Authorities found the body of a Toppenish woman less than a month after she was reported missing in early May.
Now, a September jury trial is set in U.S. District Court in Yakima for the man accused of killing her.
Jordan Everett Stevens, 29, was indicted July 17 in the death of Alillia “Lala” Minthorn, 25. The four-count indictment followed a June 28 criminal complaint charging him with one count of first-degree murder. His trial is set for Sept. 23.
Minthorn’s body was found in the hills north of Brownstown on May 29, where a witness had told investigators she was shot May 3, according to court documents. An autopsy May 30 determined Minthorn died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Witnesses told investigators Stevens killed Minthorn because she “ratted” on him and another suspect by talking to investigators about an April 30 assault they allegedly committed near a homeless camp outside Toppenish, according to court documents.
The case was investigated by the FBI and is in federal court because Stevens and Minthorn are Yakama Nation citizens and the crime occurred on the Yakama reservation.
Emily Washines, a Yakama scholar and advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women, was saddened to hear of another Native woman murdered on the 1.3-million-acre Yakama reservation. The exact number of Native women who have gone missing, have been found murdered and have died mysteriously is unknown.
“This is frustrating and sad, hearing the news just confirm another missing woman was killed,” Washines said. “She is the second Yakama MMIW confirmed within a week on our reservation. They are different unrelated cases, but both Yakama.”
The second case Washines was referring to was that of Gail Teo, 63, an elder who was slain in her White Swan home on Aug. 7. Michael Anthony Davis, 26, is charged with aggravated murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary in Yakima County Superior Court. Detectives said evidence suggested that Davis previously approached Teo about getting a job.
In the months since Minthorn disappeared, many have shared her missing-person flyer on social media. The administrator of the Help Us Find Alillia Lala Minthorn page on Facebook posted in late July, “We will find my sister.” But news of her body being found in late May and a suspect first facing a murder charge in late June didn’t surface until early Thursday, when it appeared in online news reports.
“We are finding out three months after she’s been found and I’m not sure what type of system or protocol for notifying is being utilized,” Washines said. “Right now it’s the media notifying the public of these updates about our Native women.”
Stevens faces one count each of first-degree murder and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in Minthorn’s death. The indictment also includes one count each of assault with intent to commit murder and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in an Oct. 6 incident in which Stevens is accused of shooting a man, who survived.
Stevens and another person were suspected in an April 30 assault near a homeless camp in Toppenish known as “the compound,” court documents said. Investigators questioned Minthorn at the scene.
A family member went to the Yakama Nation Police Department and reported Minthorn missing on or about May 9, after she had been seen getting into a car near the camp. The indictment says three people — Stevens and two others — were in the car when they picked Minthorn up at the homeless camp on May 3 and drove into a closed portion of the reservation.
Stevens had a rifle or shotgun, a witness said. Upon stopping at a remote location, Stevens took Minthorn out of the car and shot her, the indictment said. Afterward, the three drove to the Brownstown tavern, parking their vehicle behind the building to clean it and remove items.
One witness was bleeding from an injury sustained in a fight with Stevens, who worried the blood may have gotten on Minthorn’s clothing; he ordered the other two to go with him back to her body so they could remove her clothing.
The area where they left Minthorn’s body was “so remote and vast” that federal investigators and tribal police officers didn’t find it the first time they tried, despite a description of the area by a witness.
On May 29, a witness led investigators to her body.
Minthorn is the third woman in the past year who had been reported missing and was later found slain on the Yakama reservation.
The body of Jedidah Moreno, 30, was discovered Nov. 28 in an area of the Yakama reservation that’s closed to non-tribal members. She had been shot. Moreno had been missing from Yakima since September.
On July 4, Rosenda Strong’s remains were found in a freezer in the 64000 block of U.S. Highway 97 outside Toppenish. She was last seen Oct. 2, 2018. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.