The Great Falls Tribune reported in October 2021 that as the 5th of that month there were 203 active missing persons cases in Montana. Of these 29%, or 60 people, were Native American. With Native Americans only comprising 6.7% of the state's population, these are alarming numbers. The issue is not only with missing persons cases among the Native population, as I've come to know very well in writing this series. The population of murdered Indigenous women and girls in this nation is not only appalling, but disgraceful. What's even more disgraceful is the absolute lack of media coverage these cases receive. I truly wish that I could write longer stories on these cases, but the information simply is not available. Although I found many sources on this story, all of them were brief with their information.
Findagrave.com gives the birth date for Roylynn Rides Horse as January 8, 1988. She was born in Sheridan, Wyoming and was a proud member of the Crow Tribe. Roylynn was a lucky woman, with three parents in her life, her biological father, Roy Rides Horse Sr., her mother Ernestine, and stepfather Jerry Pretty Weasel. A loving, caring, and busy mother, Roylynn had six children. She was 28-years-old and living on the Crow Reservation in Montana at the time of her death.
TheCinemaholic wrote a piece on this case, stating that on the night of April 17, 2016, Roylynn had gotten into a fight with her boyfriend at a bar. Monsters & Critics report that this saloon was located in Kirby, Montana. Looking for some help in the midst of the argument, Roylynn turned to the wrong person. She called Dimarzio Swade Sanchez, causing her boyfriend to back off and leave her alone. Roylynn left the bar with Dimarzio and two others, his brother Frank James Sanchez, and a woman named Angelica Jo Whiteman.
On the ride back to the Crow Reservation, a fight erupted between Angelica and Roylynn. The two began fighting over a man and it quickly escalated out of control. From her position in the front seat, Angelica began punching Roylynn. Dimarzio pulled the car over in a remote area, where all four of them got out. Angelica beat Roylynn in a field until she was unconscious. Once she was out, Dimarzio showed her how to strangle Roylynn using a bandana. Angelica grabbed the bandana and choked Roylynn while she was already unconscious and unable to fend her attackers off.
After beating the poor woman until she was incapacitated and choking her, they decided to go even further. In a horrifying turn of events, Frank retrieved a can of gasoline from the trunk of his brother's car. They stripped Roylynn completely naked before dousing her in the combustible liquid and lighting her limp, beaten body on fire. After the horrendous assault, the three got back into Dimarzio's car and left her alone in the field to die.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the field she was left in was located east of the Crow Agency, near the border of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. A rancher stopped his truck on Castle Rock Road when he discovered the naked and burnt body of a helpless young woman still clinging to life. For 14 hours after the terrorizing attack, Roylynn lay in that field, cold and alone as she suffered unimaginable injuries. She was airlifted to a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah to treat her wounds. It was said in The San Diego Union-Tribune's article that she suffered third-degree burns over 45% of her body as well as frost bite that covered her legs.
She languished in her hospital bed for over two months. Roylynn proved to be the real fighter in this situation as she clung to life through everything she'd been through. While the cowards that assaulted and disfigured her ran away, Roylynn battled to stay alive. On June 28, 2016, she succumbed to her wounds and passed away. While her family was left heartbroken, they knew that she would suffer no more.
The vicious attack left the community aghast. Roylynn's case attracted widespread attention from state law makers and tribal leaders alike. It shed light on the difficulties that a small tribal police force faces trying to patrol an enormous reservation. The Crow Agency sprawls over 3,100 square miles. Crow tribal leaders and federal law enforcement worked together to brainstorm ways to increase police presence on the large reservation. Cross-deputizing officers was discussed as an option. This would allow officers from outside agencies to patrol the land as well as the tribal police.
As with every other MMIW case I've written about, Roylynn's family felt left in the dark on her case. They received very little information, causing them to worry. With so many other missing and murdered Native women left unreported in the media and under-investigated by law enforcement, would Roylynn's case be just the same?
Fortunately a week before her death Roylynn's attackers were arrested and charged in a US District Court with assault with intent to commit murder. Dimarzio took his chances at trial in federal court, while his cohorts took plea bargains. A four-day-long trial concluded on December 7, 2017, in which 20-year-old Dimarzio was found guilty. Indianz.com reported that he was convicted of first-degree murder and received the mandatory life sentence for his offense at his sentencing on March 29, 2018.
Angelica and Frank, both only 19-years-old, took plea deals to ensure they would only throw part of their lives away for the atrocious crime. Angelica pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree murder. Considering her role in the murder, this sounds like a deal with the devil. Frank also pleaded guilty to misprison of a felony and accessory after the fact. At her sentencing on January 3, 2018, Angelica received a 40-year sentence with 5 years of supervised release. Frank was handed a 9-year sentence with 3 years of supervised release. Indianz.com stated that Frank was also expected to pay more than $14,000 restitution.
While this is the most brutal and senseless case I've covered in my Stories of the MMIW series so far, at the very least the perpetrators were caught. The most saddening thing of all is the fact that these three Crow members took the life of one of their own when there is already an epidemic of missing and murdered women and girls among Native communities. Due to the vicious and malicious intentions of the people she looked to for a ride home, a ripple tore through the Crow Agency. A young mother was taken from her six children. Three young people completely threw their lives away over a meaningless fight they let go entirely too far. And a family is left without an important member. A mother, a daughter, a sister taken too soon without reason.