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Arapaho man heads to trial for murder of daughter

A 31-year-old member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming faces the death penalty as he goes on trial today for the murder of his 22-month-old daughter.

Marcella Hope Yellowbear was the first of four children born to Andrew Yellowbear and Macalia Blackburn, 24, a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. The couple had a history of crime and domestic violence, The Casper Star-Tribune reports. Yellowbear pleaded guilty to battery in one incident in which he beat Blackburn when she was three months pregnant.

The two families didn't want the couple to be together because they were considered cousins, the paper said. Both sides harbor negative feelings about each other and they battled over funeral and burial arrangements for Marcella, who was eventually laid to rest in the Blackburn family cemetery.

Yellowbear and Blackburn were both charged with abusing Marcella, who died on July 2, 2004. Blackburn pleaded guilty to a charge of being an accessory to second-degree murder. She is expected to testify against Yellowbear, who unsuccessfully challenged the state's jurisdiction in the case.

The trial was moved to Thermopolis out of concern for anti-Indian bias and bias against Yellowbear as an Arapaho. Marcella was enrolled Shoshone. She had been under the supervision of the Northern Arapaho Tribe's Child Protection Services office, which handles about 500 cases at any given time.

Get the Story:
A troubled life cut short (The Casper Star-Tribune 3/5)
Big caseloads norm for Arapaho office (AP 3/6)

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