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Preliminary autopsy report: Selena Not Afraid died of hypothermia

Posted: 2:48 PM, Jan 23, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-23 21:28:17-05
Selina Shelley Faye Not Afraid

BILLINGS — A preliminary autopsy report indicates that Selena Not Afraid died of hypothermia, Big Horn County Undersheriff Eric Winburn said Thursday afternoon.

A final report will not be ready until toxicology reports are finished, which could take another several weeks, he said.

Big Horn County Attorney Jay Harris said in a news release that the preliminary results did not indicate physical injuries consistent with an assault or physical abuse. The evidence is consistent with death by exposure to the elements, but an official cause of death will be made pending the full toxicology report.

Winburn said there were no signs of the body being moved to the spot it was found. Harris' office is investigating Not Afraid's death as a possible criminal matter.

Not Afraid was reported missing on January 1st after her vehicle broke down at the rest stop while she was returning home from a party in Billings. She was in a vehicle with a group of friends who last saw her wandering into a field. Initial reports indicated that she was intoxicated at the time. Investigators have stated they received "conflicting statements" about Not Afraid's whereabouts from other occupants in the car, who were all intoxicated.

Her body was found Monday by professional trackers from the U.S. Department of Interior after doing a grid search of the area, about a mile and a half from the rest stop.

Winburn said all the investigative reports still need to be completed before turning over to the County Attorney Jay Harris' office.

The autopsy was conducted by Montana's chief medical examiner, Dr. Robert Kurtzman, at the Montana Crime Lab in Billings.

We will update you as we get more information.



(JANUARY 22, 2020) Big Horn County Attorney Jay Harris is demanding all evidence from the Sheriff's Office related to the search for and discovery of the body of Selena Not Afraid to determine whether criminal charges should be filed for her death.

Not Afraid was reported missing on January 1st after her vehicle broke down at the rest stop while she was returning home from a party in Billings. She was in a vehicle with a group of friends who last saw her wandering into a field. Initial reports indicated that she was intoxicated at the time. Investigators have stated they received "conflicting statements" about Not Afraid's whereabouts from other occupants in the car, who were all intoxicated.

Harris said in a Tuesday news release that his office has not made a ruling on whether her death was "foul play." Big Horn County Sheriff Lawrence Big Hair had said her death was not foul play after her body was found Monday about a mile away from an I-90 rest stop following a three-week search.

On Tuesday, Big Horn County Undersheriff Eric Winburn said there did not appear to be any evidence that her body was moved before she was found by federal trackers less than a mile from the I-90 rest area that had been the focus of the three-week search. There were no foot prints or tracks in the area near her body, he said, and there was also no obvious injuries on her body. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday in Billings.

Big Hair said searchers had likely searched the area where her body was found, including by helicopter, but did not spot her. “Myself, I went walking there into the night. And I was within 200 yards of her body probably about a week ago. I just took a wrong turn and didn't walk up to where she was at. But I was that close to her body that evening. It's just a big country out here to search," Big Hair told MTN News.

Others combed the general vicinity on foot, he added. "I don’t know if they walked that same place where she was found. There were search dog teams that were in the area as well. I don’t know if they went through the area where she was found," Big Hair said.

Harris said in his news release that Not Afraid's death remains a criminal investigation, and added that no promises of immunity or characterizations of evidence by the Sheriff's office are binding. Click here to read the full text of the news release (PDF).

"The public should rest assured that any provable State criminal activities surrounding the circumstances of the disappearance of Selena Not Afraid will be brought to accountability in a timely fashion," Harris wrote, adding that he's advised the Sheriff's Office to make no more public comments on the case.