Headquarters of Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe, in Winnebago, Nebraska. Photo: HCI

Three sentenced for roles in murder on Winnebago Reservation

William Redhorn was killed in attack outside of tribal corporation building
Young tribal citizens admitted roles in April 2017 crime
By Kevin Abourezk

Three tribal citizens have been sentenced for the murder of a 32-year-old man last year on the Winnebago Reservation in northeast Nebraska.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert F. Rossiter Jr. sentenced Jeremiah Wolfe, 20, and Lawrencia Merrick, 22, each to 15 years in prison for second-degree murder and Wolfe’s mother, Natasha Wolfe, 39, to 14 years for conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. All three also were given 5 years of supervised release upon completion of their prison terms.

None of them will have the opportunity to seek parole as there is no parole in the federal system, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The three are accused of killing and attempting to cover up the killing of William I. Redhorn, Jr., who was a citizen of the Winnebago Tribe, on April 23, 2017.

The murder took place in a parking lot outside the headquarters of Ho-Chunk Inc., the Winnebago Tribe’s economic development corporation and owner of Indianz.Com, just before 5 a.m on that day. The Wolfes, who are Winnebago, and Merrick, as well as a 14-year-old boy who was not identified in court documents, were parked in a Chevy Tahoe using their phones while connected to the building’s free wireless internet.

Redhorn was outside the building, looking for cigarettes. The Wolfes and Merrick, who hails from the neighboring Omaha Tribe, told police they thought Redhorn was trying to break into the building. Jeremiah Wolfe, the Tahoe’s owner, flashed his headlights. Merrick yelled at Redhorn to leave, but he flipped her off and yelled at the people in the Tahoe, according to court documents.

Merrick got out of the vehicle and approached Redhorn, who tried to hit her but missed. Jeremiah Wolfe then got out and began chasing Redhorn. The two men fell to the ground, and as Jeremiah Wolfe put Redhorn in a chokehold, Merrick began punching him in the head. Natasha Wolfe also struck Redhorn three times in the head with a flashlight.

Eventually, Redhorn’s body went limp, and the Wolfes and Merrick left. They drove to Natasha Wolfe's house to wash their clothes, before Jeremiah Wolfe and Merrick drove to the WinnaVegas Casino in nearby Sloan, Iowa.

Around 11 a.m. that morning, the two went mushroom hunting and then went to sleep that afternoon. They woke up later to discover Redhorn’s body had been found.

The Wolfes and Merrick all claim they thought Redhorn was simply unconscious when they left him and would wake up. None of them contacted police or medical personnel immediately after leaving the scene.

An autopsy later showed Redhorn died of strangulation and head trauma could have been a contributing factor. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Winnebago Police Department investigated Redhorn’s murder.

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