Harsher charges against Nebraska man

By Ardith Van Riper

     A Winnebago, Nebraska, man accused of killing 22-year-old Kozee Decorah on the Winnebago Indian Reservation, has now been charged with murder.  The murder charge replaces a previous charge of manslaughter.

     A grand jury on Oct. 23 filed a second superseding indictment charging Jonathan Rooney with second-degree murder and tampering with documents or proceedings in Indian Country.

     Rooney is accused of killing Decorah on May 16 at a remote cabin near Winnebago.  The two were engaged and had three children. 

     Decorah was the daughter of Marvin Decorah, Sr. and Stella Medicinetop.  Kozee grew up in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, and was a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

     Family, friends, and supporters of Kozee Montana Featherstone Medicinetop Decorah gathered on June 5 outside the Marathon County Courthouse in Wausau for a ‘Justice for Kozee’ demonstration. They worked for months, holding rallies, writing letters to Nebraska’s governor, starting a petition, and meeting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Omaha.  The family called for the manslaughter charge to be upgraded, and that call was answered.

     “Our prayers were answered with the grand jury decision,” stated Stacey Schreiber Schinko, family spokesperson. “When Jonathan murdered Kozee, he not only took her life but he forever changed the lives of their three precious children. His hateful choice caused permanent, irreversible trauma to our family, but our hearts hurt most for her children because they must live this life without their beautiful mama who loved them beyond measure.

     “Everything good she was working on in her life and getting done was all for them. She wanted nothing more than to give them the best version of herself. Her killer now faces a potential life sentence which is fitting because his actions have left her babies and us with a life sentence without our Kozee.

     “When I was given the news yesterday via a phone call from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a sense of peace overcome me and tears of relief were shed. We can never bring Kozee back, but we can honor her by getting justice and helping other families who are doing the same for their loved ones.”

     The family also drove to bring awareness to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women across the country. 

     In Nebraska, the maximum punishment for Manslaughter in Indian Country is 15 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a three-year term of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.  A second-degree murder charge could carry a sentence ranging from 14 years to life in prison.

     No new details in the case were provided with the recent court filing.