Charges filed in Rosebud reservation killings

2014-01-15T07:00:00Z Charges filed in Rosebud reservation killingsJoe O'Sullivan Journal staff Rapid City Journal
January 15, 2014 7:00 am  • 

It was a brutal end for the two men found murdered on New Year's Eve near St. Francis on the Rosebud Sioux reservation.

The killer of Ben Clifford, a 76-year-old tribal elder, strangled him to death, according to court documents. Calvin Kills In Water, Jr., 33, of St. Francis, was beaten and stabbed in the chest with a screwdriver.

Now, a grand jury has indicted two men suspected of the murders. BillyRay McCloskey, 23, and Riley McCloskey, in his early 20s, were each indicted for second-degree murder.

Crystal Red Hawk, 36, has also been indicted for aiding the suspects after the fact. Riley and Red Hawk will make their first appearances today in federal court in Pierre.

No motive was listed in court documents for the killings. Calls to Iver Crow Eagle, acting police chief of the Rosebud Reservation, were not returned by press time.

Clifford and Kills In Water died on either Dec. 23 or Dec. 24, according to court documents. But it wasn't until early on the morning of Dec. 31 that tribal police found their bodies in a field south of the community of St. Francis.

Beth Lone Eagle, Clifford's niece, said the family reported Clifford missing on Christmas Eve.

Clifford, a former bus and ambulance driver who lived in White River, was always helping people however he could, according to Lone Eagle.

"We call it just being that old Lakota way," said Lone Eagle, a retired teacher who lives in Bridger. "That's just how he was."

Clifford once gave Lone Eagle's son a car, she added. 

Biagio Arobba, a nephew of Clifford, said he remembers spending time outdoors with his uncle out in the hills. Clifford often reminisced about his childhood.

"When he was younger, they had to make up their own toys to play with, using materials they found and most of the time they would use their imagination," Arobba wrote in an email. "He remembered using a few small dried animal bones for a cowboy and horse and running around outside playing in tall tufts of dirt with friends like king of the hill."

In 2010, BillyRay, who has also gone by Billy Ray Earl, pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon, according to court records. He and Riley were among a group of men in St. Francis who were challenged to fight early on the morning of January 12, 2010. After chasing down one of the men, BillyRay stabbed him in the back with a steak knife and penetrated the man's lung, according to court documents.

BillyRay was sentenced to 21 months in prison and was released last April, according to federal prison records.

A grand jury indicted Riley in November on charges of a burglary, robbery and assault that took place at a St. Francis residence in June. Riley has pleaded not guilty to those charges but a trial date has been pushed back partly because of the murder charges, according to court documents. 

Lone Eagle said she was frustrated that it took law enforcement a week to find Kills In Water and Clifford.

"When you have an elder that is reported missing and that something is wrong," she said, "you need to treat it like a child is missing."

Contact Joe O'Sullivan at 394-8414 or joe.osullivan@rapidcityjournal.com

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. st francis member
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    st francis member - January 15, 2014 5:55 pm
    the leaders of the st francis community should have recognized this particular family was so troubled but instead stuck up for them, now these same "leaders" are just as responsible just as much as the rst pd who always responded to this family as the victims when they should have realized what they were capable of.....so sad
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