News and Press Releases

Jury Deliberates Five Hours Before Returning Guilty Verdict

September 29, 2008

HENRY KEELER REDLIGHTNING, 59, of Bellingham, Washington, was convicted late Friday, September 26, 2008, in U.S. District Court in Seattle, of Murder in the First Degree. The jury deliberated about five hours following a two-week trial before returning the guilty verdict. REDLIGHTNING faces a mandatory prison term of life in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart on January 20, 2009.

According to testimony at trial and records in the case, the naked body of Rita Disanjh was found in a slough on the Lummi Indian Reservation on August 9, 1987. Disanjh had been strangled. The crime went unsolved for twenty years until October 2, 2007, when REDLIGHTNING, an enrolled member of the Lummi Inidan Tribe, confessed to the crime. REDLIGHTNING knew key details about the crime that had not been publicized in the years since the murder. REDLIGHTNING said he strangled Disanjh after giving her a ride from a beach party on the Lummi Reservation. REDLIGHTNING claimed he had become angry after Disanjh persistently asked him about his service in the Vietnam war.

At trial prosecutors introduced testimony of a strikingly similar attack in 1990, in which the victim survived. REDLIGHTNING served three years in prison for that rape and assault. Defense attorneys claimed that REDLIGHTNING had been coerced to confess by interviewers who had first asked him about his Vietnam experience. The jury did not believe that argument, finding REDLIGHTNING acted with premeditation to sexually assault and murder Rita Disanjh.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and Bellingham Police Department.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys William H. Redkey Jr., and Matthew Diggs.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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