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Missing, murdered Indigenous people focus of Sunday event in Mashpee

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MASHPEE — On June 11, 2013 Ariel Price-Perry was watching her aunt Crystal Perry cook food for a spirit fire that was being held for a Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe member who had recently died.

“Just like good ol’ Mashpee would do. It was a good ol’ regular day,” said Price-Perry, who is a member of the tribe. Darryl Green was also there, said Price-Perry, and her aunt’s boyfriend at the time Kristofer Williams. Price-Perry’s mother was there.

“Kristopher was on the couch sleeping — he was real sick. He had the flu,” Price-Perry said.

Hours later, as the afternoon sun sank into the evening, it began to rain. Price-Perry was in her house, which sat adjacent to her aunt’s house at 146 Central Ave. in Falmouth. Suddenly, Green was knocking on Price-Perry’s door.

When she opened the door, Price-Perry heard her mother screaming.

Price-Perry ran to her aunt’s house. She opened the door and found her aunt and Williams covered in blood. Williams was slumped over on the couch, Price-Perry said. Her aunt, she said, was unrecognizable.

“As I’m trying to help her, I’m slipping in her blood. I’m throwing up, crying, gagging. I’m trying to call 911. My mind was everywhere,” said Price-Perry. “Nowhere could I imagine that someone I love — someone who has taken care of me my entire life — could be murdered.”

Crystal Perry, 43, and Kristofer Williams, 24, were found around 1:30 am on June 12, beaten and stabbed to death and no suspects have been named in the case, according to earlier Times reports.

In 2016, Green was found guilty by a Barnstable Superior Court judge of stealing money from the bloody scene of the double slaying. He was sentenced to two years in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction.

‘Missing and Murdered Indigenous People’ event

Price-Perry will speak about her aunt Sunday at a “Missing and Murdered Indigenous People” event at the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Community and Government Center.

The event coincides with the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls, a congressional resolution in memory of Hanna Harris (Northern Cheyenne) who was slain in 2013, according to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

“The murder rate for Indigenous people is at times higher than the average rate, and murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women,” said Jayden Henderson of the Mashpee tribe’s Victims of Crime office. Henderson is a member of the Tuscarora Nation.

Price-Perry speaks at Missing and Murdered Indigenous People events throughout New England for a reason. “I keep talking about my aunt because we need to get her name out there and bring this investigation back to light,” she said.

Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Danielle Whitney declined to comment on the slayings because “the matter is pending.” Falmouth Police Detective Lt. Mike Simoneau directed the Times to state police detectives assigned to the district attorney’s office. The Massachusetts State Police did not return requests for comment from the Times.

What is planned for the event?

This year’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous People event will include drumming by Eastern Cedar Singers, a dinner, and speakers like Price-Perry, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Vice-Chair Carleton Hendricks, and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Member Melvin Coombs, Jr.

Coombs’ father, Melvin Coombs, was killed in 1999. Loyd Lance Comer was accused of manslaughter in the death of Coombs, but Rhode Island Judge William A. Dimitri dismissed the charge, according to earlier Times reporting.

Speakers will also honor Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe members Milteer Xavin Hendricks, 19, who was stabbed to death in Falmouth on June 11, 2023; and Jalajhia Finklea, 18, who was killed on Oct. 20, 2020. Finklea’s body was found in Fellsmere, Florida, with two gunshot wounds. Her alleged killer was shot and killed several days later in Florida by US Marshals and an assisting sheriff’s deputy, according to Times reporting.

Tribal members will also plant a memorial tree for Indigenous murder victims, and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chief Earl “Chiefie” Mills, Jr. will lead the ceremony. Members of Cape Cod PATH, or People Against Trafficking Humans, Barnstable police and District Attorney Robert Galibois are expected to attend the event.

“We have an issue where police aren’t asking the right questions when it comes to those who are missing or who are trafficked,” said Henderson. “They’re not even asking if people are Native American and then we are categorized as other. It happens all too often.”

Lois Hirshberg, co-chair of PATH, said Native American people are 2% of the total US population. But 40% of human trafficking victims identify as Indigenous and Alaskan natives, Hirshberg said.

“Tribal people are a vulnerable group for so many reasons,” she said. “Colonization is a big one, and historical trauma.”

Double-homicide case remains stagnant

Price-Perry’s family remains traumatized to this day.

“We’ve carried it for so long. It’s taken a toll,” Price-Perry said. “I can’t even explain how badly we need closure.”

The experience and the unanswered questions surrounding Crystal Perry’s homicide has contributed to problems with addiction throughout Price-Perry’s family, she said.

“It’s coming up on 11 years. But it still feels fresh for us. It feels like yesterday,” she said. “The more time that goes by, her case turns colder and colder. Nothing is being done.”

Local authorities have released few details about the investigation, and Crystal Perry’s family hasn’t heard from law enforcement or the District Attorney’s office in years, Price-Perry said.

For Price-Perry, race plays a major factor.

The disappearance of 22-year-old Gabrielle Petito in 2021, a white woman, gained national attention, she said. “The whole world was so on top of that case. They got right to the bottom of it and figured it out so quickly,” said Price-Perry. “But if victims are Native American, Black or Hispanic, no one seems to care.”

Finklea was also related to Price-Perry and she helped in the search for the young woman in remote areas of Rehoboth and New Bedford. When Finklea was reported missing, New Bedford police initially considered Finklea a runaway, Price-Perry said.

“It was time sensitive and, in reality, she was in real danger,” she said.

‘A mother, a grandmother’

Part of Price-Perry’s healing process, she said, is to remember how much her aunt loved horses, and loved her family. Her aunt wasn’t perfect, said Price-Perry, and struggled with addiction during her lifetime, but she was sober before her death.

“She had that matriarch quality. She was a mother, a grandmother. She was an aunt. A sister,” said Price-Perry. “She loved to take care of hers for sure.”

Rachael Devaney writes about community and culture. Reach her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @RachaelDevaney.

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