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Freefall: Tragedy in the Grand Canyon

Arizona's Havasu Canyon is a hiker's paradise famed for its jaw-dropping waterfalls. But now there's trouble in paradise—serious trouble.

Law enforcement officials urged the tribal council to close the trail to Supai to the public until a killer was caught. Instead, the council banned all media from the reservation. This infuriated the Japanese press and fueled speculation that U.S. officials were not doing right by Hanamure. That summer, American journalists scarcely covered the murder.

All the while, FBI special agent Doug Lintner was making Supai his second home. Bureau of Indian Affairs cops handle day-to-day law enforcement duties on the reservation, but the FBI manages violent crimes like murder and rape.

After searchers located Hanamure’s body, Lintner took over the case. The counterintelligence specialist had spent most of his 19-year FBI career investigating mob crimes in New York City. He says that on his 40th birthday, he decided he’d had enough and asked to be transferred "anywhere." Other than a recent visit to Iraq to investigate mass graves, Lintner has been in the FBI’s Indian Country division ever since. He likes the wide—open Southwest landscape, but sometimes the violence on the reservation gets to him. Linter has a habit of speaking in spare, blunt sound bites. He claims a mob hit is generally much cleaner than a Navajo knife fight. "When there are fights in other cultures, the guy goes down and the fight is over," says Lintner. "But in Native American cultures, there are a high number of beating deaths. When a Native American goes down, that is when things pick up a notch."

Wearing a polo shirt with the FBI logo and carrying a Glock .40 and handcuffs on his belt, Lintner became a familiar presence in Supai. He visited dozens of homes to pursue leads. He visited many of them more than once, because people kept changing their stories. It was a tense situation. The whole village was keeping track of which doors he knocked on. So he began doing interviews at night— no easy task in a town without streetlights or paved streets. "We were walking around without flashlights so no one would see us. I almost broke my ankle stepping in gopher holes," he recalls.

BIA officers saw violence in Supai pick up during the investigation. "There was retaliation against tribal members who talked to law enforcement," says Henry Kaulaity, the officer in charge. "Some were verbally harassed, but others were beat up. Around that time, older tribal members were beat up on the trail for no reason." In private, people worried about a deeper chaos that seemed to be tearing at the already frayed fabric of the community.

As Lintner knocked on doors, the tribe was forming its own ideas about the murder. Gossip swirled about the investigation. There were various theories, but most people agreed that things would end up as they had for 100 years: The Havasupai would get screwed.

SOME SAID the murder was caused by a "dark spirit" haunting the village. Spiritual leaders held prayer and sweat lodge ceremonies to get the spirit, along with Hanamure’s, to leave. There was talk that the murder was an NPS plot to destroy the tribe. And then there was the Irish guy, Neal. Many people were sure this outsider was the killer. He was a disturbed white man who likely worshipped Satan, they said. He had evil tattoos and was looking for drugs.

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