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July 17, 2012 06:08 PM

Protestors Claim Meth Led To Wagner Death

Lake Andes, SD

The Wagner couple charged with failing to notify authorities of a child's death made their first court appearance Tuesday afternoon. But the real noise was made outside the courthouse.

28-year-old Laurie Cournoyer and 21-year-old Taylor Cournoyer are each charged with one count of abuse or cruelty to a minor as a felony and failure to notify law enforcement of the death of a child. Two-year-old RieLee Lovell was found in a closet on July 4, but investigators believe she died more than 36 hours before she was discovered.

Both Cournoyers admitted to using drugs and not remembering the last time they saw Lovell alive. And that's the reason a small group of protestors set up outside Charles Mix County Courthouse.

"This drug is killing our people and we're tired of it," Lake Andes resident Robin Bair said.

Bair and his wife, Frances Zephyr, brought their children and members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe to Charles Mix County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon, fed up with a meth culture they claim is destroying their culture.

"Education is power and that's what we have to teach our children," Zephyr said.

Laurie and Taylor Cournoyer walked silently into court this afternoon, a stark cry from the scene around them.

"Our children are suffering and we're tired of it," Bair said.

While Bair's voice projects really well, he understands his group his small. But he's hoping it will grow a lot bigger.

"We're going from reservation to reservation, getting resolutions from each tribe and gathering those that aren't afraid because there's more people like us who aren't afraid, but we have to go to them," Bair said.

The group called for action from both lawmakers and President Obama because protestors say meth dealers are preying on Indian tribes.

"They're the ones that are wrong," Bair said. "They know it kills our people, but this is a haven for them."

And the anger over two-year-old RieLee Lovell's death means the noise from this group of protestors will continue to be heard.

"This isn't the end; this isn't the end," Bair said. "This is just a little light shining on a place where it's really bad."

The most noteworthy aspect of Tuesday's appearance was that Laurie Cournoyer's attorney successfully motioned for $3,000 to hire a private attorney on Laurie's behalf.  Bond was set at $500,000 for each party. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 31.

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