A young woman, high on drugs and terrified, told police she shot and killed her rapist in self-defense in the summer of 2020 just hours after he had assaulted her.
But investigators were suspicious of her story and arrested Colville tribal member Maddesyn George, 27. Federal prosecutors allege she stole drugs, cash and a gun from Kristopher Graber, 43, and then shot and killed him with his gun when he came to retrieve his property.
A federal grand jury indicted George for second-degree murder on tribal land, along with other charges related to the fatal shooting of Graber. A few months later, in January, prosecutors added more criminal charges to include robbery, possession of a stolen gun and intent to sell methamphetamine.
The case against George upset her family and others, who claim the federal government targeted her because she is an American Indian and a woman, while her victim is a white man. They held a rally outside the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse in early October to raise awareness of her case.
George had been scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Spokane this week for killing Graber after she took a plea deal in July accepting guilt for voluntary manslaughter and intent to distribute drugs.
The sentencing has been rescheduled for mid-November.
“They’re condemning (George) because she’s Indian, because she’s a woman, and they scared her,” said Colville tribal elder Yvonne Swan.
“Maddesyn George was acting in self-defense, in defense of her life,” Swan added. “If she did not shoot that gun, that guy would have killed her, I am convinced of it. And I am convinced he would’ve gotten away with it. I stand in solidarity with her and others who have to defend themselves against violence. We have a right to defend the sacred life that our Creator gave us.”
But federal prosecutors disagree with the self-defense argument.
In a court filing submitted last week, prosecutors said George robbed Graber of $6,100 cash, 47 grams of meth, a wallet belonging to a friend of Graber’s and a 9mm gun while he slept.
The next morning, Graber tried for hours to reach George, texting her and sending Facebook messages.
When Graber found where George was staying in the afternoon, he arrived to retrieve his cash, drugs and gun. Prosecutors said witnesses described him as calm and unarmed – the only thing in his hand was a cigarette.
“He asked for his property back, but (George), who was inside a locked car with the keys in the ignition and the window opened just a crack, refused. Graber got upset, but according to several witnesses, he was not aggressive or violent,” prosecutors wrote. “At this point, (George) fired a single gunshot from inside the locked vehicle, through the nearly closed window (it was cracked open about an inch), striking Graber in the heart and almost immediately taking his life.”
After she shot Graber, George tried to pass off the gun to another person at the scene and then hid the stolen drugs in a nearby field.
Prosecutors acknowledge in the report that Graber was a drug addict and dealer with a long criminal history. He was also a father.
George’s attorney, Stephen Graham, said George took the plea deal because she would “like to get back to her family as quick as she can.” George has a 19-month-old daughter who is now in the custody of George’s mother.
“She made a rash decision to use force, but it was under extenuating circumstances,” Graham said in an interview. “She had been raped by the man the night prior, and federal law is abundantly clear that victim provocation is good grounds for a mitigated sentence.”
Graham filed a motion last month for a reduced sentence of five years. Graham argued that Graber’s “violent and abusive” behavior provoked the shooting, and that George’s history of child sexual abuse and domestic violence made her prone to overreacting to the situation.
In court documents, prosecutors are recommending a sentence of 17 years in prison. The sentencing guideline for the charges is nine to 11 years.
Graham pointed out the similarities between the movement calling for awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and George’s case of defending herself against Graber.
“I think that there’s deep seated prejudice against Native American women that’s rooted in colonialism and still reflected in law enforcement to this day,” Graham said. “Sexual violence against Native women isn’t just a matter of individual (pathology) of Graber, it’s a systemic problem.”
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