Prayer gathering honors memory of Ernie Evans and Connie Red Nest

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - A prayer gathering was held Feb. 7th in Rapid City for Ernie Evans and Connie Red Nest. The couple was found dead Sunday, apparent victims of the bitter cold. Their lives were remembered at the vigil, as the community searches for ways to keep this from happening again.

A crowded Woyatan Lutheran Church held family, friends and community members sharing the memories of Ernie Evans and Connie Red Nest.

"It's nice for the community to come together for the homeless people,” said Edison Red Nest Jr., brother of Connie Red Nest.

"It was hard for me, you know, wanted to cry last night. She's my baby sister and we didn't expect that at all,” said Rattling Chase Red Nest, brother of Connie Red Nest.

Although we do not know what options the couple had for shelter that night, family members are troubled that they could not find a place to stay during the extreme cold last weekend.

"We don't have a inpatient alcohol treatment program here in Rapid City for Native Americans. So, we're having a hard time I've seen a lot of our Lakota people that are addicted,” said Rattling Chase Red Nest.

"It's always a hard time when we lose somebody. Especially when our homeless people freeze out there with cold weather happening all the time now. And it's so dangerous for our homeless people to be out there,” said Elton Yellow Boy, Pastor of North Rapid Community Church.

Right now, there are resources at detox and at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission.

Cathie Harris of RV Ministry, one of the organizers of the emergency warming shelters, spoke at the gathering. She told the group, “No matter what opposition I face, I will fight for you so we don’t have another memorial like this again.”

Those popup shelters have been criticized by Mayor Steve Allender and Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris, who believe they bring safety and alcohol concerns. RV Ministry is expected to issue a statement about the controversy soon.