20-year-old charged in drug-fueled murder at Meskwaki Settlement

Suspect, victim had been drinking, taking meth for 'about a day and a half,' complaint says

Published: February 25 2014 | 1:18 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:07 am in

UPDATE: A 20-year-old Tama man is accused of stabbing a teenager in the chest after more than a day of drinking and smoking meth.

According to a criminal complaint, Jonathan C. Youngbear is accused of killing 17-year-old Severn D. Jefferson at Youngbear's home at 1695 340th St. Youngbear is accused of first-degree murder. At an initial appearance at the Tama County Courthouse Tuesday morning, Youngbear's bond was set at $1 million.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said that at 4:52 p.m. Monday, the Tama County Communications Center took a 911 call. The caller - who authorities have not identified - reported someone had been stabbed at 1695 340th St. The address is located on the Meskwaki Nation Settlement.

The Meskwaki Nation police, Tama County Sheriff's Office and Toledo police responded to the home and discovered Jefferson unresponsive and suffering from a stab wound. Authorities have not said who else was at the home when police arrived.

As a result of their investigation, Youngbear was taken into custody for questioning. Investigators learned that Youngbear, Jefferson and others had been driving and smoking meth for "about a day and a half," according to the criminal complaint. Youngbear and Jefferson had an argument and a witness told police Youngbear came up behind Jefferson while he was sitting on the couch, motioned to the witness to be quiet and then stabbed Jefferson in the chest.

Shackled and face covered with long green and black hair, Youngbear mostly stared down at the table during his initial appearance. He answered magistrate Rich Vander Mey when asked questions about his financial status when applying for a public defender. Youngbear said that when he turned 18, he was given $400,000, which is given to all members of the tribe when they turn 18. Youngbear said all of that money is gone.

"Is any of that money left?" Vander Mey asked.

"No sir," Youngbear said.

"Itís all gone?" Vander Mey said.

"Yes sir," he said.

Youngbear, who does not live with his family, said he has not worked for a year and a half.

Ram Dhanwada, executive director of the Meskwaki Tribal council, said that large sum of money would have come from a trust fund, but he declined to comment on those policies.

"We have changed the procedures for that," Dhanwada said, adding the tribe had concerns about youths receiving large portions of money. That practice was discontinued last year.

Jefferson's death marks the second murder on the Meskwaki Settlement this month. On Feb. 5, Gordon Lasley, Sr. and Kim Lasley were found dead at the settlement. Their son, 25-year-old Gordon Lasley, has been charged with two counts of murder in their deaths.

Dhanwada said the tribal council would not comment on the recent murders on the settlement, except to say it's being "handled by the DCI."

"We don't have anything to say about that," he said. "It's isolated incidents and they're not related. We're wondering the same thing you're wondering: how come this is happening?"

First-degree murder is punishable by an automatic life sentence.

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