5 indicted for child abuse on Red Lake Reservation

Five members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians have been indicted for various child abuse charges, according to U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Court documents state four sisters and an accomplice are accused of the collective abuse of a foster child who was under the legal care of one of the sisters between January 2021 and April 2022.

Legal custodian Trina Mae Johnson, 49; sister Bobbi Jo Johnson, 44; sister Ellie Mae Johnson, 47; sister Patricia Ann Johnson, 39; and Bertram Calvin Lussier Jr., 42, have been federally charged with child neglect and child endangerment.

Trina Johnson also faces charges for child torture and assault of a minor with a dangerous weapon.

The DOJ says the abuse included “withholding food from the victim to the point of starvation, forcing the victim to stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, and assaulting the victim in various ways.”

“As a result of Johnson’s and her accomplices’ abuse, the victim suffered serious and substantial physical, mental and emotional harm,” Luger added.

The victim was in the legal custody of Trina Johnson, but prosecutors say the other three Johnson sisters regularly assumed care and supervision of the minor victim. Lussier is accused of aiding and abetting Trina Johnson.

Everyone except Ellie Mae Johnson made initial court appearances Friday. Ellie Johnson will make her first appearance at a later date.

The Red Lake Tribal Police Department and the FBI investigated the case with assistance from the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Bemidji and Blackduck police departments.