It’s been an emotionally draining day for many people connected to the death of toddler James Many White Horses, according to relatives of the boy.
About 30 minutes ago, Judge Julie Macek sentenced the boy’s mother, Summer Many White Horses, to 55 years in the Montana State Women’s Prison for negligent homicide and evidence tampering. Police found the boy after arresting the mother who led police on a car chase in Great Falls, Mont., in July 2008.
I talked with Leona Gopher, maternal aunt to Many White Horses. She said the family is deeply saddened by the death of James. And they are also asking questions about why he died. “The child protective services , the state, failed summer and her kids. She was a habitual offender. Why did they keep giving her kids back to her?” said Gopher of Yakima, Wash. Gopher drove to Great Falls to attend the hearing. “We feel sorry for the baby how lived, the sad little life he had.”
Many White Horses plead guilty on June 12, 2009.
Gopher said she felt sad for her niece and her children. An 11-year-old was in the car during the police chase last summer. Gopher said the family is upset by the negative publicity surrounding the toddler’s death. “The system knew she needed help. They should have helped if they were going to place the children with her.” Many White Horses has lived in Missoula, Browning and Great Falls, according to relatives who I talked with today. Many White Horses was enrolled with the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana.
Gopher said her niece told the family the boy died in a fall. She then said she was afraid to report the death because she didn’t want to return to prison.
“Only Summer and God know what happened,” said Gopher. “She was at fault for hiding him.”
The family’s remaining wish is that the boy finally be buried.