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Missing: Rhonda Running Bird

I am passionate about missing persons cases due to a personal family experience of having someone go missing in my family.

Rhonda Running Bird

Rhonda Running Bird

The Details

Rhonda was 25 when she was last seen on March 26, 1995 in Swan Lake, Alberta Canada. She is of Native American decent, she is a member of the Siksika First Nation tribe and has ties to the Blackfoot tribe. Rhonda has black hair and brown eyes. Rhonda stands at 5-5 and weighs between 125 to 145 pounds at the time of her disappearance. She wears glasses and has a kidney colostomy bag. She has a tattoo of RRB on her left hand and a cross tattoo on her right.

Rhonda was said to have been in a lot of pain before she disappeared to the point she could barely walk.

Background

Rhonda Running Bird was born on November 22nd, 1969 to Mavis Crowchild. She and her mother lived in Canrose Alta, but were far from family. Her mother grew lonely and decided they would move back to Siksika First Nation to be closer to family. Running Bird’s mother told her she was going to be a traditional girl and had taught her daughter how to bead. Crowchild raised Running Bird with as much culture and tradition as she could after returning from residential schooling.

After graduating from high school, Running Bird met her first husband Lance Crier. They had a little boy and girl together. Running Bird was a good, loving mother but she didn’t stay in the relationship.

In her early twenties Running Bird med her aunt’s husband at a family gathering in Inglewood Alta. Her aunt’s husband was a Cree man from Alberta’s Sunchild First Nation. His name was Fred Lagrelle and after drinking he and Running Bird slept together. Shortly after both of them left their partners and moved together to Red Deer Alta in 1994 where they had a baby boy.

Mavis Crowchild, Running Bird's mother.

Mavis Crowchild, Running Bird's mother.

Violent Relationship

When Lagrelle was still with Rose, Running Bird’s aunt, he had allegedly attempted to kill her. According to Crowchild, Lagrelle had thrown his then 7 month pregnant wife into his truck and sped off down the road. He hit a sharp corner and rolled his truck. It’s not known if he rolled it on purpose or not. Rose almost died but she survived as did her baby.

Running Bird was also being abused by Lagrelle and had started to drink and take pills to escape and numb the abuse. She had been in and out of hospital several times. Her children from the previous marriage were not safe from Lagrelle either as they would tell their grandmother, Crowchild, that they would be made to sleep under the bed or outside often.

Running Bird refused to discuss the abuse with anybody and suffered in silence even when confronted by her mother. At one point when the abuse was getting worse, it took Running Bird almost an hour to climb the stairs at her mothers house. At one point he beat her so badly she had to get a kidney colostomy bag. It was claimed he had once forced a liquor bottle inside of her, but she still refused to call the police. Her mother had offered to call an ambulance or the police for her but Running Bird pleaded with her mother not to call and left her mothers house to go back home.

Swan Lake Campground where the group was heading on their hunting trip.

Swan Lake Campground where the group was heading on their hunting trip.

The Incident

On March 26, 1995, Lagrelle, his sister and his 14 month old son had decided to go on a hunting trip to Swan Lake. Despite her debilitating injuries chronic pain, Running Bird decided she would go with them. She was never seen again.

According to Lagrelle’s statement to the RCMP, his truck got stuck in the mud on the way to the lake. He said Running Bird had offered to go get help and had left and never returned. He also said she left a note behind in the truck when she left claiming she was going to Cow Lake. It was signed with “Love Rhonda” and had two hearts drawn around the name.

Running Bird’s mother doubts she would have left on her own in her condition to go for help when it would have been easier and smarter to stay and wait by the road to flag someone down. She knows someone in that condition and with a colostomy bag would never be able to survive in the forest alone.

Police gathered a sample of Lagrelle’s handwriting and concluded the two, Running Bird and Lagrelle, had the same handwriting.

Family Investigation

Running Bird’s family including her mother, had been trying to reach her for weeks until they saw she had been missing on the news. After they found out she was missing, they all gathered and went to the location she was last seen. Her mother spoke to an officer of the RCMP who told her Running Bird was probably in Edmonton getting drunk. This infuriated Crowchild and they were able to get permission to search the area themselves. Running Bird’s family found her glasses, a shoe and even her colostomy bag.

The police immediately told the family that none of those items belonged to Running Bird. They took the glasses and compared them to an old prescription of an optometrist Running Bird didn’t use anymore and refused to compare the glasses with her up to date prescriptions and with her current doctor. This led them to claim the glasses did not belong to Running Bird.

The shoe that was found was laced up in the same unique way that Crowchild had taught her daughter growing up. This didn’t matter to police however, who still claimed the shoe did not belong to Running Bird. I found no evidence in my research as to why they would say the colostomy bag didn’t belong to Running Bird.

The police told Lagrelle that they would bring him in for a polygraph test as they believed he wasn’t telling the full truth, but he was never called in. The police say they have a person of interest, but this person has since passed away.

Crowchild told reporters that Frank Lagrelle had drank himself to death in 2016.

May 25th, 1995 two months after Running Bird went missing, her children were given joint custody between their grandmother, Crowchild and their father, Crier. Crier was later beaten to death and full custody was given to their grandmother. Lagrelle gave up his son to his ex wife and Running Bird’s aunt, Rose.

Now

Crowchild says she knows in her heart that Lagrelle killed her daughter on that night. She still wakes up every day thinking about what happened to her.

Running Bird’s daughter is older now and has children of her own. She still struggles with the loss of her mother.

Contact Information

If you have any information on this case, or where Rhonda Running Bird is please contact the RCMP Rocky Mountain House Detachment 403-845-2881.

Comments

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 15, 2020:

A heart-breaking story, but thank you for sharing so Running-Bird won’t be forgotten. It was 25 years ago but it sounds like the investigating police have a case to answer for.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on April 15, 2020:

This is hard work to do but bless you for your dedication to seeking justice for this woman and her family.

Kathy Henderson from Pa on April 14, 2020:

Jade-

This is a heart-wrenching story. Very sad that this happens way too often. I am sorry that you have a story that involves a missing person yourself. Blessings to you.