Ponemah man to serve 16 years for second-degree murder


RED LAKE -- A 39-year-old Red Lake man was sentenced to 16 years in prison for second-degree murder for the death of his wife in Jan. 2019.

U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald issued a statement Tuesday, announcing the sentencing of Jeremiah Kingbird, of Ponemah. Kingbird, who pleaded guilty on Oct. 8, 2019, was sentenced on Sept. 29 before Judge Susan Richard Nelson in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, during the early morning hours of Jan. 6, 2019, following a night of drinking in Bemidji, Kingbird and the victim, his wife, were traveling in a vehicle to their home in Ponemah when Kingbird and the victim began to argue and engage in a physical altercation. While driving, he struck the victim in her head, used his hand to strangle her, and then left her on the road near Highway 1 and Old Ponemah Road in Redby.

According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, law enforcement found the victim, hours later, lying face down in the snow with severe injuries to her head and neck and having difficulty breathing. The victim was transported to the Red Lake Indian Health Services Hospital where hospital staff were unsuccessful in reviving her, the announcement said.

During a search of Kingbird’s vehicle, law enforcement observed blood on the front passenger window of the vehicle. Kingbird admitted to violently assaulting the victim and leaving her outside in the elements.


In a Pioneer article at the time of the incident, the weather was reported as, “Jan. 5 had a high of 32 degrees and a low of 11. Jan. 6 had a high of 28 degrees and a low of 15 degrees.”

“Addressing MMIP (Missing and Murdered Indigenous People) cases is a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and for the Department of Justice,” said U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald. “In this particular case, Mr. Kingbird subjected his wife to extreme physical violence before leaving her on the side of a road, exposed to below freezing temperatures. The disproportionally high rates of violence that plague Native American women is unacceptable. Today’s sentence represents justice for the victim and our commitment to putting an end to the staggering MMIP issue.”

On Nov. 22, 2019, Attorney General William P. Barr launched a national strategy to address missing and murdered Native Americans. When establishing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative the Department of Justice made an initial investment of $1.5 million to hire 11 MMIP coordinators in 11 states to serve with all U.S. Attorney’s offices in those states, and others who require assistance. In addition to Minnesota, Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington state were selected.

This case was the result of an investigation conducted by the Red Lake Tribal Police Department and the FBI Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force.

What To Read Next
Get Local