20-year-old Charged in Drug-fueled Murder at Meskwaki Settlement

By Lee Hermiston, Reporter

TAMA, Iowa - A 20-year-old Tama man is accused of stabbing a teenager in the chest after more than a day of drinking and smoking meth.

According to a criminal complaint, Jonathan C. Youngbear is accused of killing 17-year-old Severn D. Jefferson at Youngbear's home at 1695 340th St. Youngbear is accused of first-degree murder.

At an initial appearance at the Tama County Courthouse Tuesday morning, Youngbear's bond was set at $1 million.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said that at 4:52 p.m., Monday, the Tama County Communications Center took a 911 call. The caller — whom authorities have not identified — reported someone had been stabbed at 1695 340th St. The address is located on the Meskwaki Nation Settlement.

Meskwaki Nation police, the Tama County Sheriff's Office and Toledo police went to the home and discovered Jefferson unresponsive and suffering from a stab wound. Authorities have not said if anyone else was at the home when police arrived.

As a result of their investigation, Youngbear was taken into custody for questioning. Investigators learned that Youngbear, Jefferson and others had been driving and smoking methamphetamine for "about a day and a half," according to the criminal complaint.

Youngbear and Jefferson had an argument, and a witness told police Youngbear came up behind Jefferson while he was sitting on the couch, motioned to the witness to be quiet and then stabbed Jefferson in the chest.

Shackled and face covered with long green and black hair, Youngbear mostly stared down at the table during his initial appearance Tuesday.

He answered magistrate Rich Vander Mey when asked questions about his financial status when applying for a public defender.

Youngbear said that when he turned 18, he was given $400,000, which is given to all members of the tribe when they reach that age. Youngbear said all that money is gone.

"Is any of that money left?" Vander Mey asked.

"No, sir," Youngbear said.

"It's all gone?" Vander Mey asked.

"Yes, sir," Youngbear replied.

Youngbear, who does not live with his family, said he has not worked for a year and a half. Members of Youngbear's family who attended the hearing declined comment for this story.

Aaron Siebrecht, chief of the Office of the State Public Defender in Marshalltown, was appointed to defend Youngbear.

Jefferson's death marks the third murder on the Meskwaki Settlement this month. On Feb. 4, Gordon Lasley, Sr. and Kim Lasley were found dead at the settlement. Their son, 25-year-old Gordon Lasley, has been charged with two counts of murder in their deaths.

First-degree murder is punishable by an automatic life sentence.
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