Family of missing Rapid City woman question handling of case

OST Police Chief says missing person cases take high priority

RAPID CITY, S.D. — A Rapid City woman is now home with her family after she was missing for over a week. While her family is happy to have her home, they say they wish certain law enforcement agencies were more proactive in the process of bringing her home.

Ester Wolfe, 21, of Rapid City was found Sunday at a hospital in Chadron, Nebraska. The man allegedly tied to her disappearance, Jesse Sierra, 33, of Rapid City, was arrested shortly after and charged with sexual assault and assault. In the days before Wolfe was found, her siblings say not enough was being done on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“I have so many questions. I’m angry,” said Justine Wolfe, Ester’s sister. “I just felt like I had to come all this way to crack the case… It was so hard to get help. We were down there, we saw the car, we spotted the car and we called [the police].”

Wolfe says they waited about 45 minutes waiting for police to arrive and “suit up” before deciding to search for their sister on their own.

“We got a tip that he was by a McDonalds in Chadron and when we got there, he was running towards the hospital, towards my sister,” said Wolfe. “We chased him to a field and tackled him and the cops came.”

According to Oglala Sioux Tribe Chief of Police Robert Ecoffey, the department starts looking for a missing person as soon as information is available. In this case, he says they were notified that she may be on the Reservation on Wednesday.

“We start from there, working with relatives and other known acquaintances and officers run down any leads for the whereabouts of the individual,” said Ecoffey.

In response to Wolfe’s criticisms, Ecoffeey says they immediately searched multiple residences tied to Sierra and other areas of the community, looking for any vehicles that may have been involved. Ecoffey says he can’t elaborate further due to ongoing litigation in Nebraska.

“I don’t know if they have all the facts but once we were notified, we were out there looking,” said Ecoffey.

According to Wolfe, rumors circulating on social media throughout the investigation were skewing how it was handled.

“Nobody wanted to help, even our own tribe,” said Wolfe. “Everybody thought she want back to her ex, everyone thought she was on drugs, they didn’t want to help.”

Ecoffey says the department does monitor social media and puts out alerts asking the public for help in finding an individual. “We basically looked at the facts as they were presented because we don’t allow opinions to dictate our investigations,” said Ecoffey.

Wolfe says they are relieved their sister is home but for future cases, she hopes they are handled more urgently.

According to Ecoffey, felony missing persons cases take high priority and they do take them seriously.

Categories: Crime, Local News, South Dakota News