By David Schechter
He also said neither animal had been skinned, contrary to what the owner of the ranch reported.
On Tuesday, Meeks closed the case but says his evidence contradicts statements by ranch owner Arby Little Soldier that Lightning had been skinned. In fact, law enforcement sources tell News 8, ranch personnel would have known the animal’s condition because they buried it in the first place.
“We have photographs indicating LMC was not skinned. The photographs depict skin and hair on the remains and the vet advised there was a lot of skin that was still left on the remains,” said Meeks.
Meeks also revealed Little Soldier waited six days to report Lightning’s death.
“Lightning Medicine Cloud was deceased at least six days and buried for three days prior to our notification. The remains were decomposed," Meeks said.
Contacted by WFAA before the announcement, Little Soldier said that Lightning Medicine Cloud was killed in what he feels should be regarded as a hate crime. Little Soldier has attracted attention for the $45,000 reward offer (there is an explanation for it at lightningmedicinecloud.com) and for reportedly naming Yolanda Blue Horse, who is part of Greenville’s American Indian community, as a suspect. The Sheriff’s Office said it would not file any charges against Little Soldier.
Comment: Wow. Assuming the latest reports are true, this must be one of the most bungled cases of reporting I've ever seen.
For starters, it seems Little Soldier was either lying to the press or deluding himself. He gave the impression that he found the calf's newly butchered carcass. You know, skin completely removed, raw meat visible, slash marks everywhere, blood and gristle on the ground, etc.
He also gave the impression that he called the police immediately and they confirmed the butchery. Or at least they didn't deny it.
Now it turns out he found a body with a substantial amount of skin left. Presumably the skin fell off because of the disease or decomposition. Are we to believe experienced ranchers couldn't tell the difference between skin falling off randomly and intentional butchering?
Then Little Soldier let the body rot for three days, buried it for three days, and then reported it to the police. Supposedly while he consulted with "elders." It doesn't sound like he was very concerned about finding the "killer." Did he seriously think the police would be able to do their jobs with a body that he'd handled, moved, buried, unburied, etc.?
No, it sounds more like he knew the calf died of natural causes but lied about it. And ordered his staff to lie too. How does a staff veterinarian not know the difference between intentional skinning and random decomposition?
It also sounds like Little Soldier used the natural death in a clumsy attempt to gain publicity and perhaps money. Perhaps even to frame a rival. I'm not seeing any explanation that makes more sense.
Everyone misreported the case
I'm not letting reporters off the hook on this one either. Did anyone ask to see photos of the body? Or construct a timeline of when it was discovered vs. when it was reported? Indeed, did anyone do any reporting in person?
Or did they simply take Little Soldier's word about what he found? I tell ya...if I called someone or someone called me about a case, I wouldn't just take their word for it. I'd ask for photos or confirm the story with the police, at least. You know, "Little Soldier claims his calf was killed and skinned. Is that true? Did you find it dead with its skin removed with knives?"
In short, how do you write the calf was found butchered and skinless when it was buried for days and still had part of its skin? Other than the fact of its death, the reporters got almost everything wrong. It's like writing about a "murder" without noting the victim was found hanging from the ceiling--an obvious sign of suicide.
For more on the subject, see $45,000 Reward for White Buffalo Killer and Sacred White Buffalo Killed and Skinned?