North Dakota man sentenced for death of foster child
At one point, Judge Peter Welte said the court could not describe what the children went through. "There are simply no words," Welte said.
FARGO — Erich Longie Jr. was sentenced on Thursday, June 23, to life in prison for the death of a 5-year-old foster child in his care and other crimes against children that the sentencing judge described as "hell on earth" for the victims.
When Longie pleaded guilty in federal court in March 2021 to a first-degree felony murder charge, he also pleaded guilty to four other charges connected to the death of 5-year-old Raven Thompson on the Spirit Lake Reservation, including three counts of child abuse in Indian Country and one count of child neglect in Indian Country.
The non-murder charges relate to three other children who were in Longie's care, including Raven Thompson's brother.
The murder charge carried a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison and that is the sentence U.S. District Judge Peter Welte on Thursday handed down to Longie, who's in his 40s.
Before he was sentenced, Longie spoke to the court for more than an hour.
At first, he apologized to his victims for "the anguish that you received by supposedly me."
But, when it came to his guilty pleas, Longie said he changed his mind about those even as he left the courthouse the day of his change-of-plea hearing.
Longie, of Tokio, North Dakota, told the court he has come to believe that had he been allowed to stand trial on the charges he faced he would have been found not guilty.
"I am not the person the prosecution is trying to portray me," Longie told the judge.
Prosecutor Lori Conroy challenged Longie's "diatribe," telling the judge it was inconsistent with the weight of the evidence in the case as well as statements Longie made to law enforcement during interviews.
She told Judge Welte that what Longie's victims suffered could only be described as torture.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Welte asked Longie if he knew what Raven Thompson's birthday was.
When Longie said he did not, the judge said Thompson had lived about 1,800 days and that many of those days were the equivalent of "hell on earth for that child" as well as the other victims in the case.
At one point, Judge Welte said the court could not even describe what the children went through.
"There are simply no words," Welte said.
Longie's wife and co-defendant, Tammy Longie, 47, is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 9 on charges similar to the charges her husband was sentenced on Thursday.
According to court records and information provided during Erich Longie's plea hearing , Tammy Longie reported the death of Raven Thompson on May 6, 2020, and authorities found the girl's body on a concrete floor in the basement of the couple's Tokio home.
Medical workers told authorities the girl had bruising over much of her body, and she was very dehydrated at the time of her death.
Court records indicated that after the girl's body was found a social services investigator found her 7-year-old brother in the back of an SUV at the couple's home.
The boy was hospitalized for more than a month for various injuries and health issues, including heart failure determined to be caused by malnutrition, according to information provided during Erich Longie's plea hearing.
Two of the charges Erich Longie pleaded guilty to related to the abuse and neglect of Raven's brother, while two other charges he pleaded guilty to related to the abuse of two other children, who were 6 and 8 at the time, according to court records.
In all, seven children were removed from the Longies' home after Raven Thompson's death, according to court records.