MMM identified


Michael O’Brien was born in Ronan, Montana. His grandfather was an Irish immigrant who had married a Native American woman of Cherokee lineage in Oklahoma. Shortly after the marriage and to get away from the dust bowl the newly weds moved West to the Flathead reservation in Montana. Their only son, Patrick O’Brien, followed the family tradition and married one of the local beauties from the tribal school in St. Ignatius.

In due time Patrick and his wife also found a shanty and settled down in Ronan. In order to keep body and soul together he bought into to a truck-based business route selling bar snacks. Pickled eggs and sausages, pepperoni and mixed nuts were standard fare in bars and saloons without a meal menu or a kitchen. He would start on Monday driving west on what was then US Highway 99 from Missoula and stop in every town that had a bar. The western end of the route was Clayton, Washington just North of Deer Park on Highway 395. Getting back late Saturday night, he would spend Sunday evenings counting his inventory to figure out the week’s profit. Getting up early on Monday morning he would hit the road again. It wasn’t a glamorous business but it paid the rent with a little bit left over.

As the result and only beneficiary of this union, Michael O’Brien’s childhood was a serial mix of good and bad as might be expected for a quarter breed kid on the Flathead reservation.

When Michael graduated from High School with no chance for employment and no money for more education he enlisted in the Army. Home on leave after his first tour of duty in Iraq, his father took him to his favorite watering hole in Pablo for a beer. While celebrating his son’s safe return his father revealed that Michael had an older half sister somewhere in Washington State. He said the baby girl had been the product of one of his many overnight trips to Clayton on his bar snack route. He said he had paid for the birth but due to tribal differences and animosity hadn’t had any further contact. He said her given name was Edna. Michael told himself he needed to find this unknown sister. Writing Edna on a napkin he stuffed it in his back pocket.

After surviving his second tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan, Michael decided to not take any more chances. When he got a Good Conduct medal and an Honorable Discharge he headed for home. Looking for work was still a problem. His qualifications and experience consisted of how to wear a uniform and handle a weapon. When his unemployment finally ran out he decided to answer an ad in the weekly Ronan Times. The Lucky Seven Resort and Casino owned and operated by the Kalispell Tribe was hiring. The property was located in Airport Heights a suburb just west of Spokane, WA. Michael O’Brien got hired as a Uniformed Security Guard. His first assignment as a mobile perimeter guard included a civilian Humvee minus the armament. He promised himself that he would use his first free weekend to head for Clayton, WA to look for his half sister.

One of the fringe benefits of being employed at the Casino was working security for the main stage acts playing there on a seasonal basis. When Benny and the Banshees got there in October of Michael’s first year working the events, he was over the top with anticipation. Due to his childhood interest in Native Americanism tribal history he had followed their rapid rise to national attention in the wake of the grunge movement’s lava flow.

As the one and only Inland Empire’s Grunge Band the throwback Spokane Valley Native American garage/grunge group had achieved some notoriety. Their loud and proud shows featured Banshee screeching vocals, lead guitar work replaced by tribal flute, Irish Bagpipes for rhythm guitar and Tom-tom and rattles did the percussion work, all amplified. During the 90’s in an abortive attempt to rise once more they were popular for a couple of summer months at Powwows throughout the Northwest.

When the first Banshee show at Lucky Seven Casino was over, Michael O’Brien made sure he got one of their signature T-shirts with their logo on the front and back. Before returning to the road after one all-night rehearsal and a huge argument, the group had settled for a Native American swastika peace sign surround by a red white and blue circle for a logo.



MMM a starting place


Swinging the Camaro into the Courthouse parking lot, Edna and the boys stopped by the Deer Park Police Station as promised.

“When we get there, we need to locate the Police Department. You two need to answer the Detective’s questions, quickly. We have to get home for dinner.”

“OK, Mom.” Sean and Randy mumbled in unison.

“Remember, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. No colorful story-telling, you hear?”

