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Press Release

Colville Tribal Member Sentenced to 78 Months After Robbing and Killing Victim

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Spokane, Washington – Senior United States District Judge Rosanna M. Peterson sentenced Maddesyn George, age 27, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, to 78 months (six-and-a-half years) in federal custody for voluntary manslaughter and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Earlier this year, George admitted that she had killed Kristopher “Buddy” Graber in a dispute over money and drugs that George stole from Graber the night before. George also admitted in her Plea Agreement that she had not acted in self-defense. George is likely to be released back into the community in 2025, after which she will spend the rest of her life on federal Supervised Release.

Judge Peterson calculated George’s sentencing range under the United States Sentencing Guidelines at 108-135 months, in part because of George’s criminal history, which includes numerous convictions for drug offenses, burglary, assaults, and making a false statement. However, Judge Peterson disagreed with the United States’ position that George’s criminal history was understated, and exercised her discretion to impose only 78 months of custody despite the United States’ request for a sentence of 204 months.

According to court documents, George – who identified herself in a video recording and telephone records as “Martha Ruthless” – was inside a car on the morning of July 12, 2020. Graber approached the car to recover 47 grams of methamphetamine, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and more than $5,000 in cash, which George had stolen from him the night before when he was asleep. Eyewitnesses described Graber as “cool, calm, and collected” that morning. But rather than return Graber’s property or simply drive away, George fired Graber’s own gun at him, shattering the glass of the partially-open window of the locked car door. George’s shot struck Graber in the heart, killing him. Graber had no weapon in his possession when George killed him. In his left hand, he held only a cigarette. While Graber lay dying, George tried to pass the gun off to an eyewitness, and got upset when a neighbor tried to call 911. She then hid the stolen methamphetamine in a nearby field, and hid almost $3,000 in her undergarment. George admitted in her Plea Agreement that she was going to distribute a portion of the methamphetamine to others – as she had done the previous night at the Coulee House Motel. Court documents also revealed that George had a history of distributing drugs on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Court records showed that George provided law enforcement with numerous accounts of what happened, frequently contradicting her own story. George initially tried to claim self-defense, alleging that Graber had sexually assaulted her the night before. When she was arrested, she said “I had no choice.” In her Plea Agreement, however, George admitted that the shooting was not legally justified because she exerted more force than was lawful under the circumstances. Indeed, the facts undermining George’s self-defense claim are undisputed: a significant amount of time had passed since the alleged assault, Graber did not have a weapon, George was not under any immediate threat, and Graber was on the other side of a locked car door when George shot him.

“This case is devastating—one human being is dead and another is going to prison,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “But the United States prioritizes the investigation and prosecution of violent crime, whenever it happens, and whoever commits it. The safety of our communities is paramount, including on the Colville Reservation where families have experienced a tragic increase in violent crime. Our mission is to follow the facts wherever they lead. In this case, the facts that Ms. George admitted lead to one inescapable conclusion: she chose to shoot and kill an unarmed man through a locked car door so she could keep the methamphetamine and money she had stolen from him. Whatever else can be said about this tragedy, neither violence nor vigilantism are the answers. I commend the federal and tribal officers who conducted the investigation, the emergency medical personnel who responded to the shooting, and Assistant United States Attorneys Alison Gregoire and Rich Barker, who prosecuted this complicated and wrenching case with fairness, compassion, and justice.”

United States Attorney Waldref also addressed some of the attention this matter has received: “In this case, it is a fact that the Defendant was an Indigenous woman who killed an unarmed person because she did not want to return the drugs and money she had stolen from him. It is also a fact that many violent crimes against Indigenous women have historically gone unsolved and unprosecuted. Both injustices must be addressed, in an evenhanded way by people who have command of, respect for, and a responsibility to, all the facts. The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively pursue those who commit crimes of violence on Native American Reservations in the Eastern District of Washington.”

The United States Attorney made it clear that under her leadership, crimes of violence will continue to be prosecuted vigorously, based on the specific facts of individual cases: “We will continue to follow the facts wherever they lead, no matter who the Defendant may be. We will continue to seek fair resolutions for all victims of violent crime, no matter how long it takes. We will continue to make Eastern Washington communities safer and stronger through prosecutions driven by facts and evidence, no matter what the reactions may be on social media or commentary. And we will continue to pursue justice in all cases as we have today for Mr. Graber and his family.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Colville Tribal Police investigated this case, which was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alison Gregoire and Richard Barker.

Updated November 18, 2021

Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: 2:20-CR-00153-RMP-1