Roundtree, Mariah & Mellette, Jalen : Exposure suspected in South Dakota teens’ deaths

Pierre, South Dakota (AP) 3-09

An investigator says two Wakpala teenagers found dead after a two-week disappearance may have died of exposure to the weather.

The bodies of 17-year-old Mariah Roundtree and 16-year-old Jalen Mellette were found Feb. 22 a few miles from their vehicle on the Standing Rock Reservation in north central South Dakota.

Bureau of Indian Affairs special agent Elmer Four Dance said Roundtree’s body was found late afternoon on February 22. She was 5 months pregnant. Mellette’s body was found an hour later.

Four Dance said autopsies will be done, but he said rain and cold temperatures are likely factors after the two apparently began walking for help after their car became stuck in the mud.

The weather service said temperatures were in the 30s and 40s and an inch of rain fell in the 24 hours after the two were last seen Feb. 8.