Government officials promised Arlo Looking Cloud a deal if he'd help them solve one of the most notorious murders in Native American history. So what's he doing in prison?
Two years later, on that night in December 1975 at Yellow Wood's Denver house, the handful of AIM members gathered in her living room adjourned their meeting about midnight. Afterward, according to Yellow Wood's testimony at Looking Cloud's trial, two of the activists - Theda Clark, who was Yellow Wood's 50-year-old aunt, and twentysomething John Graham - along with 22-year-old Looking Cloud marched a crying Aquash from the house, put her into the back of Clark's red Pinto, and drove off.
Yellow Wood had not been in the living room to hear what was discussed, she testified; she'd been talking with Aquash, who said to her, "If they take me away you'll never see me again." On the witness stand, Yellow Wood remembered begging her aunt not to take Anna Mae. "[My aunt] just sort of yelled some obscenities and told me I was stupid and I didn't know what was going on, and kind of pushed me aside." Yellow Wood picked up the phone to call police, but an AIM supporter hung up the phone and said, "Don't get involved in this."
Anna Mae Aquash's ordeal began. According to the details consistent with Looking Cloud's videotape statement and the testimony of several witnesses at his trial, it was one hellish road trip. Looking Cloud did a good bit of the driving. About eight or nine hours after the four left Denver, as the sun rose, they arrived in Rapid City, S.D., and went to the home of an AIM member. They spent the morning there, with Aquash locked in a room. That afternoon, Clark, Graham, Looking Cloud, and Aquash, with her hands tied, got back into the Pinto and drove a few miles to a house that served as a legal-defense headquarters for AIM members. A handful of AIM supporters were in the house. Graham and Clark escorted Aquash inside, but they didn't stay long. That night, around 11 p.m., the Pinto pulled into the small town of Allen, S.D., and parked at the home of AIM activist Dick Marshall and his wife, Cleo. Graham, Looking Cloud, Clark, and Aquash went inside. Cleo sat with Aquash in one room, while Clark and the men gathered in another room. Clark asked if they could leave Aquash with the Marshalls for a while, and Dick refused. Clark, Graham, Looking Cloud, and Aquash got back into the car and headed to another home in the nearby Pine Ridge town of Rosebud. It was well into the evening.
At the Rosebud House, Looking Cloud and Aquash stayed in the car. Clark and Graham went inside. A few minutes later they returned to the car and headed north through the rez, toward the town of Wanblee. Looking Cloud was now in the backseat. Clark was behind the wheel, with Graham riding shotgun and Aquash curled up in the rear compartment. It was early morning. Looking Cloud could tell it was early morning because, as he later told Detective Alonzo, "The sky was changing from black to blue." The Pinto's tires rumbled over the crude desert highway. No one in the car said a word.
About 30 miles into the drive, according to Looking Cloud's videotaped statement, Clark pulled off to the side of a desolate stretch of desert road; Graham got out of the car, walked to the rear hatch, and removed Aquash. As the two walked off into the desert, Clark told Looking Cloud to go with them. When the three reached the edge of a bluff they stopped. "I didn't think they were going to do it," Looking Cloud says on the video. "But he did. John Boy [Graham] pulled out a pistol. Put it to her head, and she started to pray. He shot her in the head." Aquash crumpled and fell off the bluff.
Looking Cloud "figured if they shot her maybe there were going to shoot me." As he later told investigators, Looking Cloud took the gun from Graham and fired the rest of the bullets into the ground. He and Graham got back into the car, and they all headed back to Denver. Somewhere along the desert road, they pulled over; Clark and Graham hid the gun under a bridge, and Clark said, "If anything happens, I did it."
"Why was she shot?" Looking Cloud is asked on the video.
"Well, Theda [Clark] said she was an informant."