POLSON — Sunny Katherinne White, charged with vehicular homicide following the death of Mika Westwolf, made her initial appearance in a Lake County courtroom on Wednesday.
White is accused in the death of Westwolf — a 22-year-old Indigenous woman — who died after being hit by a vehicle as she was walking along Highway 93 near Arlee in March 2023.
In the months after her death, Westwolf's family created the "Mika Matters" movement to raise awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) and to call for justice in her case.
Westwolf's family released a statement on Friday that reads:
"As we mark seven months since Mika's tragic passing, it is essential to acknowledge that this arrest is just the beginning of the journey towards justice. The fight to seek accountability, raise awareness, and protect the lives of Indigenous people and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives remains an ongoing battle. Our hearts go out to the families who are still searching for their loved ones, and we remain deeply saddened by the fact that Native Americans continue to go missing at an alarming rate. The urgency to address this issue has never been greater."
Judge Molly Owen set an arraignment date of November 8, 2023, for White.
We will update you as we get more information.
(OCTOBER 23, 2023) Sunny Katherinne White has been charged by the Lake County Attorney's Office with vehicular homicide in connection with the death of Mika Josephine Westwolf.
Westwolf died after being hit by a vehicle as she walking along Highway 93 near White Coyote Road just outside of Arlee in March 2023.
Seven months later, White has been charged with five felonies: vehicular homicide while under the influence, accidents involving another person or deceased person, two counts of criminal child endangerment, and criminal possession of dangerous drugs.
White was arrested on October 20, 2023, on an extra-jurisdiction warrant and spent the weekend in Flathead County Jail. On Sunday, she was bonded out.
MTN News has confirmed an affidavit was filed on Monday which details what investigators claim happened the night of the deadly hit-and-run.
According to the affidavit, on March 31, 2023, at around 4:15 a.m., Tribal Police Officer T.J. Haynes was patrolling north of Arlee on Highway 93 when he saw vehicle debris and a body. Mika Westwolf was later identified as the victim.
Just over an hour later, at 5:23 a.m., a Lake County Sheriff's Office deputy noticed a gold 2008 Cadillac Escalade with front-end damage and a missing passenger side rear-view mirror parked just outside of Polson. The damage to the vehicle matched the description of the vehicle debris described at the scene.
The deputy saw a woman — soon identified as Sunny White — moving items from the banged-up Escalade and into another car. According to the affidavit, White said that her vehicle was overheating and she had called a friend to help her.
The affidavit states that White claimed she had hit a deer, did not stop, and kept driving - “[White] claimed she was passing a bottle back to her baby and didn’t see the deer," court documents state.
The affidavit reports that White had her two children, 4-year-old Aryan and 2-year-old Nation, in her car.
White told Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Tyler Dager that she was “driving with her two small children to Kalispell from Butte for the weekend."
She also denied using alcohol and that she “hadn’t used methamphetamine or fentanyl in a week," court documents state.
In the statement made to Trooper Dager, White explained that she assumed what she hit was a deer and swerved to the left on the highway. The vehicle was then seized and towed away.
MHP Trooper Wayne Bieber documented the crash scene. The affidavit says that “evidence from the scene indicates that Westwolf was walking in the northbound lane of travel or near the fog line when she was struck by the suspect vehicle”.
Westwolf was hit head-on and the force of the crash propelled her body closer to the north side of the road, the affadavit states. Westwolf died from numerous blunt force injuries.
WHO WAS MIKA WESTWOLF?
After interviewing Westwolf's brother, Davian Howard, troopers learned that the siblings had driven to a bar in the Ravalli area that evening.
According to the affidavit, on the way back into Arlee the two stopped near North Valley Creek, approximately five miles north of the crash scene, where Wetwolf left her phone in the vehicle and walked away. Howard was unable to find Westwolf and left her a voicemail at 1:13 a.m.
The affidavit states that according to cellphone data, White had left Butte close to midnight, drove through Missoula at 2:45 a.m., and was at the scene of the crash at 3 a.m.
After obtaining a search warrant for White’s vehicle, methamphetamine, five syringes, and two unopened packages of Narcan were found. White’s blood sample also returned positive for methamphetamine and fentanyl.
White was ordered to appear in the Lake County Courthouse on the first Wednesday following her arrest.