Theda Clarke, suspected in killing of fellow activist

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A woman suspected of being involved but never charged in the 1975 killing of a fellow American Indian Movement activist in South Dakota died Saturday in a western Nebraska nursing home.

Theda Clarke, an Oglala Sioux Tribe member, was in her 80s and had been suffering from the effects of a stroke, dementia, diabetes, and other ailments, according to court records.

Prosecutors said Ms. Clarke repeatedly refused to cooperate as they investigated the death of 30-year-old Annie Mae Pictou Aquash, who was fatally shot and left in a ravine on western South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The case tainted the legacy of the American Indian Movement, and it was nearly three decades before criminal charges were filed.


Investigators alleged that Ms. Clarke, John Graham, and Arlo Looking Cloud drove Aquash in Ms. Clarke’s Ford Pinto from Denver to Rapid City, where Aquash was held against her will, questioned about whether she was a government informant.

In December, Ms. Clarke was ruled competent to testify in Graham’s murder trial and briefly spoke about her background when jurors were not in the courtroom. But she exercised her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself in front of the jury and refused to accept a grant of immunity, prosecutors said.

Graham, the accused gunman, was convicted of murder, while Looking Cloud was convicted in 2004. Both are serving prison sentences.

Ms. Clarke refused to talk about the case with an Associated Press reporter in February 2003, two months before Looking Cloud was arrested.

Ms. Clarke graduated from St. Francis Indian School in the early 1940s.