A 58-year-old woman is accused of abusing her elderly mother while the two resided at the Oceti Sakowin camp last fall. 

Kathleen Bennett, of Las Vegas, is charged in Morton County with endangering a vulnerable adult, a felony, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 17.

The alleged abuse was reported to authorities on Dec. 17, when paramedics in the camp called EMS after finding the elderly woman hypothermic in a cold and cluttered teepee, according to a police affidavit filed with the complaint. She was taken to CHI St. Alexius Health hospital, and staff found numerous medical issues, including bruises.

The 82-year-old woman reportedly also has dementia and is in poor health.

Bill Running Fisher, owner of Montana-based Eaglechild Consulting and Enforcement Services security firm and member of the Gros Ventre Tribe, is one of the people who reported the abuse, he said by phone Thursday afternoon. He is also cited in the police affidavit.

Running Fisher first came to camp as a medic with the veterans group during the first weekend of December. When a blizzard struck on Dec. 6, elderly people were evacuated to Prairie Knights Casino. As he went through tents and teepees looking for people, Running Fisher came across the elderly woman zip-tied to a chair, wearing only a heavy sweater, he said. She was not wearing a diaper and surrounded by her own urine and excrement, he said. Running Fisher said he cut her off the chair, and she was evacuated to the casino, but got lost in the shuffle before she could be taken to the hospital or authorities could respond.

"It just broke my heart to see anybody tied to a chair like that," he said.

Running Fisher found her again on Dec. 17, he said, this time in a sleeping bag and diaper. He made contact with the Morton County Sheriff's Department and she was taken to the hospital. 

"I’m very grateful that Morton County stepped in and saved this lady," he said. "Put the politics aside, they did the right thing."

During the investigation, witnesses also told authorities Bennett would only feed her mother when she deemed it appropriate and physically abused her. Camp medics stated they saw multiple bruises on the elderly woman, including a black eye with a cut under it, according to the affidavit. In one altercation, Bennett allegedly hit her mother with a shovel.

The elderly woman "begged people not to leave her alone with Kathleen," according to the affidavit. 

Bennett told hospital staff she takes care of her mother and has power of attorney over her, according to the affidavit.

"Who in their right mind would have her mother in those conditions in the teepee?" Running Fisher said. "She cares nothing for her mom."

An arrest warrant has been issued for Bennett.

The case is being handled by the Morton County Sheriff's Department and North Dakota Vulnerable Adult Protective Services.

Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at caroline.grueskin@bismarcktribune.com

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