Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

FBI’s 90-day effort to gather more information about MMIP cases doesn’t yield any new discoveries

A podium in a conference draped in a blue cloth with a logo that reads “Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Hannah Habermann
Wyoming Public Media
The FBI set up a phone and email tip line and held in-person listening sessions to learn more about the missing and murdered persons crisis on the Wind River Reservation. Their efforts yielded no new cases or breakthroughs.

Earlier this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched a data collection project to gather more information about missing and murdered cases involving Native Americans throughout the state. Over a 90-day period, the agency received 35 tips, including four homicide cases and three missing persons cases. They’d all been previously reported to law enforcement and investigated already.

Back in February, the FBI set up a dedicated email account and phone line at 307-433-3221 to collect details from community members about already existing cases or cases that were never reported in the first place.

Over the spring, the FBI held in-person listening sessions with both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes on the Wind River Reservation, with the goal of better understanding and addressing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) crisis.

At a press conference in Fort Washakie on June 11, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Leonard Carollo said the agency is following up on each of those cases to make sure they were thoroughly investigated.

A man in a black blazer and checkered button-up shirt speaks at a podium against a blue backdrop with the FBI logo.
Hannah Habermann
Wyoming Public Media
FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Leonard Carollo speaks at a press conference in Fort Washakie about the results of the FBI’s MMIP investigation on June 11.

“We are continuing to evaluate [cases] to ensure that there was a comprehensive investigation. Thus far, we have not identified anything where we can further any of those investigations or have additional information,” he said.

According to data from Wyoming’s MMIP task force, homicide rates for Native people are five times higher than they are for white people in Wyoming. Carollo recognized that distrust in law enforcement has been and continues to be a barrier for addressing these cases. He said the FBI will continue to work with both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes as well as federal, state and local law enforcement moving forward.

“We hope that this is just a perpetual thing. And individuals start to trust us. And they know that we are going to do any and everything we can to seek justice, and to advocate for victims,” he said.

Carollo said some investigations find that a crime has not been committed and thorough investigations can still result in an unsolved case. Sometimes, there’s simply not enough evidence to take a case to court.

“Prosecutors have an ethical obligation to take such steps only if they believe they can convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a high standard,” he said.

Carollo said that as forensic technologies advance, the agency hopes to apply those tools to more cold cases. He added that the FBI also wants to use its own specialized teams and resources to support other smaller agencies.

“There are some resources, technologies and capabilities that we have and we will bring the full force of the federal government if and when necessary,” he said.

A long line of protestors wearing red shirts and carrying flags walk down the main street of Riverton.
Hannah Habermann
Wyoming Public Media
Protestors march down Main Street in Riverton during a protest on May 5 for National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.

Northern Arapaho Business Councilwoman Kimberly Harjo said she was happy with the data collection project, which was something that hadn’t happened on the Wind River Reservation before.

She said in an interview that she’s looking forward to collaborating with the FBI more to “get really detailed about how we're going to contact the other agencies, how we're going to let our people know [that] you need to go here to report them. And then after that, this happens, this happens and this happens.”

Harjo said the Northern Arapaho Tribe is currently working on a tier-based process to guide tribal members through reporting, depending on the circumstances of someone being missing or of a suspected crime.

The FBI MMIP tip lines will remain open for the foreseeable future.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.