Still Unsolved: Olivia Lone Bear Found Dead In Submerged Truck After She Vanished In 2017
“Our primary goal is to uncover the facts surrounding her death in order to get a clear picture of what actually occurred,” FBI officials say.
The search continues for answers in the case of a North Dakota Indigenous woman whose body was found in a submerged vehicle nine months after she disappeared.
On Oct. 27, 2017, the Three Affiliated Tribes Police Department took a missing person report on 32-year-old Olivia Keri Lone Bear. According to police, the mother of five was last seen alive in a borrowed Chevy Silverado pickup truck in New Town two days earlier, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
Volunteer searchers initially were unable to locate Lone Bear, but a group using sonar to search Lake Sakakawea on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation located a submerged truck on July 31, 2018. The vehicle was found in around 21 feet of water about 400 feet from the shore, federal prosecutors in North Dakota said.
“That one was a priority for me because it’s kind of secluded,” Lissa Yellow Bird, the founder of the volunteer group Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota, noted of investigating the lake. “Not too many people would have noticed.”
Lone Bear’s body was secured with a seatbelt in the passenger-side seat of the truck, which had broken windows, unsealed court documents show.
According to federal officials, Lone Bear’s cause of death was ruled undetermined and there were “no definitive traumatic, natural, or toxicological causes for her death.”
A witness told investigators Lone Bear texted him shortly before she went missing to say she had attended a bonfire and was going mudding, or off-road driving, states an affidavit obtained by Minnesota Public Radio.
According to the document, investigators were never able to find any witnesses who went to a bonfire or mudding with Lone Bear. The submerged truck was located around 1.5 miles from her home, officials said.
A site set up in the wake of Lone Bear’s disappearance — Searching for Olivia Lone Bear — notes the number of missing and murdered indigenous women in the region, and the Bakken oil fields, is an epidemic.
“Since the boom of the area, trafficking and other dangerous situations for Indigenous women have skyrocketed with the rise of the oil and gas extraction industry’s presence,” the site states. “This is not a new issue. There is often no reporting or response statistics around missing Indigenous people out of the area.”
Federal law enforcement officials met with family, tribal members, and local authorities to update them on the case in November 2019, just over a year after Lone Bear’s remains were found.
“Olivia's family and members of her community want to know what happened to her and so do we," Minneapolis FBI Special Agent in Charge Jill Sanborn said in a statement at the time. “We share the desire to bring closure to this case and peace to Olivia's family and fully understand the frustration a lengthy investigation can cause. Our primary goal is to uncover the facts surrounding her death in order to get a clear picture of what actually occurred.”
United States Attorney Drew Wrigley said agents are committed to the case and “will continue to pursue all leads and pathways on the road to the truth.”
Wrigley added, “That’s our pledge to Olivia, and to those who knew and loved her.”
The FBI has offered an award for information leading to the identification of those responsible for Olivia Lone Bear’s disappearance. Anyone with information is urged to call (800) CALLFBI (1-800-225-5324) or file tips online.