GUTHRIE — Emotions were running high Monday as an Edmond woman stood before a judge for sentencing in a child abuse charge connected to the death of an American Indian girl.
More than 90 people packed the courtroom in Guthrie for a sentencing hearing for Amy Holder, 40, who was found guilty of child abuse Oct. 3 in connection with the death of her 2-year-old foster child, Naomi Whitecrow.
Jurors had recommended no prison time and that she pay a $5,000 fine. The district attorney had hoped for a stiffer punishment.
On Monday, Judge Stephen Kistler assessed a $5,000 fine and a $150 Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation fee, and told Holder to undergo counseling, pay $10,000 to a victim's compensation fund and register for 10 years as a violent crime offender.
Holder's attorney, Scott Adams, said they will pay the money and don't plan to appeal the case.
“We're trying to get on with Amy's life right now. It's been a very difficult time also for her,” Adams said. “Our hearts and prayers go out to all of the Whitecrows.”
“This is a tragic, awful thing that happened, and the truth is that Amy didn't murder a child. This is a child abuse case and has been somewhat misrepresented,” Adams said.
Many of the people in the crowd Monday were family members of Naomi and identified themselves as members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.
They wore pins with Naomi's picture on them and stood outside the Logan County Courthouse holding signs. Members of the tribes wrote letters to the judge after Holder's conviction, asking for a harsher sentence.
The judge said Monday he received letters from people all over Oklahoma and in other states. But he said state law prohibits him from overriding the jury's decision.
After the hearing, Naomi's mother, Kala Whitecrow, began sobbing and shouted at Holder from across the room. She was escorted out of the courtroom by her family and a sheriff's deputy.
As people left the hearing, some of Whitecrow's friends and relatives shook their heads while others made comments about how they disagreed with the sentence. One woman with a child was heard to say, “Don't look at my baby, white people.”
Outside the courthouse, one man stood up and shouted, “There will be no peace 'til there's justice!”
Theodore Nibbs, 58, was holding a sign with Naomi's photo on it. He said he is a member of the Cheyenne tribe and that justice was not served by the guilty verdict or sentencing. He said if the victim had been white, maybe Holder would have received a harsher punishment.
Other people agreed with him, thrusting signs in the air and saying, “It's still legal in Oklahoma to kill an Indian.”
Naomi and a sibling were taken from Kala Whitecrow in February 2008. The girl went to live with Holder in September 2008 and died on Jan. 20, 2009.
A medical examiner's report showed there were scrapes and bruises on Naomi's face, chest, back, legs, right buttock and head, as well as old and new scabs.
An Indiana pathologist ruled the child died of blunt-force injury to the head, abdomen and extremities. A Texas expert testified neurological problems such as a seizure could have led to her death.
Letter to judge
Naomi's aunt, Debby Whitecrow, talked to reporters after the hearing and read a letter her sister, Kala Whitecrow, wrote to the judge. She wasn't allowed to read the letter in the courtroom before the sentencing.
“The $5,000 fine is only a small, mandatory punishment from Holder's bank account. This punishment does not address Holder,” Kala Whitecrow wrote.
The letter said Holder deserves time in prison, so she can experience “the pain and suffering Naomi had to endure.”
Debby Whitecrow said Kala Whitecrow has taken many steps to clean up her life and is still dealing with the loss of her daughter.
“I'm asking the honorable judge to walk in my moccasins and feel my pain and make the right decision and to sentence Amy to a prison sentence that fits the real quality of her actions,” Kala Whitecrow wrote.