Death Certificate Released For Tragic Pine Ridge Incident

Jan 29, 2015

Loose dogs like this one on the Pine Ridge Reservation were rounded up and killed by Oglala Sioux tribal officials after the death of 8-year old Jayla Rodriguez.
Credit Photo by Jim Kent

The death certificate for a Lakota girl found dead on the Pine Ridge Reservation last November has been released by the South Dakota Department of Health. But the document leaves as many questions unresolved as it answers about a tragic incident.

Jayla Rodriguez was found dead at the bottom of a hill on the Pine Ridge Reservation on the evening of November 18, 2014. The 8-year old Lakota girl had been playing in the snow and sledding down that same hill.

Blame for Jayla’s death was immediately focused on a group of dogs that had been in the area. The Oglala Sioux tribe reacted by gathering up stray dogs on the reservation and shooting them.

Public outcry, specifically from Lakota elders, stopped that practice. The tribe instead opted to vaccinate and register dogs across Pine Ridge. The tribe also invited adoption services to remove as many dogs as possible from the reservation.

Federal Bureau of Investigation logo
Credit Courtesy F.B.I.

With opinions on the cause of Jayla’s death ranging from being attacked by dogs to hitting a tree while sledding, results of an autopsy ordered by the F.B.I. were anticipated to answer questions surrounding the girl’s death.

Although her certificate of death notes the cause of Jayla’s passing as an “accident”, it also includes her injuries and the phrase “mauled by dog”… singular…in the “cause of death” section.

The certificate does not state whether the mauling occurred after death.

Officials do not plan to release the autopsy results. The reason, says F.B.I. spokesman Kyle Loven, is that the case on the death of Jayla Rodriguez is not closed.

“The investigation will remain pending until one of two things happens,” Loven explains. “Either it will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office or the U.S. Attorney’s office will decline to prosecute and the matter will be closed by the F.B.I.”

Loven couldn’t say who, if anyone, might be prosecuted but did add that the F.B.I’s primary goal is to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the investigation of the death of Jayla Rodriguez.

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