Posted: Oct 22, 2013 9:39 PM by MTN News - Billings
BILLINGS - A woman who threw her 3-year-old daughter out of a moving pickup truck last December was sentenced Tuesday to just under 22 years in prison.
Mary Agnes Leider, 25, of Saint Xavier was sentenced to 262 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy. Leider will also have five years of supervised release after her time in prison.
Tenielle Big Day, 3, died when she was thrown out of a truck going 50 miles per hour on Montana Highway 313 south of Hardin.
Leider had a blood alcohol content level that night of 0.24, which is three times the legal limit.
During the sentencing in federal court Tuesday afternoon, Leider along with the victim's uncle and father made statements.
A federal public defender, David Merchant, said Leider has experienced stress, guilt and shame. He requested Leider's sentence be set at 15 years to allow her more time to get her life in order after she is released.
Leider also made a tearful statement explaining that she's sorry she caused family members to suffer. "Nothing can bring her back and I have to live with that."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Suek described the crime as "unimaginable." She pushed for the maximum sentence of 262 months.
Heywood Big Day III, the child's uncle, also gave an emotional statement speaking on behalf his family members in the courtroom. He painted the picture of Tenielle's personality and the large role she played within the family and community.
The uncle explained Tenielle's grandparents, Heywood and Veronica Big Day, were the primary caregivers for the 3-year-old girl.
Heywood recalled the day Leider picked up her daughter from the house. He said even though Tenielle didn't want to see her mother, they figured it would help Leider. But instead, they now feel a sense of guilt because they believe they should not have let her go.
"We cry ourselves to sleep because there is nowhere else to go," Heywood Big Day III said.
Tenielle's father, Tennison Big Day, also expressed the sadness and frustration the family has gone through.
Molloy said the family's statements and his review of the case made it hard for him to understand how a mother could kill her own child.
Leider also had a daughter who died in December of 2009, the judge noted, and he questioned if it's possible for Leider to be a good mother.
The judge also said he has been shocked by the amount of violent crime and alcohol abuse on the reservation since he began his temporary role as a federal judge in Billings.
He said there is a need for someone within the Crow Tribe to step forward and tackle crime and substance abuse on the reservation.