Woman's ashes found after 40 years

Published: Sep. 13, 2017 at 10:37 PM CDT
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Lena Booth White Hat was murdered 40 years ago in Rapid Valley. Her relatives in England were left wondering, what happened to her remains? Now, they finally have an answer.

White Hat was considered a wild child by her family. She was born in England in 1940, where she later met her husband Theodore White Hat who was from the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

Rapid City historical researcher Ellen Bishop said, "They got married and came back to the US together and lived in Denver. Things didn't go well and she decided to hitch hike to probably find him in South Dakota, because she knew he was from South Dakota."

Eventually, Lena makes her way to Rapid Valley where she was brutally murdered by John Thomas Martin.

After her death, Lena's body was cremated, but no one ever showed up to claim her ashes.

Since her 1977 death, Lena's remains have been held at Behrens-Wilson funeral home.

Until recently Lena's niece, who lives in England, contacted Bishop to help find Lena's remains.

Bishop learned that Lena had been cremated in Sioux Falls. The remains were then returned west river.

Wade Wilson the Funeral Director for Behrens-Wilson funeral home said, "I thought to myself well...we do have a few of unclaimed remains that we shelter here for families that don't claim the remain. I thought maybe this is just one of them...I went down and looked in the area that we have the shelter, and she was there. Then one of the first things we did was contact Ellen that we had the remains."

Once the family learned about the ashes, they wanted them shipped back to England, but couldn't because of the expense. However, thanks to a local family, Lena will soon be going home.

"We were just lucky enough to know that there is a couple here in town that they have a daughter that lives over there, and called and see if they would be willing to take the remains over there with them. They graciously said we will take them over and this will happen in November", said Wilson.

As for Martin who was convicted of Lena's murder, he was sentenced to life in prison. He is held at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.