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Old 02-24-2009, 08:36 AM   #1
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Unhappy Bodies of missing Wakpala teens found

Bodies of missing Wakpala teens found
By Kayla Gahagan, Journal staff
Rapid City Journal - 24 February 2009
Rapid City Journal | News Top | Bodies of missing Wakpala teens found

Two missing Wakpala teenagers whose bodies were found Sunday loved listening to their iPods and hanging out with their friends, a school official said Monday.

Mariah Roundtree, 17, and Jalen Mellette, 16, were last seen alive more than two weeks ago. Their bodies were located early Sunday evening, according to Standing Rock tribal Police Chief Mike Hayes.

Elmer Four Dance, special agent with the BIA District Headquarters in Aberdeen, said Roundtree's body was found about 5 p.m. Sunday and Mellette's body was found an hour later.

The teens disappeared Feb. 8. Her mother, Rhonda Roundtree, contacted area media on Feb. 12 after appealing earlier to law enforcement agencies about her missing person report. She and friends instigated a community volunteer search for the teens starting Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, and a relative offered a $1,000 reward for information about the girl.

After a landowner reported seeing the teens' car on Feb. 18, authorities and volunteers from South Dakota and North Dakota joined in a concentrated effort, searching by plane, all-terrain vehicles and on foot.

The teens' abandoned and locked car was stuck in mud on a private dirt road about 15 miles from where they were last seen on Promise Road.

Both bodies were found on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Four Dance said. They were four miles from the car, which was found on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

It was cold and raining hard the night they were traveling and neither teen was dressed for cold weather, according to relatives. Mariah was five months pregnant, according to her mother.

Authorities believe they might have been walking toward a casino to get help.

"Everything we've seen is consistent with exposure, but we can't rule anything out until we get the autopsy reports," Four Dance said. The autopsies are scheduled for Wednesday.

Francine Hall, principal at Wakpala High School, told the Aberdeen American News that Mariah and Jalen were good kids who will be greatly missed by students and staff. Both were juniors at the school.

"I knew that when I greeted them both, I would receive a respectful and cheery response," Hall said.

Hayes and other officers spent most of the day Monday at the Wakpala school, offering grief counseling and support.

"There were some emotions this morning," he said.

Hall said Hayes planned to tell students and staff that no foul play was suspected. She said both teens will be remembered positively.

Mellette was an honor student with excellent school attendance, who played on the varsity boys' basketball team.

"He was a respectful student to adults who work at the school and to his peers," Hall said. "He was somewhat of a jokester as well. ... Jalen trusted adults and was comfortable asking questions to find the answers."

Roundtree moved to Wakpala last spring from Milwaukee.

"(She) was not a happy camper having been uprooted from family and friends and a familiar school, but she made friends, and by the start of school in the fall she and Jalen were going together," Hall said. "Her happiness showed on her face. ... Staff here at the school have remarked that what they will remember about Mariah is that she had a sweet smile."

Mobridge Police Chief Mike Nehls said the Northern Oahe Rescue team was involved in the search and recovery effort Sunday.

"Sunday was a difficult day for everyone," he said. "It's not the outcome we were wanting. I can't imagine what the family is going through."

The Aberdeen American News contributed to this report.
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Old 02-24-2009, 01:14 PM   #2
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