William Nickaboine's murder: More than a year later, still no conviction
Last week's feature, "The Banishing," begins with the story of a civilian search party finding the mangled remains of William Nickaboine, a 19-year-old who went missing on the Mille Lacs Ojibwe reservation in summer 2010.
An autopsy later showed that Nickaboine had been beaten, cut, and eventually burned before his body was dumped behind the reservation's wastewater treatment plant.
Tribal police arrested Aaron Beaulieu, 20, and Joshua Boyd, 22, for the murder shortly after finding the body. But more than a year later, no one has been convicted, and many tribe members still have not recovered.
"He was burned," says Sarah Day, a relative of Nickaboine, in an interview with City Pages. "That hit everybody really hard because of how he died."
Here's how the investigation led police to Beaulieu and Boyd, according to records:
On July 22, 2010, after receiving the missing person report, police heard about a fight between Nickaboine, Beaulieu, and Boyd in a garage belonging to a woman named Cari Lynn Mitchell. When an officer went to the house to investigate the next day, he was greeted by Nathan Rory Bugg, another tribe member, who denied that there was any fight. But the blood stain on the garage floor said otherwise.
Meanwhile, another officer was visiting Boyd. Boyd admitted stopping by Mitchell's garage, but said nothing about a fight. As Boyd told it, he had left Mitchell's that night for his grandmother's house. Somewhere along the way his truck ran out of gas, so he went the rest of the distance on foot.
That evening, police got word that a citizen search party had found something near the wastewater treatment plant. It was a bloody knife that had been stashed in a ditch. Shortly after they were called to a wooded area behind the treatment facility. This time, someone had found Nickaboine's body.
Now that the case had turned from a missing person to a homicide, investigators returned to interview Bugg. Bugg's story had changed. He admitted to watching Beaulieu punch Nickaboine several times in the garage that night. He saw him stomp Nickaboine on the ground and drag him around by his shirt. Somewhere along the way, a knife fell out of Nickaboine's pocket matching the description of the one found in the ditch. He also saw Boyd forcing Nickaboine into a Suburban.
That was the last time anyone saw him.
The Mille Lacs Messenger recently published an emotional story on how Nickaboine's mother, Arlene, has coped with the loss of her son. According to the Messenger, Beaulieu and Boyd were Nickaboine's cousins. From the article (read it in full here):
"The thing I don't understand and never will is how can you kill your brother -- your cousin?" Arlene said. "What my family has lost -- all the families are intertwined. I don't blame the parents, or anyone else. It's the two boys' actions. No one else. I don't understand it. Never will."
Beaulieu and Boyd were each charged with two counts of second-degree murder. Each count carries a maximum of 40 years in prison. But so far, neither has even been to trial.
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