Three Eagle Butte Men Sentenced for Burning Down Church
United States Attorney Randolph J. Seiler announced that three Eagle Butte, South Dakota, men convicted for their roles in burning down a 98-year-old church on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation were sentenced on April 18, 2016, by U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange.
Cody Yellow, age 27, was sentenced to 41 months in custody; Ake Kyle Eagle Hunter, age 29, was sentenced to 35 months in custody; and Robert Grindstone, age 28, was sentenced to 37 months in custody. All three were sentenced to 2 years of supervised release, $3,776.92 restitution to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe for the cost of extinguishing the fire, and each is to pay a $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution for the destruction of the church structure was left open for an additional 90 days.
Yellow, Eagle Hunter, and Grindstone were indicted for Third Degree Burglary and Arson by a federal grand jury on August 11, 2015. Yellow and Grindstone pled guilty to Arson and Aiding and Abetting. Grindstone pled guilty to Accessory After The Fact.
St. Basil's Church, a/k/a Mossman Church, was built in 1917. It is located on United States Highway 212 near Ridgeview, South Dakota. Locals have maintained the church throughout the years. Mass was held there every Memorial Day weekend, and occasionally weddings and funerals were also held at the church.
On July 19, 2015, Yellow, Eagle Hunter, and Grindstone drove from Eagle Butte to the Mossman Church to visit a friend’s grave at the cemetery near the church. After visiting the grave site, Yellow kicked open the door to the church, and once they were inside, the three men vandalized the church. Grindstone found a can with liquid inside it in a room next to the altar and one of the others suggested burning the church down. Grindstone opened the can and intentionally dropped the metal container, letting the contents spill out. After that, one of the other two men lit the liquid accelerant on fire. The church burned to the ground and was a total loss.
This case was investigated by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Miller prosecuted the case.
Yellow, Eagle Hunter, and Grindstone were immediately turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.