YAKIMA, Wash. -- Kristen Ashlie Windy Cloud knew Felina Metsker as more than just an acquaintance, she said Wednesday.
“I loved Felina. ... She was my friend and I don’t have many friends,” Cloud said.
But as authorities sought information when Metsker was reported missing on April 1, 2016, Cloud knew something terrible had happened — and she kept quiet amid the ensuing murder investigation after Metsker’s remains were found May 5 in a rural area near White Swan.
“Not coming forward is a mistake I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life,” Cloud said, reading from a statement near the end of her hourlong sentencing in U.S. District Court in Yakima.
Cloud, 37, was indicted as an accessory after the fact in Metsker’s murder. Metsker was last seen between 2 and 3 p.m. March 25, 2016, in the area of Barkes Road in Harrah, where she was staying in a trailer. Authorities said blankets and a plastic window covering were missing from the trailer the next day.
A witness told authorities that Kristen Cloud and her sister, Nicole Lee Sunny Cloud, 30, helped clean up the crime scene, according to court documents.
Kristen Cloud pleaded guilty in December. Prosecutors recommended that Cloud, on probation when Metsker was murdered, serve two years in prison followed by one year of supervised release.
In considering other factors, U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian went lower, sentencing Cloud to 18 months in prison with one year of supervised release, a $100 fine and $5,000 restitution to the Yakama Nation for burial costs.
Cloud, who has been in jail since March 14, 2018, on the current charge, will be given credit for time served.
“I take responsibility for my action of not reporting” it, she said. “I knew there was something wrong.”
“Why didn’t you report it sooner?” Bastian asked.
“Because at the same time, I was feeling threatened,” Cloud responded. “Me and Neil never saw eye to eye. He threatened to kill me on Mother’s Day (2016). He told me I was next.”
She was referring to her cousin Neil Cloud, 20, who was later murdered. His brother, George Skylar Cloud, 22, was found guilty by a federal jury Jan. 17 of first-degree murder and using a firearm in a violent crime in connection with the death of Metsker, a 33-year-old mother of two. The jury deliberated for 72 minutes.
Defendants were charged in federal court because they are citizens of the Yakama Nation and the homicide occurred on the reservation.
A witness said the brothers killed Metsker because she had cooperated with police and they had “to eliminate the threat,” according to court documents. Kristen Cloud, according to a witness, “had to help” because the brothers were relatives. “They’re family; why did they do that to her?” Cloud said.
On Wednesday, Kristen Cloud asked for leniency. “I’m standing before you today with remorse,” she said as she stood before Bastian and read her statement.
She talked about her struggles with drugs and alcohol, which began when she was 11, Cloud said. A mother of five, she hasn’t had custody of her children for years because of that, she said.
“I haven’t seen them in over three years because of drugs and alcohol,” she noted.
In sentencing Cloud, Bastian said she was the only defendant in the Metsker case who showed any remorse. Still, “you knew a murder occurred,” he said, adding that Cloud admitted to cleaning up a crime scene. And as she withheld important information, Metsker’s family was in anguish as they wondered what had happened to her.
Cloud’s attorney, Rick Smith, objected to some wording in the presentencing report, which led to questions from Bastian. Smith’s objection had to do with the reliability of information in court documents and unidentified witnesses who provided that information.
“My understanding is she knew a felony had been committed and she helped clean it up,” Bastian said. “She helped clean up the trailer after Ms. Metsker had been murdered.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Hanlon stressed that the information was reliable.
Nicole Cloud was also indicted as an accessory after the fact. She pleaded guilty in December and will be sentenced at 10 a.m. March 27. George Cloud will be sentenced at 11:15 a.m. May 1.