Non-Indian Men Arrested for Murder, Racial Tensions Rise

Cue Card preview image

General Information

NBC Nightly News
Tom Brokaw/David Bloom
Event Date:
Air/Publish Date:
Resource Type:
Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
Clip Length:


Racial tension rises between American Indians and non-Indians in the town of Standing Rock, South Dakota. Indians protest easy sentences given to two non-Indian men following the rape and murder of an Indian woman fiften years ago.



"Non-Indian Men Arrested for Murder, Racial Tensions Rise." David Bloom, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 8 May 1996. NBC Learn. Web. 18 January 2015.


Bloom, D. (Reporter), & Brokaw, T. (Anchor). (1996, May 8). Non-Indian Men Arrested for Murder, Racial Tensions Rise. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"Non-Indian Men Arrested for Murder, Racial Tensions Rise" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 05/08/1996. Accessed Sun Jan 18 2015 from NBC Learn:


Non-Indian Men Arrested for Murder, Racial Tensions Rise

TOM BROKAW, anchor:

NBC NEWS IN DEPTH tonight, a tragic story from America's heartland, a brutal murder that deeply divided two South Dakota cultures. On one side Native Americans. On the other, their white neighbors, and a young man from one of their most prominent white families. This is a case that has exposed old wounds and still-simmering resentments on both sides, and NBC's David Bloom has the story tonight, IN DEPTH.

DAVID BLOOM reporting:

For 15 years, these cries for justice went unheard, and a mother's prayers for the spirit of her murdered daughter went unanswered.

Ms. ALBERTA ROUGH SURFACE (Victim's Mother): All I want is justice for my little girl. That's all I ask. Then I'll feel at peace.

BLOOM: The 1980 rape and murder of 18-year-old Candace Rough Surface, and the recent revelation of just who killed her, has opened old wounds here in Mobridge, South Dakota.

Ms. ROBIN RYCHMAN (Mobridge Resident): Well, it's brought out a lot, a lot of racial tension. I think a lot more than there was before.

BLOOM: Here on the banks of the Missouri River, both Indians and whites agree prejudice runs deep. Most Indians live on the immense Standing Rock Reservation west of the river, burial site of Sitting Bull, where unemployment exceeds 60 percent. Mobridge to the east is prosperous and largely white. In 1890, Custer's 7th Calvary massacred hundreds of Indians at Wounded Knee. That bloody history has not been forgotten.

Ms. FAITH IRON HORSE (Lakota Indian): Our people have been killed many, Many, for many, many years by non-Indians, and nobody took a stand and said, “We're just as human as you.”

Mr. DOUGLAS MAYNERD (Mobridge Resident): We're not proud of what took place in these massacres that many years ago. But somebody's gotta let 'em go. And I don't know that they have let 'em go yet.

BLOOM: In recent years, Candi Rough Surface's unsolved murder, largely forgotten in Mobridge, became a rallying cry for Native Americans across the country. Then last year, James Stroh was going through a bitter divorce and his soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law called police to say Stroh and his cousin Nicholas Scherr, from a prominent Mobridge family, were the killers. Stroh, who'd earlier told his wife, now confessed to police that on a summer night when he was 15 years old, he'd met Rough Surface outside a Mobridge bar. That on these desolate plains he and Scherr, both drunk...

Mr. MARK WHITE BULL (Lakota Indian): They raped her and they beat her and they, they shot her when she didn't have any clothes on. They chained her to the car, and their truck, and drug her and dumped her body.

BLOOM: Stroh struck a deal to testify against his cousin, and yesterday Scherr also pleaded guilty. Not to murder, but to manslaughter.

Offscreen Voice: Hey murderer, how do you live with yourself, man?

BLOOM: But on the Standing Rock Reservation, the plea-bargain deal raised as many questions as it answered. Prosecutors say they'll ask for a mandatory minimum sentence of 13 years. But, in truth, both Nick Scherr and Jim Stroh could spend far less time than that in prison. Which is why many American Indians are still not convinced they can get justice on the other side of the river.

Mr. WHITE BULL: This is just an Indian, so to speak, you know. And that's the way, that's the way the state wants to treat this as.

BLOOM: Prosecutors defend the deal, but many in the Lakota tribe question whether if two Indians had killed a white girl, the charges would've been reduced.

Ms. ELAINE SILBERNAGEL (Victim's Sister): Considering the terrible crime he committed, it's not right. He should be up for murder one, nothing less.

Ms. GERMAINE DEMERY (Victim's Aunt): I'm shocked right now. Angry. Upset. And disgusted.

Ms. IRON HORSE: It's us who walk this earth, who still feel her pain, who still feel her torture because justice has not been served.

BLOOM: But Candi's mother, Alberta Rough Surface, is more philosophical.

Ms. ROUGH SURFACE: I suppose I have to live with it. Whatever is to come, I leave the rest in God's hands. He'll take care of me.

[Man prays in the Sioux language.]

BLOOM: Alberta Rough Surface says her people's prayers have already freed her daughter's spirits. David Bloom, NBC News, Mobridge, South Dakota.

BROKAW: Nicholas Scherr is expected to be sentenced later this month. Prosecutors will ask that he be given 100 years, that would make him eligible for parole in 13 years. We'll keep you posted on this story.