What We Know About the Death of Mika Westwolf

Photo: Mika Matters

On March 31, a 22-year-old Indigenous woman named Mika Westwolf was killed in a hit-and-run while walking home on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. Police quickly tracked down the car’s driver, 28-year-old Sunny White, who was released from custody shortly after being arrested and still does not seem to be facing any charges related to Westwolf’s death. In the months since the crash, Westwolf’s family claims Montana police have failed to properly investigate her case and ignored evidence suggesting her death might have been a hate crime — including the fact that White’s children are named Aryan and Nation.

Here’s what has been reported on Westwolf’s death so far.


Westwolf died in a hit-and-run on March 31.

A member of the Blackfeet Nation, Westwolf was walking home on Highway 93 on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. According to the Daily Mail, which spoke with her family and their legal representation, she was returning from a bar where she thought she had left her phone, and her body was found by a tribal officer around 4 a.m. on March 31.

Within a day, police identified the driver as 28-year-old Sunny White, who had been in the car with her two children. White was reportedly arrested several hours later and charged with two counts of criminal child endangerment, only for the charges to be dropped after about a week, at which point White was released on bond.

At the time, Lake County Attorney James Lapotka reasoned that, because he hadn’t received the results of toxicology reports and phone searches for both White and Westwolf, he had to drop the charges — even though these were entirely unrelated to Westwolf’s death. In a more recent statement to the Daily Mail, Lapotka claimed he let White walk because he hadn’t received a final report from highway patrol.


White is facing charges for kidnapping her children.

Police reports indicate that, after being released from custody, White attempted to kidnap her children at their father’s house, where they were living after being removed from her care. A Missing Endangered Person Advisory issued by the Montana police included the names of her children: Aryan, 4, and Nation, 2. The advisory incorrectly stated that White had been charged with vehicular manslaughter and claimed that she was “known to abuse drugs.”

After her children were located, White was hit with new charges for felony burglary, felony parenting interference, and misdemeanor criminal mischief. She pleaded not guilty at a court appearance in May but, as of mid-June, does not appear to be in police custody. The Daily Mail claims her next court appearance is scheduled for late July.


Westwolf’s family is still waiting for investigators to press charges.

While White’s court battle drags on, she still doesn’t seem to be facing any charges related to Westwolf’s death. Westwolf’s family told HuffPost that Montana Highway Patrol, the department investigating the incident, has stonewalled them and evaded their questions and that they haven’t seen any documentation about the crash. Westwolf’s mother, Carissa Heavy Runner, described investigators as “condescending, negative, and almost victim-blaming,” an attitude she says is in line with other Indigenous people’s experiences with the police. Montana has one of the highest rates of missing or murdered Indigenous women in the country, with Indigenous people accounting for 26 percent of missing-persons cases despite making up under 7 percent of the state’s population. Nationally, Indigenous women are ten times more likely to be murdered than the national average.

Based on what police have allegedly told Westwolf’s family, it’s not clear why they’re taking so long to charge White for her death. Erica Shelby, a legal representative for Westwolf’s family, told the Daily Mail that highway patrol had failed to collect crucial evidence in the aftermath of the crash, including standard procedural tests of Westwolf’s clothing and security-camera footage from the area, which Shelby fears may now be lost.

Instead, according to notes Shelby shared with the Daily Mail, police seem fixated on a toxicology report for Westwolf, which the lead investigator, Wayne Bieber, claimed is relevant to the “totality of the crash.” During a meeting at Westwolf’s parents’ home, Bieber allegedly suggested that White’s case hinged on whether Westwolf was drunk while walking home, claiming that “under Montana law, if you’re intoxicated, you’re not allowed to be on the roadway.” Another tenet of Montana law: A fatal hit-and-run carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison.

According to the Daily Mail, Bieber also seemed unaware of White’s children’s names and brushed aside the possibility that they could factor into the case. Members of Westwolf’s family and community feel otherwise. The Montana Human Rights Network has urged police to investigate the crash as a hate crime, referring to unspecified “community reports” that White is a white nationalist who might have run down Westwolf intentionally. The #MikaMatters movement, in which her parents are involved, has planned a four-day walk on the Flathead Indian Reservation that started on June 13 to help raise awareness and put pressure on the state. “This walk will shed light on the disproportionately and discriminatively represented or underserved Indigenous families in the aftermath of their missing or murdered relatives,” the group’s website says. “Mika Westwolf’s case and others serve as a painful reminder of the injustice faced by Indigenous communities.”

What We Know About the Death of Mika Westwolf