Skip to main content

After three years, still no justice for Jodie

HORTON, Kan. - As Shawn Bordeaux sat in his chair in the early morning hours of Nov. 21, 1997, he had the world by the tail.

His job was going well and he and his wife, Jodie, were expecting their first child in two and a half months. Life may not have been perfect, but the couple was very happy. They loved one another and the baby they had tried so hard to conceive was a reality.

The previous night , he and Jodie went to Topeka for dinner at her favorite restaurant, Red Lobster. Shawn offered to take her to a movie, but Jodie declined, saying she felt they had spent too much money on dinner. However, she did want to buy the baby a couple of outfits.

Shawn knew that he had broken from Lakota tradition. He remembered it was bad luck to buy things for a baby before it was born, but he told himself that a smart Lakota man knew the baby had to have something to wear home from the hospital. He put thoughts of anything bad out of his mind after Jodie said, "Honey, can we just buy one thing?"

Caught up in his wife's excitement, he went with her to Kohl's and they happily bought two new outfits. Sharing the dream of how beautiful the baby would look in the new clothes, the couple drove home.

Nov. 20 began just as happily for the couple. Shawn had the night off and he and Jodie had planned a quiet evening at home. He had helped Jodie prepare a Chinese dinner and later gave her a back rub. He remembered thinking that the baby would be a large one and he knew that his 5-foot 1-inch wife often had backaches from the weight of the baby. He said he felt a back rub was the least he could do for his wife.

As the clock ticked the minutes away in the first hour of Nov. 21, dark forces hovered, soon to rip the loving couple's future happiness apart.

Shawn recounted the nightmare:

"It got to be about 12:30 and we were both night owls. About 12: 40 ... all of a sudden I heard a pop. Now, two light bulbs that week had busted out and made a similar pop. There was a lamp behind my head.

"We had these shades that weren't really shades. They were like a wedding gown, a veil ... just real see-through. So these guys could see us.

"We were about fifteen miles from the hospital, out in the middle of nowhere in Powhattan ... It's hard to say exactly what happened. Did they drive by? Did they park on the road? There's a couple different theories.

"Either one, we're sitting there, all of a sudden I hear 'POP,' and I kind of wince and look over my shoulder toward that lamp. A bullet had gone through the wall, high enough that it created dust. I thought the dust was smoke from the light.

"So I thought, 'Oh shoot, this darned electrical. This lamp is acting up, it's electrical. We had two dogs in the room. With that first pop they jumped up. When the dogs jumped up, it compelled Jodie and I to jump up. She was on the couch and I was on the recliner. We both jumped up and looked at each other. She ran to the left, toward the bedroom. I had run across the room following the dogs who were running for the kitchen.

"I don't know how it happened ... if I was a little more to the left ... if I pause ... I had run through all of these bullets.

"I was dumbstruck by what was happening. It was like good spirits were trying to help me through it.

"If I'd have stayed in that chair, a bullet would have gone right through my midsection. Since I got up and ran toward the kitchen, they shot all around me.

"She ran in the bedroom. The first shot was one and then there was a pause. Then it was like someone lit a twenty-pack of firecrackers. It was an automatic rifle. I had no idea. I still thought it was that darned light and it was popping and making noises. That's what it is, it's the light. Ignorance and na?ve, not believing something like this was happening.

"I got to the kitchen and the dogs were spinning circles. I opened the door to let the dogs out. So one runs through the porch and the door, it just slams shut, trapping my other dog in the porch. The dog that ran out was raised to be a baby, he was young. He was so scared, he didn't think of anything he just ran. The chow was a go-getter. If there was someone on foot, he would have gone after them. But the other dog was so scared that when he went out, the door locked after him and he just ran. It locked the chow in the porch.

"I went back through the kitchen and I get to the living room and I call Jodie. 'Jodie, baby, are you all right? Are you all right?'

"I get to the living room and I looked toward the bedroom. I see her feet in the doorway. I get there and she is laying on her back in the doorway and she was struck in the top part of her head, above the left eye. And it was almost as if ... I don't know if she could see what was happening. I didn't because it was coming right over my head and I had thought it was that lamp.

"She might have been able to look up and see bullets piercing the wall. She had called me before when she had heard noises out here. We had thought it was raccoons. I had even sent the police out to check. She had thought she had heard someone walking around and had even come up to the porch. Anyway they certainly could have ... she was scared ... somebody could have staked the place out and planned all of this and that is certainly what must have happened.

