Lame Deer woman sentenced for beating death of young mother - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Lame Deer woman sentenced for beating death of young mother

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Hanna Harris and son Jeremiah Hanna Harris and son Jeremiah
BILLINGS -- Eugenia Anne Rowland, the Lame Deer woman who walked free for eight months before finally admitting she killed a young mother in 2013, was sentenced on Thursday to more than two decades in federal prison.

Rowland, 42 years old, who admitted she helped her husband beat 21-year-old Hanna Harris to death on July 4, 2013, was sentenced to 22 years in prison and will not be eligible for parole.

Rowland had previously pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide and obstructing justice.

Before U.S. District Court Judge Susan Watters delivered the sentence, several of Harris' family members took the stand to express their sorrow and condemn Rowland.

"I want you to know right off the bat that I don't want to hear any 'sorrys' from you," said Harris' mother, Melinda Harris. 

Harris left behind a young son, Jeremiah, who now lives with Melinda Harris.

"Her son is going to be without a mother, just like your kids are going to be without a mother and father," said Melinda Harris.

Rowland had 10 children, two of whom died.

Rowland and her husband of 17 years, Garrett Wadda, were partying with Harris at a powwow on the night of the murder.

All three were "heavily intoxicated" when they left the JimTown Bar outside Lame Deer.

Later that night, Rowland and Wadda attacked and killed Harris. A motive for the attack remains unclear, as is the exact cause of the victim's death.  

For several days, Harris' disappearance was considered a missing persons case.

About four days later, Harris' body was discovered partly unclothed and face down in the dirt of the Lame Deer rodeo grounds.

Harris' body was so badly decomposed from exposure that not much evidence could be collected from her body.

Rowland and Wadda both vehemently denied to investigators that they were involved in Harris' death.

During initial interviews, Rowland said there had been another man with the three of them that night.

She said the man was with Harris and went so far as to describe him as smelling like "trash or a diaper" and wearing a specific sort of hat.

Months later, Rowland admitted to investigators that she had lied about the man. She also admitted she lied about other details of that night which were critical to the investigation, such as seeing Harris drive away from Rowland and Wadda's trailer.

Prosecutors argued that Rowland's falsified testimony hindered the investigation and thus obstructed justice.

Wadda, who admitted to moving Harris' body but did not confess to the murder, has previously pleaded guilty and will be sentenced for obstructing justice.

FBI Special Agent Brandon Walter, who investigates violent crime on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, testified that the "red herring," or imaginary suspect, sent the investigation on a false path and impeded the collection of evidence.

Harris' body was so badly decomposed when she was finally found that the family had to hold a closed-casket funeral, something that Harris' mother said will prevent her from ever having closure.

"We would've had a face to touch, a body to touch, but instead all we got was a box," Melinda Harris testified Thursday.

Several of Harris' family members made emotional pleas to the judge to sentence Rowland to life in prison. However, that sentence is not within the federal sentencing guidelines.

Harris' father told Rowland she will have to live with what she did for the rest of her life.

"Every day you put your hands in the water to wash your face, every day you take a bite of food, she's going to be with you," said Sam Long. "This is just the beginning."

In the final moments before the sentence was pronounced, Rowland was given the opportunity to make a final statement.

Rowland told the judge she wished to address Harris' family, at which point a majority of the approximately 30 family members stood up and left the courtroom.

"I'm not an evil person," said Rowland to those who remained in the room. "I loved Hannah, and because of my drinking problem, she's gone."

Rowland has 16 counts of alcohol-related crimes on her tribal court record, Watters said while reviewing her criminal record. 

"These all-too-frequent instances of excessive drinking on the reservation always end in something bad," said Watters. "On this occasion, it resulted in the death of a young mother."

Rowland asked the judge to be sentenced to a prison in Arizona so she can be closer to family. The judge agreed to make a recommendation, but her prison placement will be decided by federal prison officials. 

Wadda will be sentenced on April 1.

Wadda faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
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