The body of a 16-year-old Crow girl missing since New Years Day has been found near where she disappeared at an Interstate-90 rest area outside of Billings.
U.S. Department of Interior searchers found Selena Shelley Faye Not Afraid’s body during a systematic grid search at 10:30 Monday morning less than a mile southwest of the rest area where she was last spotted.
No foul play is suspected, according to the lead investigating agency, the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office. The office says an autopsy will be performed to determine Not Afraid’s cause of death.
The Big Horn County Sheriff previously called Not Afraid’s disappearance “suspicious.”
Teams of federal, state and local agencies had been combing the rest area since she was last seen there on New Years Day.
Francine Amyotte, Not Afraid’s grandmother, says she was up for 32 hours during the first days of her granddaughter’s disappearance.
“My adrenaline was going, and worried,” Amyotte said. “Worried sick. And then after no avail, the search, things started to be real emotional. Real weepy. Crying.”
Yellowstone Public Radio News met with Amyotte on day 17 of the search for her granddaughter.
Not Afraid’s aunt Cheryl Horn posted to Facebook Monday, “We brought our baby girl home. Now she can Rest in Peace.”
Investigators say the day before her disappearance, Not Afraid attended a New Years Eve party in Billings. The next day, she was catching a ride home with five adults when the car stopped working. The van pulled over at the eastbound rest area on Interstate 90 between Billings and Hardin. Not Afraid and another passenger jumped out. Then the car restarted and left without them.
When a relative arrived to pick the two up, no one could find Not Afraid.
Amyotte describes Not Afraid, a Hardin High School junior, as vibrant and high-energy, the kind of girl who had lots of friends and helped take care of her younger cousins. This is what she says Not Afraid sounded like walking through her front door:
“She’ll be like, ‘Hello grandma.’ That’s when I told her, ‘Selena you sound like you’re a Southerner.” And she’ll be like, ‘Yeah. OK grandma.’
Amyotte says Not Afraid enjoyed horseback riding and wanted to become a jockey.
Eleven Native Americans are listed as missing in Big Horn County, which contains parts of the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Reservations. The only other county with that many missing indigenous people is Yellowstone, but it has more than twelve times the population.
Volunteer searcher and Crow tribal member Alee Birdhat says she hears about missing girls in Indian Country more and more.
“To tell you the truth, the last ten years, it’s been doubling, tripling,” Birdhat said. “I can’t ignore it. I hear it everyday.”
Earlier this year, 14-year-old Henny Scott was found on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, determined to have died of hypothermia. 18-year-old Kaysera Stops Pretty Places was found dead in a Hardin backyard five months ago.
The Billings Gazette reports Stops Pretty Places' death is classified as suspicious. An autopsy was unable to determine the cause of death and an investigation is still open.
Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio News’ Report for America corps member.