“Hey, Mom. We didn’t do anything wrong or illegal”, said Sean.

“Right. We just ran away before they got there. There’s no law against that, is there?” Randy added his defensive two cents worth.

“Not that I know of, besides I already explained that to them. I told them you ran away because you were spooked by the body.”

Parking the Camaro in front of the Courthouse, Edna announced,

“OK, we’re here. Make your answers honest and short. Don’t answer any questions they haven’t asked.”

The large intimidating entrance doors to the Courthouse opened into an even larger rotunda. The ornate hemispheric stained glass dome above lit up the place adding to it’s overall feeling of impending importance. Once inside, they found a directory on the anterior wall. The Police Department office number and arrow directed them to the City Jail and Ben Perrini’s office.

Coming out of the door, Perrini, greeted them,

“Thanks for coming in. Mrs. Running Eagle you need to wait here. We want to talk to the boys alone.”

“I understand. Sean, go with Detective Perrini and Randy, you go with the other man. Let’s not spend too much time on this. I’ll need to feed you guys on the way home.”

In the first interrogation room, Ben pointed Sean to a chair at the table and began the questioning.

“Sean, can you tell me what you were doing in the old apple orchard?”

“We just like to runaround and hunt for stuff, like squirrels, rabbits, rats or whatever. We got BB guns for Christmas.”

“How did you happen to find the body?”

“I saw it first. Looked like a blanket covering a pile of brush. Didn’t know what it was.”

“How did you find out what it was?”

“I told Randy to lift the blanket.”


“When he lifted one edge, I saw it. At first, we thought he or it was asleep.”

“What made you think that?”

“It or he was propped up leaning against the tree and when Randy told him or it to open his eyes, I told Randy the eyes were already open. That’s when I decided he must be dead.”

“Do you remember seeing any blood, wounds or weapons.?”

“I didn’t want to get that close but Randy said it looked like a drunk Indian. And that’s when he called 911.”

“What happened next?”

“We were scared and I knew we were late meeting up with Mom. I wanted to run.”

So that’s what you did?”

“Not exactly. When Randy said the 911 operator said stay where you are help’s on its way, I told him, No, we’re already late, lets get to hell outta here”

Meanwhile in the other interrogation room, Mac was asking the same questions and getting the same answers. Over an hour of more or less intense and threatening grilling produced nothing of use. When they compared notes it became obvious they were barking up the wrong tree and Edna and the boys couldn’t get out the door fast enough.

Mac with all the discretion of a bull moose, checking in with Ben for direction,

“Dr. Rice, I presume. . . . . . .Where now for a clue ? ”

MMM Medical mumbo jumbo


By the time Ben and Mac got back to the Court House the FAX in Ben’s office had already coughed out the ME report.

“The report says the victim’s name was Michael O’Brien.”

“What’s the cause of death?”

“Gunshot wound to the chest.”

“Where did we get the idea somebody bashed his skull in?”

“Who knows? Somebody is always saying, “blunt force trauma”. Maybe they’ve got a multiple choice form and that’s at the top of the list.”

“Does it say the Vic was a Native American?””

“Look for yourself, Mac.”

MEDICAL EXAMINER REPORT                             # 12- 20- 043

Name  Michael O’Brien
  DOB  April 16,1972 DOD February 4, 2004
  Age 32 Years County Spokane
  Race Native American Date of Exam February 9, 2004
Sex Male Time of Exam 0830 Hours


  1. Gunshot Wound to the Chest
  2. 1. Entrance Left chest, intermediate range
  3. Path of the projectile: Skin, left anterior 5” intercostal space, pericardial sac,       right ventricle of heart and lower lobe of right lung
  4. Direction of projectile: Direct front to back
  5. Exit: None; fragments of projectile recovered in Pericardial sac and right pleural cavity6
  6. Associated injuries: Entrance wound perforations of  Pericardial sac, right ventricle of heart, lower lobe of right lung with bilateral pleural hemorrhage7
  7. Postmortem radiograph: metallic fragments of projectile identified
  8. Cause of Death: Gunshot Wound to the Chest
  9. Manner of Death: Homicide

“That’s what we needed. What’s the rest of it on the floor?”

