GREENVILLE - A more than three month investigation by the Hunt County Sheriff's Office into the death of a sacred white buffalo and his mother has concluded with no suspects, no charges, and no indication of murder.
“It is our belief that Lightning Medicine Cloud and Buffalo Woman died of natural causes,” said Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks, in an address to the media Tuesday. “Information obtained during the investigation indicated many of the signs and symptoms exhibited by the buffalo are similar to a bacterial disease that we know as blackleg.”
Blackleg is described as an infectious, usually fatal bacterial disease of cattle caused by Clostridium chauvoe and characterized by gas-containing swellings in the musculature.
The sheriff also mentioned the investigation revealed two more buffaloes have died at the Lakota Ranch since the passing of Lightning and his mother, but Meeks did not specify a cause.
He said authorities have photographs indicating Lightning was not skinned.
“The photographs depict skin and hair on the remains. The veterinarian advised there was a lot of skin that was still left on the remains.”
According to Meeks, the Sheriff’s Office responded to the Lakota Ranch concerning the deaths on May 3. He told reporters that Lightning Medicine Cloud was deceased at least six days and buried for three days prior to their notification.
Meeks says his office interviewed over 25 people and looked at every angle of the matter, such as hate crimes, any type of vengeance and even hunters.
Last month, Arby Little Soldier, owner of the Lakota Ranch where Lightning was born, said he and his wife Pat were questioned and considered suspects in the case. The couple, along with other Lakota elders, had publicly expressed disappointment in the progress of the investigation, and even said they believe seven Native Americans outside the Lakota tribe were involved in the alleged killings.
Sheriff Meeks did not refer to the Little Soldiers during Tuesday’s press conference, and did not take questions after his address to reporters, citing advice from attorneys.
“We are officially closing this case. Should further evidence surface in the future that would indicate that the deaths were not natural we will gladly reopen the case,” Meeks said.
The investigation was said to be a joint effort between local, state and federal officials. And due to the significance of the white buffalo calf and the Native American culture, the Sheriff’s Office “continually consulted with an American Indian who was in contact with tribal elders and who understands the belief and customs of Native Americans.”
To Native Americans, the birth of a white buffalo - said to be a one in ten million occurrence - is considered the most significant of prophetic signs.