Both the tribe and then-U.S. Attorney Paul K. Charlton issued statements suggesting that the murder was an anomaly and Supai was safe. “This is an aberration. Our records reflect no homicides in the tribe in five years,” Charlton said.
Actually, though, violence by Wescogame wasn’t a rarity. He had been ward of the Havasupai Tribal Court for most of the preceding five years after committing numerous assaults as a juvenile. In fact, he spent more than three years in the Arizona juvenile justice system, being released from state custody on his 18th birthday in February 2006. Shortly thereafter, he returned to Supai, where, in the months before Hanamure’s murder, he committed yet another assault, this one against a tribe member. Had BIA police promptly arrested and the tribe prosecuted Wescogame, Tomomi Hanamure might well be alive today.
But justice doesn’t move very quickly on the Havasupai Reservation, if it moves at all.
In June 1992, Randy Wescogame’s father, Billy Wescogame Sr., was given notice that he would be terminated as a BIA police officer in Supai. The firing came after three female jail inmates and a female BIA employee made sexual harassment complaints against him, federal court records show.
A week before he was to leave the job, while he was on duty, Billy Wescogame sexually assaulted a 21-year-old female inmate inside the Supai jail. In a plea bargain he signed with federal prosecutors in December 1993, he admitted to having sex with the inmate without her consent and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Billy Wescogame entered prison in February 1994 and was released in May 1996.
He and Randy’s mother, Carla Crook, divorced, and soon after Billy Wescogame returned from prison, a bitter child support and custody struggle erupted. It dragged on for years, tribal court records show.
Randy had been in trouble with Havasupai tribal authorities since he was a young boy, according to federal and tribal court records, elementary school files provided by his father and interviews. His violent behavior was first documented at Havasupai Elementary School in October 1996, when he was 8 years old, five months after his father returned from prison.
By early 1998, 10-year-old Randy Wescogame was having serious behavior problems in school. In a span of seven weeks, he was cited for verbal sexual abuse, physical assault on another student, physical assault on a staff member, and repeatedly hitting a younger female student in the chin, records show.
In September 1999, his father withdrew Randy from school after the boy had an altercation with the principal. Randy remained in Supai, re-enrolling at the elementary school in December 1999. In the spring of 2000, though, Billy Wescogame petitioned the tribal court to sever his parental responsibilities and give custody of Randy and his brother and sister to their mother. “They totally have no regard for anyone or anything! They have lied, stolen and vandalized property, not only their own, but other people’s,” Billy Wescogame wrote the court. “They are constantly in trouble in and out of school.”
By the time Randy was 13, Billy Wescogame said, his son was heavily involved with methamphetamine. “It was bad, really bad, bad, bad,” he said.
Randy’s mother also expressed serious concern about his behavior. In an April 2001 letter to the tribal court, Carla Crook wrote, “I would like Randy to get the professional help he deserves. I want him to change and be part of us. I will miss him but as I had mentioned he needs HELP.”
About this time, Randy became a ward of the Havasupai Tribal Court, according to court records. By late 2001, Randy was in jail. He was subsequently sent to a juvenile treatment center in Flagstaff and then to several others in the Phoenix area. Billy Wescogame said Randy continued to have serious problems at the treatment centers. During the more than three years he was in the juvenile justice system, Randy was treated with a variety of drugs to address his mental health issues, his father said.
Officials with the Havasupai Tribe did not respond to a series of written questions about the murder of Hanamure and general social conditions in Supai. But tribal leaders and BIA law enforcement officials have known for years that readily available alcohol and an influx of methamphetamine have created dangerous conditions in Supai.
In March 2003, Bob McNichols, the BIA agency superintendent for the tribe, sent an e-mail to his superiors describing a law enforcement crisis. The e-mail was written in the aftermath of shootings at a reservation high school in Red Lake, Minn., that left 10 dead.
“Crystal meth is prevalent throughout the community. It is available, cheap, and is being distributed by Havasupai youth. … Police officers in Supai were directed NOT to put anyone in jail because they don’t have the staff to man the jail. … Police officers in Supai are constantly threatened, cussed and told to get out of the village. … (A tribal attorney) relayed an incident of a child taking a 8" knife to school and threatening the other students and teachers.”