“More of the same. Clinical crap. ME has to report all of it for the Health Department and issue a Death Certificate. I don’t know if any of it is relevant for legal purposes.

“ Well, check it out. What do we do next?”

“The nurse and kids aren’t here yet, so read it.”

Daunting as that promised to be, Mac picked up the next page . . .


The autopsy is begun at 8:30 A.M. on January 12, 1986. The body is presented in a black body bag. The victim is wearing a Brown T-shirt with a swastika in a circle printed on the front, camouflage cargo pants and combat boots.

The body is that of a normally developed Native American male measuring 72 inches and weighing 173 pounds and appearing consistent with the stated age of thirty-two years. The body is cold and unembalmed. Limbs are equal and show no evidence of injury. Lividity is fixed in the distal portions of the limbs. The eyes are open. The irises are brown. Pupils measure 0.3 cm. The hair is black and braided 10 inches in length.


HEAD–CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM: The brain weighs 1,303 grams and within normal limits. The lungs weigh: right, 355 grams; left 362 grams.

CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM: The heart weighs 253 grams, and has a normal size and configuration.

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM–THROAT STRUCTURES: Except for wounds the lungs are unremarkable. The oral cavity shows no lesions. There are no injuries to the lips, teeth or gums.

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM: The mucosa and wall of the esophagus are intact and gray-pink. The gastric mucosa is intact and pink without injury. Approximately 125 ml of partially digested semisolid food is found in the stomach. The duodenum, jejunum, ileum, colon and rectum are intact.

TOXICOLOGY: Sample of right pleural blood and bile are submitted for toxicology analysis. Stomach contents are saved.

SEROLOGY: A sample of right pleural blood is submitted. Routine toxicology studies were ordered.

URINARY SYSTEM: The kidneys weigh: left, 115 grams; right, 113 grams. The kidneys are anatomic in size, shape and location.

GENITALIA: Adult male, within normal limits and there is no evidence of recent sexual activity.


  1. One (1) brown T-shirt, size XL
  2. One (1) pair camouflage cargo pants, size L
  3. One (1) Seiko wristwatch
  4. One (1) leather wallet – MT DL, expired Visa, 12 dollars cash
  5. Samples of Blood (type AB+), Bile and Tissue (heart, lung, brain, kidney, liver, spleen).
  6. Fifteen (15) swabs from various body locations.
  7. One postmortem CT scan.
  8. One postmortem MRI.


Time of Death: Body temperature, rigor and livor mortis, and stomach contents approximate the time of death between 11:30 PM on 02/03/2003 and 1:30 AM on 02/04/2004.

Remarks: DPPD Detectives were notified of findings upon completion of examination.

Alvin Rice, M.D.
Spokane County Coroner’s Office
February 10, 2004

After 15 minutes of shuffling pages, grimacing and grunting, Mac begins with,

“OK. I read it. Can’t say I know what the hell he’s talking about. Didn’t go to Med School.  Now what?”


MMM looking for a lead


Answering the page, Edna walked into the Emergency Room and was met by two detectives with badges and ID in hand. At 2:45 PM the shoot from the hip impromptu Q & A session began.

“I’m Ben Perrini, Deer Park Police DI and this is Sergeant Mac McKenzie, RCMP. We’d like a moment.”

“So, what’s on your minds?”

“Well for starters, are you Mrs. Running Eagle or Mrs. Roadkill?”

“It’s Nurse Running Eagle and except for smelling like cigarette smoke, you both look fairly healthy. What are you doing in the Emergency Room?”

