A collage of photos of Acey Morrison at a younger age. Morrison was killed on Aug. 21, 2022 by a man who claimed self defense. (Photos courtesy of Cheryse Hawkins, illustration by Josh Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)
It’s been a year since a Rapid City man shot Acey Morrison to death in a trailer home north of town. Pennington County prosecutors have yet to decide whether to charge the shooter or close the investigation into her death.
Morrison, a transgender Native American woman, was shot after meeting a man on the dating app Grindr, according to friends and family members. The family said they were told by investigators that the man claimed to have fired on her in self defense.
Morrison’s mother, Edelyn Catches, said on Tuesday that she hasn’t heard from anyone in the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office since last winter, when former State’s Attorney Mark Vargo left his position for work overseas.
Vargo told her the incoming state’s attorney would make the call, she said.
“They were supposed to tell us if they were going to do any charges, do anything,” Catches said of the early 2023 meeting. “That was the last time anyone said anything.”
State’s Attorney Lara Roetzel, the longtime prosecutor who replaced Vargo, told South Dakota Searchlight earlier this summer and again last week that her office hasn’t made a call on charges or closed the investigation.
Catches said she’s reached out multiple times to ask where the case stands, but has never connected with anyone from the office. Twice, she said, she tried going to the office in person, but she said it’s not easy for her to make the drive to Rapid City from her home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Catches said she spent Monday night at her daughter’s grave to commemorate a year since her death on Aug. 21, 2022, but also to avoid interactions she wasn’t prepared to handle.
“People were coming around and stuff, but I just couldn’t be there,” Catches said.
In May, Roetzel told South Dakota Searchlight that self-defense claims can complicate homicide cases, though she offered no details on the Morrison investigation due to it being an ongoing case. She did say, however, that she feels for Morrison’s family and that she planned to review the case and make a decision soon.
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