"I get to her and in the top part of her head is gashed open. I immediately think, the glass from that light had gashed her head open. So I took a tube sock and I covered that part. Immediately I went the living room to find the phone to dial 911.I was on the floor. I dialed 911 and I looked up at the wall, it was riddled with bullets. Only at that time did it dawn on me what had just happened.

"I do surmise this - when she ran, she got to the bedroom she could have just laid on the bed or something. It was as though she had turned around to check on me, like she was worried, so she stopped in the doorway and she turned back around and that was when she got hit."

As Shawn repeated his location over and over to the 911 operator, he bent by his wife's side.

"Here's people in Horton and they don't know where Powhattan is, and that just blows me away. We're not talking Cherry Creek here, it's some place right down the road. I had to say it ten times, it was so frustrating."

Then Shawn remembers kissing his wife's belly and bidding his child goodbye. "Until now I didn't know that was what I was doing. I felt compelled to kiss my wife on the belly. I thought, 'You know Shawn, your baby is saying goodbye.'"

When emergency crews arrived 15 minutes later, it was apparent that Jodie had died instantly.

"The one thing I am glad for is that my wife didn't' suffer. She died instantly, however my baby didn't," he said. Shawn asked if his little girl could be saved, but because of the length of time it had taken the ambulance to get to the Bordeaux home and the distance back to a hospital, he was told that the baby didn't have a chance of survival. In less than five minutes, Shawn Bordeaux had lost a wife he cherished and the dream of a little girl he never met.

He is angry now as he looks back on the police treatment of the crime scene.

"They kept us out of the house for four days. What really bothered me is that they left her laying there for so long," Shawn said. "And it was like the next day, I don't know how long into the next day, she was still laying there. It was disrespectful."

That was only the beginning. Shawn Bordeaux was just starting to find out just how painfully slow the wheels of justice can move.

As soon as they could, Shawn, his parents and grandfather went back to the house. He stayed only long enough for his grandfather to smudge and to fill a rental truck with his belongings. He couldn't bear to stay in a place that had once held such love and promise.

Shawn immediately tried to get the FBI involved in the case but said they declined to investigate, citing jurisdiction. Although the Bordeaux home sat within the original boundaries of the Kickapoo reservation, an 1862 treaty, which shrank the boundaries, left the home a half mile outside the reservation borders recognized by the BIA.

He even went to the Internal Revenue Service in an attempt to get the FBI to recognize that he indeed had been living on Indian land. "If the most powerful government agency, the IRS, who will come after you for forty-five cents, recognizes that I was an Indian man living on Indian land, why won't the FBI?"

Shawn believes it is because the state of Kansas and the Kickapoo tribe have been in litigation over reservation boundaries. The tribe believes the original 1854 treaty boundaries are legal and the state believes the 1862 treaty, which diminished it, set the legal borders.

"This should be decided in court, but until it is, it shouldn't stop the FBI from investigating," Shawn said.

The same question has plagued others on the Kickapoo Reservation. Former Kickapoo leaders, Steve Cadue, Thelma Simon and Jimmy Cisneros wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno asking for federal assistance in the investigation.

Shawn testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when it met in Rapid City, S. D., in 1999.

Jodie's mother, Candice Smith regularly calls investigating officers as she seeks closure following the death of her only child and grandchild.

Recently the investigation has taken a new twist. Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill said an inquisition has been ongoing for the past few weeks and some new information is coming out.

But for the family of Jodie Bordeaux, what little has happened has taken much too long.

Shawn bristles at the length of time it has taken to bring the original suspects in for questioning a second time. He says he knows who killed his wife and child and that others on the reservation also know, but are protecting them.

Shawn is now back in South Dakota near his family as he struggles to put his life back in order.

"It's like I probably make more money than anyone here on the reservation," Shawn said. "But when I get in my car and go home, I know I am going back to an empty house. I go out to eat, alone. I see these fathers with their kids, giving them color books ... ."

Shawn said he wants to see the murder listed as a double homicide. He wants authorities to acknowledge that two lives were taken that November night three years ago - the life of Jodie Lynn Bordeaux and the life of Jordan Shay Bordeaux.

Although he acknowledges those who supported him and Jodie, he condemns those who have not come forward and who continued to protect the person who shot his wife and child.

He said he reads about problems on the Kickapoo reservation.

"As long as they've got that blood on their hands, I think that tribe will stay in turmoil," Shawn said. "These guys are paying their penance right now. As long as there are community members who are afraid to tell or refuse to tell, they will continue to have this stuff happen to them."

Anyone with information regarding the murders of Jodie and Jordan Bordeaux is urged to contact the Brown County Sheriff's office or the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.