“We’re investigating a death in the dead orchard. The names Running Eagle and Roadkill have come up. Phone number on the 911 transcript.”

“Well, as I said. My name is Running Eagle and Roadkill is the name of one of my sons. Randy is 14. His brother, Sean is 15. We have an ATT mobile family plan. Does that answer your questions?”

“Good to know, but not entirely. The Roadkill phone reported the found body but left before EMT and the Chief got there. Did your sons tell you anything that would help identify the body?”

“They were late being picked up at the orchard, so we took off for home in a rush. When I asked for an explanation, they mentioned finding a body. Both were scared. Sorta PSTSed by the sight. I had to pry it out of them.”


“It was under a blanket. Randy said he thought it might be from the reservation, but no one he recognized.”


“Sean said something about a brown T-shirt with a logo on it.”

“What logo?”

“He said it looked like maybe a Nazi sign in a circle.”

“You mean a swastika?”

“Yeah. In a circle.”

“Anything else?

“Camouflage cargo fatigue pants and combat boots.”

“What else were you able to pry out of ‘em?”

“The eyes were open.”

“Right, not uncommon for a corpse.”

Butting in, Mac asked, “Was it an Indian or not?”

“The boys thought it was. You’ve got the corpse. What do you think?”

“It’s at the Medical examiners. We’re waiting for the report, identity, cause, time of death, all the legal details.”

“OK then, are we through here? I’ve got bedpans to empty, rounds to make and patients ringing in for God knows what next.”

“We need to talk to your boys. When can we do that?

“I get off at four o’clock. Pick’em up about a half hour later.”

“That’ll work for us. Just stop by City Hall and the Police Station. If you’re not there by five, we’ll come looking for you.”

MMM discovery revealed


On the drive back to Wellpinit, the unusual silence was deafening. Missing the normal inane banter from the back seat, Edna broke the ice with,

“So what did you guys do today that took so damn long? Find something to shoot at?”

After a nervous, threatening sideways scowl from Sean and faced with a possibility of truth and consequences, Randy chose a diversion.

“Sean hit me in the eye.”

“Did not!”

“Did too, . . . almost!”

Braking to a shoulder stop, Edna leaned over the back of the seat.

“Show me, Randy. Let’s see your face . . . Nothing new! No damage done, I guess. . . I warned both of you about that.”

Pulling the Camaro back on the road, Edna breathed a sigh of relief and headed for home again. Mulling over the strain of yet another stressful day shift in the ER, her Mother’s intuition told her that the boys shooting each other just might be the least of her worries.

“Anything else I need to hear about?”

“It was my phone, Sean. Better tell her.”

“We found a body in the orchard and Randy called 911, Mom.”

“Yeah, that’s right, and, – and, – and Sean said we should run like hell so we did and that’s why we were late.”

“What did 911 say?”

“They said they knew where we were, someone would be there right away and for us to stay put!

“Well, that explains all the lights and sirens we met on the other edge of town.”

“Does that mean the Police will come looking for Randy?”

“Probably. What did the body look like?”

“It was under a blanket, propped up against one of the apple trees.”, volunteered Sean.

“Looked like a drunk from the rez. Nobody we knew. Couldn’t wake ‘em up”

“That’s when I told Randy to call 911.”

A pregnant silence took over for the rest of the ride home.

With Sean and Randy squirming in the back seat Edna was trying to piece together a believable tale if and when the Police got there.


MMM the search begins


“Dammit, Al. Stomach-pumping and analyzing the contents isn’t an autopsy. You gotta give me more than wine and meth. The DA isn’t gonna put up with your sociopsychobabble bullshit. Just because you’ve gotta an Indian on the table doesn’t mean he’s not entitled to due process. When can you give me the cause of death?”

“Well, since this department hasn’t been able to afford a Police Surgeon, I’ll call Doc Diamond and give him the honor. When he can get here I’ll file the results.”

