SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Seven people are facing federal charges after law enforcement authorities on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation discovered two children so severely malnourished that a pediatrician later compared them to prisoners of World War II concentration camps.
The 2- and 3-year-old girls weighing 13 pounds each were discovered on Nov. 11, when officers responded to a reported assault at a home on the reservation on the South Dakota-Nebraska border, according to court records. The officers found the children lying on the floor, hidden under blankets, and only wearing diapers.
Authorities are accusing three of the seven people of assaulting the girls. The five others are accused of not seeking medical intervention for or reporting the condition of the children to authorities.
An affidavit shows that the children were taken to a Rapid City hospital after they were found at the home. The 3-year-old girl was found to be suffering from a deep bed sore on her left hip that "was all the way to the bone and would likely require surgical repair," according to the affidavit.
A pediatrician dealing with the girls told an FBI agent that the children would have died had they not been discovered. Court records show the pediatrician told the agent that the children's "extreme level of starvation" could be described as how "persons from World War II Concentration Camps" looked.
The home where the girls were found has several residents, including Roberta Featherman and Harold Red Owl Sr., both of whom authorities say were the victims' primary care givers. Records show that about three months before the seven arrests, the girls' mother "dropped off" the 3-year-old child with her mother, Roberta Featherman, and the 2-year-old child with her sister, Darshan Featherman.
A 10-year-old girl who lived at the home told the FBI agent that Roberta Featherman and Red Owl "did not like to feed the girls too much and that many other people saw the victims and 'don't like it' but did nothing to help," according to the affidavit. The 10-year-old girl and the 17-year-old sister of the victims were later removed from the home.
A week after the girls were discovered, federal agents searched the home and found plenty of food in bedrooms. Red Owl told the FBI agent that the food was hidden in the bedrooms because the victims would "steal" it.
Darshan Featherman, Roberta Featherman and Red Owl are charged with assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Terry Featherman, Rainbow Spoonhunter, Tressa Means Featherman and Jeff Shoulders are charged with concealing a felony. All pleaded not guilty on Nov. 22.
Red Owl's attorney declined to comment on the case. Shoulders's attorney, George Grassby, said he has requested copies of all police reports involved in the case. Attorneys for the other five did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO