Five Individuals Indicted for Child Abuse on the Red Lake Reservation
January 31, 2023
BEMIDJI, Minn. – Five members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians have been indicted for multiple child abuse charges including child torture and child neglect on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, announced U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
According to court documents, between January 1, 2021, and April 29, 2022, Trina Mae Johnson, 49, directed the torture, endangerment, neglect, and abuse of a child who was in Johnson's legal custody through a foster care placement. Johnson was aided and abetted by Bertram Calvin Lussier, Jr., 42, and Johnson's three sisters, Bobbi Jo Johnson (a/k/a Bobbi Jo Kingbird), 44, Ellie Mae Johnson, 47, and Patricia Ann Johnson, 39, who all regularly assumed responsibility for all or a portion of the care and supervision of the minor victim. The abuse included withholding food from the victim to the point of starvation, forcing the victim to stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, and assaulting the victim in various ways. As a result of Johnson's and her accomplices' abuse, the victim suffered serious and substantial physical, mental and emotional harm.
Trina Johnson is charged with one count of child torture, one count of child neglect-deprivation of food and health care, one count of child endangerment and one count of assault on a minor with a dangerous weapon. Bobbi Johnson, Ellie Johnson, Patricia Johnson and Lussier, were each charged with one count of child neglect-deprivation of food and health care and one count of child endangerment.
Trina Johnson, Bobbi Johnson, Patricia Johnson, and Lussier all made their initial appearances Friday, January 27, in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Jon T. Huseby.
Ellie Johnson will make her initial appearance in U.S. District Court before a Magistrate Judge at a later date.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Red Lake Tribal Police Department, with support from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Beltrami County Sherriff's Office, the Bemidji Police Department, and the Blackduck Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruth S. Shnider and Angela M. Munoz are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.