Wyoming Woman Accused Of Torturing Son Can’t Get Out Of Jail To Care For Other Kids

A woman accused of torturing her son asked a federal judge to let her out of jail during her child-abuse prosecution to care for her five other small children and take anger management classes. On Friday, the judge said no. 

Clair McFarland

February 26, 20247 min read

Kandace Sitting Eagle
Kandace Sitting Eagle (Via Facebook and LinkedIn)

A woman accused of confining, starving and torturing her 13-year-old son will not be getting out of jail soon, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Kandace Sitting Eagle, 33, also known as Kandace Van Fleet, asked a federal judge last week to consider releasing her from jail while she prepares for her trial. A grand jury indicted her Jan. 10 on four felony charges following allegations that she and her husband imprisoned her son in his room for weeks, starved him, tortured him, and taunted him about having to stay in the room while the other children were out having fun.  

Sitting Eagle promised that if let out, she would stay clean, get a job, help her mother take care of her other small children, get anger management counseling, pay toward her student loans and fulfill various other promises.

U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson denied her request.  

“Defendant’s 16 promises are just that — promises,” Johnson wrote in a Friday order. “She has not had employment for five years, and when employed, primarily was moving from one fast food job to another.”

Johnson added that Sitting Eagle has a history of addiction.

“Defendant’s drug of choice has been marijuana, and in the past she struggled with alcohol, but she alleges she has been sober for five years,” wrote the judge. “The significant issues that remain (are) the safety of the children and defendant’s access to them pending trial.”

Originally set for March, Sitting Eagle is now scheduled to face trial June 10, along with her husband, Truman Sitting Eagle, who faces matching child-abuse charges. 

Probably Not Going To Run

The safety of Sitting Eagle’s younger children — ages 8, 6, 4,2 and 10 months — was Johnson’s primary concern.

He said she doesn’t necessarily pose a flight risk, although the kidnapping charge she faces carries a minimum penalty of 25 years in prison.

“She does not possess a passport and has resided in Arapahoe, Wyoming, for 30 years,” said Johnson.

Talk To CPS About That

Sitting Eagle’s earlier motion for review of detention, which is not publicly accessible as her accompanying letter is, reportedly says her mother “desperately” needs help caring for the children.

That’s no reason to let Sitting Eagle back into the home, Johnson indicated in his order.

“If the grandmother ‘desperately’ needs assistance with childcare, perhaps (Northern Arapaho Department of Family Services) protective services should be contacted to determine what additional help may be required,” Johnson said.

Sitting Eagle’s criminal history also gave Johnson safety concerns. That includes a 2018 battery conviction and a child-endangerment charge a prosecutor dismissed when she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, the order says.

Johnson voiced another concern about witness influencing. He said the children with whom Sitting Eagle seeks to reunite may be required to testify at trial about events they saw in their home.

I'm Not Leaving

Bureau of Indian Affairs School Resource Officer Matt Lee had been trying to figure out why the Sitting Eagles’ 13-year-old boy was not at school for about a month prior to Dec. 12, the evidentiary affidavit in the case says.

Lee went to the Sitting Eagles’ home multiple times to find him, but couldn’t.

On Dec. 12, Lee demanded to see the boy, saying he wouldn't leave until he saw him. 

Truman Sitting Eagle went and retrieved the boy from a crawl space under the trailer house, the affidavit says. The boy later told authorities that Truman told him to put his shoes on and hide in the crawl space just as Lee arrived.

The boy’s face was reportedly bruised and swollen and he’d lost about 10 pounds from when Lee had last seen him.

An ambulance took the boy to Riverton’s SageWest Health Care, then an air ambulance took him to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

FBI Special Agent Scott Jensen went to see the boy while the latter was still at the Riverton hospital and found his face, arms, ears, chest and back bruised. Lacerations riddled his fingers, face, ear and scalp, says the affidavit.

The boy also was hungry, having eaten only a sandwich for several days and a bag of chips on the way to the hospital, says the affidavit.

Maybe, For Thanksgiving

During a child and adolescent forensic interview, the boy reportedly said he had a “bad habit” of stealing food and hiding it in his room. His stepfather and mother, the Sitting Eagles, told him he was causing a mouse problem, the affidavit relates from the boy’s interview.  

When they found he was stealing food, they tried tying his bedroom door closed, but he was able to sneak out at night and get food, the affidavit says.  

So they put a lock on his door and screwed his window shut, trapping him in the room for weeks, the document alleges. 

The boy thought they’d let him out for Thanksgiving, but they didn’t, the affidavit says.  

The document says the boy lost track of time and things became “foggy."  He reportedly heard his mom yell at him through the wall saying he’d been in there for a month, and “wouldn’t he like to be out having fun with the family?” 

The document says that sometimes they’d give him food, usually leftovers. He had nothing to do and sat in his room.

Blacking Out, Waking Up

When he’d stolen food prior, his mother and stepfather would hit and punch his face, allegedly.

Truman Sitting Eagle put a choke hold on the boy until he lost consciousness, and when he “woke up,” Sitting Eagle hit him, the document says, adding that the boy felt “numb,” his body felt like spaghetti, his head tingled, and he drifted in and out of waking at least twice.

Meanwhile, his mother Kandace was “taking care of the babies or taking the girls to school” during the alleged chokeholds.  

The boy reportedly said that Truman Sitting Eagle would hit him if he didn’t answer questions the right way.  

His mom would also hit him in the head with her hands, but that “her hits did not hurt,” the affidavit says. 

Kandace Sitting Eagle reportedly told Truman at some point, “You need to quit hitting that boy or something bad will happen." 

Truman Sitting Eagle also would hit the boy with a stick from the closet, which the boy tried to block with his hands until they swelled up “like balloons,” says the document.  

One day the boy reportedly woke to his mother hitting his hands with the stick.

On another occasion, he stood in the corner of his room while Truman Sitting Eagle rifled through, looking for food and wrappers. When Truman found some food, the mother reportedly kneed the boy between the legs, dropping him to the floor.  

Broken Back, Broken Face

Dr. Kristine Campbell evaluated the boy at the Primary Children’s Hospital said that in addition to the bruising and cuts, the boy’s right nasal bone was fractured and his spine contained healing lumbar fractures, the affidavit relates. He had another serious reported injury which Cowboy State Daily has chosen not to disclose.

Authorities forensically interviewed the boy’s five half-siblings who are all younger than 9.   

A little girl confirmed that the boy had a lock on his door, says the affidavit.  

Another little girl said she doesn’t like how her brother gets hurt.

“Sometimes her parents hurt (the boy) and he can’t walk,” Jensen related, adding that the boy “screams when Truman Sitting Eagle hits his legs.”

Another child confirmed that the parents hurt his brother “by beating him up,” the affidavit says. 

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter