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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

White Swan woman pleads guilty to 2017 homicide

By Tammy Ayer Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA – A woman accused of killing Destiny Lloyd on the Yakama Reservation the day after Christmas 2017 has pleaded guilty to a federal murder charge.

Tahsheena Sam, 35, of White Swan appeared in U.S. District Court in Yakima on Tuesday. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Indian Country. Prosecutors allege that Sam struck Lloyd in the head several times with a large wrench on or around Dec. 26, 2017, in a robbery attempt.

Sam was indicted on June 13, 2023, for first-degree murder in Indian Country and felony murder in Indian Country. The arraignment Tuesday was for the second-degree murder charge.

U.S. District Judge Mary K. Dimke accepted Sam’s guilty plea and scheduled sentencing for 2:15 p.m. Sept. 17. Federal prosecutors that day will move to dismiss the indictment with those two charges filed in June 2023, according to the plea agreement.

Under the agreement, she could see a sentence of not less than 20 years in prison.

Lloyd, a 23-year-old child care worker at Legends Casino Hotel in Toppenish, was last seen on the evening of Christmas Day 2017. On Dec. 28, a relative reported to the Yakama Nation Police Department she was last seen leaving in a vehicle with friends on Christmas evening.

Her body was found on Dec. 29, 2017, by a passing motorist just off Marion Drain Road near the intersection with Harrah Road. An autopsy determined that Lloyd died from a skull fracture as the result of blunt force trauma, and her death was deemed a homicide.

Lloyd was well-known on the Yakama Reservation and also had connections to the Warm Springs and Umatilla reservations in Oregon. She loved purses and grew up dancing at the longhouse and at powwows. Lloyd cared for her nieces, nephews and mother. Family members and friends of Lloyd have attended court hearings for Sam and Waylon Jake Napyer, who is also accused in connection with Lloyd’s homicide.

Napyer was indicted in July 2022 on a charge of “misprision of a felony,” alleging that he knew about Lloyd’s killing and didn’t report it to authorities as soon as possible. Trial for Napyer is set for Aug. 19.

The case is being handled in the federal courts because Lloyd, Sam and Napyer are Native Americans and the killing occurred on the Yakama Reservation. Lloyd’s case is one of dozens of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people within and around the Yakama Reservation over decades.

Lloyd was socializing with a group of friends on Christmas evening when Sam, whom Lloyd did not know, joined the group. Sam and others saw Lloyd had money and decided to rob her, according to court documents. The group drove to an area near Harrah Road and Marion Drain Road, where Sam took Lloyd’s money and the group left her on the side of the road, documents state.

After leaving her there, the group worried that Lloyd might report the robbery. They drove back to where they left her and used a flashlight to follow her tracks in the snow. Sam got a large monkey wrench from Napyer, the plea agreement says, and used it to strike Lloyd several times on the head.

Sam claimed that Lloyd wouldn’t have been killed if she had not threatened to tell her brothers about Sam taking her money, court documents said. One of Lloyd’s brothers, Elvis Sampson, has spoken for their family in court.

Lloyd’s loss “leaves a hole that cannot ever be filled,” U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington Vanessa Waldref said in a news release.

“This case involved a lengthy investigation and witnesses that were not always forthcoming with law enforcement,” she said in the release. “Yet, the FBI and Yakama Nation Tribal Police remained undeterred and continued investigating this case – following available leads, which ultimately led to Ms. Sam.”