OGLALA – On April 7, 2015 Jessie Waters went to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court and petitioned the court for a temporary Protection Order against her boyfriend Duane Benson. Just over three weeks later on April 30, Jessie Waters, 3 months pregnant at the time, was found dead just outside of Oglala, S.D.
In the Protection Order obtained by Native Sun News, Waters states the cause for filing was that Duane Benson, her unborn child’s father, was “hitting me and kicking me.” According to this document, Benson and Waters had been romantically and domestically involved for 11 months at the time.
In her Petitioner’s Statement, Jessie Waters wrote about the day of April 7, “This morning I was hit and slapped by my boyfriend because I wanted to go see my grandma and check on her; he began to throw things at me and holler at me.”
On April 7, the alleged abuse began in a small two bedroom trailer located on Hwy 18 just south of Oglala. This trailer was purchased for Jessie Waters by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and placed on her family’s land, according to Raymond Waters (Jessie’s father).
Jessie Waters continued in her Petitioner’s Statement, “Some mornings, he gets up because he has a ‘bad dream’ and he’ll slap me behind the head or cuss at me. I currently have a shiner as a result of that incident which occurred on Saturday.” She was referring to Saturday, April 4.
Native Sun News interviewed Jessie’s family in Oglala on June 4. Francis Waters, 21, her brother was close to his older sister. She would confide in Francis about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Duane Benson.
According to Francis, “I seen her with bruises, black eyes, and one time her head was knotted up.” Francis said her head was swollen on one side and she had a black eye on that corresponding side of her face. This was two weeks prior to her death.
The last time Francis saw his sister alive was on April 11, “walking on the road with Duane, headed east towards Martin from Pine Ridge.”
Waters’ Petitioner’s Statement continues, “I have known Duane for over 20 years, yet we only began to date a year ago. About a month after dating him I started to get hit. I have been verbally abused as well.”
Both Tiffany Waters, 24 and Cherish Waters, 23, Jessie’s sisters, talked about their first time meeting Benson. When introduced to Tiffany at the Oglala Nation powwow, Benson remained distant and cold with barely a wave of his hand as he sat in his car, according to her story.
Isolation is a control tactic used by abusers to keep family and friends away from the abused. The abuser must take away the support network to gain control over the emotional, physical, spiritual, financial and mental well-being of the abused.
Cherish said, “I asked her how Duane was eight months ago, Jessie said he would hit her, even with sticks, and she showed me three lines on her shoulder and back. When I asked what those were from, it was from him hitting her with a two by two board. She said she felt alone all the time and that he wouldn’t talk to her. He wouldn’t open up to her.”
The Petitioner’s Statement goes on to read, “For the past 11 months I have endured abuse, emotionally, physically and verbally to no avail.”
One tragic story shared by Tiffany was of the time when Jessie “came to see grandma” and when asked where Duane was, Waters told Tiffany, “Duane beat me up last night and when he came back this morning, I wouldn’t kiss him so he beat me up again.”
Tiffany said Jessie had a black eye at this time and on her forearm was a fading yellow bruise with obvious bite marks, which Waters credited to Benson from an earlier incident/beating. This was two months before her death.
Both sisters said they missed her and her funny sense of humor. Saying before her death, “Jessie was in mother mode. She was pregnant and getting ready for the baby to come. She was happy.”
Even in her darkest moments Jessie would use laughter as a means of distraction to the brutal abuse she was allegedly enduring. She would minimize the abuse so her family would not worry about her. Oftentimes the abused protect the abuser for fear of retaliation and more abuse.
In her Petitioner’s Statement, Jessie says of her two older sons, Phillip Jr. and Chevy, “I have two other children whom I am afraid of bringing around him because they are from my previous relationship and he cusses at them sometimes. I can’t put my children through that emotional stress so I don’t bring them around too (sic) often.”
Phillip Red Bear Sr. recently took physical custody of him and Jessie’s two sons, Phillip Jr. and Chevy. Red Bear Sr. said he would take their boys to visit Jessie, but would try to do so when Duane Benson was not around. “I did not trust him,” said Red Bear Sr.
The alleged toxic and abusive relationship kept Jessie from her sons leading up to her untimely death. Tragically, the boys, according to their grandfather Raymond, are suicidal as a result of their mother’s passing.
Raymond Waters said, “Those programs are not helping them boys. They are being reactive now, since she died, but we needed them to be proactive when she went to them for help.”
Raymond Waters discredited the tribal domestic violence programs, the suicide programs, the justice system, and the state for not stepping in during the times Jessie Waters went to them for help and shelter. “They all failed to protect her,” said her grieving father.
According to the Waters family, not only was Jessie being harassed and abused by Duane Benson, but also by his own family members; including his mother Stacey Youngman.
In the last line of her hand-written Petitioner’s Statement, dated April 7, 2015, Jessie Waters may have predicted the tragedy to come, “Now I am 3 months pregnant, my baby is due October 17, 2015. I fear for my safety and the well being of my unborn child.”
On the day of April 30, 2015 in Oglala, according to feedback received by Jessie’s family, a small group of people including Jessie Waters, Duane Benson, Edna Wilson, Joanna Youngman, and others were partying throughout the morning and afternoon, according to Waters’ family members.
In the late afternoon, according to Anthony Waters, Duane and Jessie were sent to get beer. Duane and Jessie left in his 4X4 pickup truck. This was the last time anyone saw Jessie Waters alive.
Four hours later, on the other side of a ridge in the late evening of April 30, on a fire road 1.4 miles off of Hwy 18 just south of Oglala, Jessie’s lifeless body was found lying curled up in a fetal position with two large puddles of blood nearby.
Native Sun News was shown the pictures taken at the morgue of Jessie’s body being prepared for burial. Her body was covered in bruises, scrapes, stitches, and what appears to be tire marks on her abdomen.
The Waters family believes Jessie was taken to her place of death allegedly by Duane Benson. They believe that in his final abusive act to this former basketball star from the American Horse School, mother of three sons (one unborn), and beloved daughter, the father of her unborn child allegedly ran over her in his 4X4 pickup truck.
If this story is true, Benson’s vehicle would possibly have forensic evidence throughout.
Jessie Waters was laid to rest on Friday, May 8 at the Lone Elk Residence in Oglala. In her arms, lay her unborn son Jesse Ray Waters. Benson did not attend the funeral services.
Native Sun News attempted to contact C. Renee Brewer, Victim Specialist for the U.S. Department of Interior for information regarding this case and received a call from John Long, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Brewer’s supervisor, who said they cannot comment on this case at this time, but that he would “Pass this on to our folks in D.C.,” referring to NSN’s inquiries.
The Waters family has been frustrated over the lack of communication from authorities. They could not confirm if there was an ongoing investigation.
According to Jessie’s father Raymond, the pickup truck has been impounded after the incident, but his family has not been interviewed regarding Jessie’s death.
At the time this article was being written, there has been no arrest in this case.
During the interview with Native Sun News, Jessie’s sons Chevy and Phillip Jr., remained silent as tears rolled down their faces. When asked how they were feeling Chevy looked up and said, “Sad.”
(Contact Richie Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org)