GREAT FALLS — HaHaax Vielle and Kimberly Higgins, charged in connection with the disappearance of three-year-old Arden Pepion, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in Blackfeet Tribal Court.
Arden was last seen on April 22 in the vicinity of Joe Show East Road off of US Highway 89, several miles southeast of Browning; at the time, she was with Vielle, her uncle.
They were reportedly practicing shooting when Vielle noticed that Pepion wasn’t near him; he saw her footprints leading to the river, which was about 50 yards away.
Prosecutors allege that Vielle did not notify law enforcement of her disappearance for several hours.
Prosecutors confirmed to MTN News that Vielle is charged with negligent endangerment and child neglect for failing to adequately supervise Pepion in potentially dangerous conditions.
Vielle’s failure to notify authorities in a "reasonable amount of time," and then leaving and returning to the scene, were factors in the child neglect charge.
Higgins, said to be Vielle's girlfriend, is charged with accountability for failing to notify authorities in a reasonable amount of time after becoming aware that Pepion was missing in dangerous conditions.
A formal search for Pepion lasted 10 days, but searchers only found footprints leading to the Two Medicine River and a boot believed to be hers in the river.
The search has since been scaled back, but people continue to volunteer to search for her.