Family of Native American woman killed in crash halts autopsy


KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho -The body of Olivia Pakootas, the young woman killed in a tragic car crash Friday, is headed to a funeral home, for now.

On Monday, a judge granted the request filed by Pakootas’ family to order a temporary restraining order against Kootenai County Coroner, Warren Keen.

The 21-year-old was ejected from her car near Worley, ID. Court documents say Pakootas’ family did not know where her body was for 48 hours and that they could not reach the coroner's office because it was closed over the weekend.

Documents say Pakootas’ mother did not want an autopsy performed on her daughter out because of cultural and religious beliefs. 

According to court records, Keen denied the families request and planned on performing the autopsy on Monday.

A press release states “Olivia’s family has expressed their desire for the coroner’s office to return Olivia’s body to the family without an invasive autopsy as it is a clear violation of their cultural traditions and their religious beliefs.  Within tribal culture, an unnecessary autopsy would be a gross desecration of the family and the Tribe’s traditions, culture, and religious beliefs.”

A hearing on whether Pakootas’ body will have to be returned to the Kootenai County Coroner is scheduled for Thursday.

KHQ did reach out to Keen and his attorney, but at this time have not received a return phone call.

Pakootas’ mother also wrote the following statement.

“Our Livi girl has been making her mark since her day of birth....born on Veterans Day 11-11-96 @ 11:11am. She starred in a movie before she could walk and stole the heart of movie star, Adam Beach in Smoke Signals....approaching her high school graduation she was told she couldn't wear an eagle feather on her cap. Olivia went in front of the Tekoa-Oakesdale School Board and presented the importance of it. Olivia wanted to ensure that other tribal kids wouldn't have to EVER worry about this again. And she won. At her graduation she received the outstanding athlete award that has NEVER been awarded to a native student athlete. Now even in her death....she is making her mark to ensure that no other Coeur d'Alene tribal family has to fight the state to take care of our people and send them on their final journey. We pray my beloved eldest daughter is returned to our family so that we can carry out our cultural ways taught by our ancestors. Lem lemts (thank you)”

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