen that the blaze that burned her body had also scorched the bark off of the nearby trees. Styrofoam can be utilized in the making of homemade napalm as the material will become gelatinous as it melts, sticking to any surface. If authorities had any doubts about the involvement of Cimmarusti's friends, a quick look into their internet search histories cleared that up. It was found that Christopher Davis had used his phone to search "how hot does a fire have to be to burn through bone".

The Ramsey County medical examiner performed the autopsy and ripped apart the ex's confession in the process. Bring Me the News reported on the findings in a short article. Upon initial examination, a wire ligature was found still wrapped around Rose's neck. Though it had been charred by the fire, it had not been destroyed. Her cause of death was determined to be "homicidal violence," likely caused by strangulation. When the results were made public on December 11, Cimmarusti's charges had to be changed.

Initially, Rose's ex had been charged with second degree murder in the Bemidji District Court. The charge came nearly two months after her family reported missing. The very same day, Rossbach was also arraigned for aiding an offender. After the medical examiner's office revealed their findings, Cimmarusti was looking at a completely different charge carrying more time. On April 18, 2016, he pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional murder, testifying that he had just snapped. He also provided testimony about his accomplices' involvement in the disposal of Rose's body. Finally, on February 9, 2017, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for murdering the mother of his children. Not nearly enough time for robbing five young, innocent young people of both their parents.

On July 5, 2016, Rossbach pleaded not guilty. His trial began on October 18. It took less than a week for a jury to hear what they needed to hear, and on October 26, found him guilty. He was sentenced to 16 years and 9 months in prison on December 20.

Davis accepted his fate and pleaded guilty to aiding an offender. On August 29, 2016, he was handed a 10-year and three-month sentence. Though all three conspirators had been caught and sentenced, the terms hardly seemed harsh enough. These men will one day walk free again, while all of the possibilities for Rose's future have ended.

Justice just didn't feel swift or sweet when the verdicts were rendered. Upon Cimmarusti's sentencing, Rose's family expressed their wish for him to die. Emotions were high when the man that robbed his own children of their mother received less than life in prison.

In an abusive relationship, the most dangerous time for the victim is when they're preparing to leave. The level of danger doesn't decrease once they're out, either. Many abusers will stop at nothing to regain control of their victims. While Cimmarusti claims to have snapped in the heat of the moment, the fact remains that he used a ligature wire to strangle her and never stated where it came from. He also never said exactly why he arrived at Rose's house that day. Despite his testimony, it would appear that he arrived there that day to do just what he did. Nevertheless, in just 30 years he will be free, while Rose's family and children are left to carry on without the brightest part of their lives.

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