BROWNING — A Montana mother is trying to get justice for her son, 25-year old Raydel Calf Looking, after he was caught up in Arizona's sober living home scam and didn’t make it back home alive.
“He wanted to change his life around, he was trying to get clean,” says Mona Bear Medicine, Calf Looking’s mom.
Mona Bear Medicine hoped her son, a member of the Blackfeet nation, was finally getting the help he needed. She says a Browning addiction treatment center, Journey to Recovery, referred him to calm integrated in Phoenix, a sober living home that’s since been suspended by the state of Arizona. That was in September 2022; by April 2023 Calf Looking was dead at the age of 25.
“He really did good when he got down there,” says Bear Medicine.
But after his first few months, his family says he was caught up in the shuffle of the scam, moved from one home to the next as Arizona continued suspending fraudulent homes.
Bear Medicine says her son relapsed and then disappeared.
“He was missing, he was on a missing persons poster,” says Reva Stewart, founder of Stolen People, Stolen Benefits.
The grassroots group called Stolen People, Stolen Benefits assisted and his family eventually found him at yet another home.
“When we went to that sober living place, what was so sketchy was he was intoxicated. The people that were head of the household came out with him knowing that he was intoxicated, like highly intoxicated,” says Bear Medicine.
Bear Medicine offered to buy him a plane ticket back to Browning, but Calf Looking wanted to build a life in Arizona, but what happened ended his life.
“There’s one area that has I think 65 sober living homes in their gated community of 200 homes,” says Stewart.
“He was living in the neighborhood where a lot of the houses look the same,” says Jeri Long, a volunteer with Stolen People, Stolen Benefits. “He had left the house and he was walking back, and he entered the wrong home and the homeowners shot him.”
Bear Medicine heard the news from a Phoenix detective.
“My phone rang and it said Phoenix Arizona, and it was a detective Walsh,” says Bear Medicine. “She told me that my son was shot. I dropped the phone. I almost literally blacked out.”
Bear Medicine says autopsy results have not yet been released, and the detective first reported to her that Calf Looking was breaking into a home and shot. However, the family believes he was shot in the back, likely while trying to walk away. MTN News tried to contact the police department, but haven't heard back.
“I can’t get answers,” says Bear Medicine with frustration.
In a scam so sophisticated, tracking down the last sober living home her son was at and holding someone accountable, she fears, is nearly impossible.
For an entire list of sober living homes suspended by the state of Arizona to this date, click here.
Montana’s Blackfeet Nation recently declared a public health state of emergency because of the issue.
The Blackfeet Nation requests that any individuals returning home should immediately cancel their Arizona ACHHHS (Medicaid) benefits, change their residency back to Montana, and put a credit alert and freeze on the three credit reporting agencies. They also advise relatives to check on any family members who are in Arizona receiving treatment to make sure they are in a legitimate facility.
Stewart with Stolen People, Stolen Benefits, has an Amazon wishlist under Reva J Stewart for those wanting to help provide water and hygiene kits to tribal members on the street who are in 100+ temperatures in Phoenix. Stolen People, Stolen Benefits also has a GoFundMe page to assist tribal members.
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