“OK. I guess that’ll have to do for now. You know, Mac, I took this job thinking a sleepy town like Deer Park wouldn’t have crap like this going on.”

“A lotta folks on both sides of the border have made that same mistake, Ben. By the way do we know who called this in?”

“No, not yet. I’ll have to call 911 Ops and see what their system has”

The Emergency Call Center transcript indicated that from the time call came in on a mobile phone it had been tracked from the orchard as far as the Ford-Wellpinit junction. Contact was lost when the phone was either turned off or the battery died. The name on the transcript identified the initial caller as Randy Roadkill. Tracking the number brought up a different name on the mobile phone account.

“While we’re waiting for the ME report I’ll see what I can find out about the name on that account.”

“Roadkill and Running Eagle. Sounds interesting. What’s in a name, Ben?”

Ben’s cell phone search of the name produced Edna Running Eagle, Emergency Room Nurse, Tri-County Hospital, Deer Park, WA.

“Get in, Mac. We’ll swing over to the Hospital. She should still be at work.”

“Right. Maybe she can give us something to go on.”

The Police Vehicles Only parking spot at the Tri-County Hospital brought them directly into the Emergency Room entrance. They were greeted by the Triage Nurse’s,

“Can I help you?”

“We’re looking for Edna Running Eagle. Is she here this afternoon?”

“Is this an emergency?”

“No. We just need a minute for a couple a questions.”

“Then have a seat over there and I’ll check and see if she’s available.”







MMM waiting for the blow


Not finding anything but trees and bushes to shoot at, Randy had already wasted two of his last three BBs on a twisted trunk of one of the abandoned apple trees.

Whipping around, Randy shot his last BB at Sean.

Surprised by Randy’s slop shot, Sean fired back without aiming and hit Randy under his left eye.

“Sonovabitch! Whatya doing?”

“Ya hit me in the back. I was just returning fire!”

“You just missed my eye, asshole”

“Sorry, Man!”

“Yeah, right!”

Moving closer together again, Sean said,

“Whydya shoot that tree?”

“It looked like a bat hanging upside down.”

“Looked more like a broken branch with rotten apple on it. You’re always going off half-cocked.”

Practicing a perimeter sweep on the way back to the rendezvous point, Sean needed to interrupt the deadening silence.

“That pile of brush looks like somebody’s been out here with a chain-saw.”

“Waste of apple wood, but it probably burns good after it dries out.”

“What’s that on the other side?”


“Behind that clump of brush”

“Looks like an Indian blanket”

“I mean under it, dummy”

Lifting the edge of the blanket with the barrel of his gun,

“Holy shit! It doesn’t look very healthy!”

“Don’t touch’em”

“Damn! Let’s wake’em up. . . . Hey Chief. Wake up. It’s daylight. Open your eyes”

“The eyes are open, Randy. Better call 911”

Struggling to get his cell phone out of the back pocket of his cargo pants, Randy punched in 911.

The cell phone barked back,

“I’ve got your location. What’s going on?”

“We’re in the old orchard in Deer Park.”

“I know where you are. What do you need?”

“ We found a body and it looks dead.”

“Helps on the way. Stay where you are. EMT and Police will want more information.”

“Let’s get the hell outta here, Randy”

“They said, Stay Put, Sean!”

“No way, stupid. Mom’s waiting for us right now.”

When Medic One, Engine # 2 and the Police got there, Sean and Randy had already made it back to be picked up.

“I told you guys not to be late. I’ve been sitting here since 3:15.”

Neither thought it was a good idea to mention this latest adventure.

Sitting silently in the back seat of the Camaro, they were well past the hospital when Edna saw the lights, heard the sirens and pulled over for Medic one, Engine # 2 and the Deer Park Police Chief’s car.

“I wonder what that’s all about?”

“Yeah. I wonder.” said Sean as he elbowed Randy.

“Me, too.”

“Probably another DUI. There’s been a rash of them in the ER lately”