By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
BOX ELDER - The family of a Box Elder man found dead last weekend gathered at his mother's home on Monday, consoling each other and waiting to hear the details of his death.
Dozens of family members and friends of Alton "Muck-Tune" Boyd Alexander came together to share memories of the man they described as kind and outgoing, and to plan his funeral service. They came from as far away as Portland, Ore., and Farmington, N.M., and met at his mother's tan house just a short walk from where his body was found.
As a ceremonial fire burned in the front yard, family members ate supper while a volunteer church group worked in the garden where Alexander used to help his mother. Across the street is the house where he lived with his common-law wife, Lori Stiffarm, and the couple's two children.
Alexander's body was found on Friday night. The FBI and tribal authorities are conducting a homicide investigation.
The family has taken the news of his death hard.
"It's hard for the family to deal with the way we lost our brother," said his sister Jamie Alexander-Mendez. "Whoever did this hurt a lot of people."
Alexander-Mendez, who now lives in Portland, said she and her brother were very close as children.
"It was just the two of us growing up," she said. "I think right now this is the time to remember the good times and not the hard times we had. He was real good with my kids. He was always making people laugh."
Alexander earned the nickname "Muck-Tune" when he was little. Meaning "big mouth," it was a moniker that fit him well, his family said.
"He liked to talk," his mother, Ila Denny said, laughing.
Alexander was the family's handyman, seemingly always on call when something needed to be fixed. He was generous, and always let friends in need stay at his house or eat his food, Denny said.
"He never turned anyone away," she said.
Alexander loved tinkering with electronics and was a diehard AC/DC fan, she said.
Alexander and Stiffarm had been in a relationship off and on for 12 years. They had lived together for the last three years, and were planning to get married soon, said his sister, Bonita Denny Tailfeathers.
"He just proposed last week. They were planning on finally making it formal," she said.
Alexander and Stiffarm had two children: a 10-year-daughter, Devon, and a 9-year-old son, Delane.
During an interview Monday, Stiffarm gave the following account of what happened on Friday night, when Alexander was killed:
At 9:45 p.m., five teenage boys in a white car pulled into the driveway, Stiffarm said. The boys were young, she said, between 13 and 15 years old.
"They were yelling, 'Is Muck here? We need to talk to Muck," Stiffarm said. When she went outside to see what they wanted, they again asked for Alexander, so Stiffarm went back into the house and woke him.
Alexander got up and went outside and briefly talked to the boys, Stiffarm said.
"He said, 'Honey, I'll be right back,' and he left," she said.
At 11 p.m., as she stood on the front porch, Stiffarm saw headlights from a vehicle at the dump site where Alexander's body was later found.
When Alexander had not returned by midnight, Stiffarm called the jail in Rocky Boy to see if he had been arrested. When a dispatcher told her that Alexander was not in jail, Stiffarm said she wanted to report her husband missing.
"I knew something was wrong; he always came home," she said.
At 12:30 a.m. Saturday, a police officer stopped by the house to see if Alexander had made it back yet.
At 3 a.m., Stiffarm heard knocking on the door.
"It was the FBI," Stiffarm said. They said they'd found a body and that Alexander was the only person reported missing.
Agents asked her to describe Alexander's clothes and tattoos and then left. They returned two hours later and said the body that had been found was Alexander.
"They told me it was a murder," Stiffarm said.
Alexander's body was found less than a quarter mile from his house on a dirt road that connects Wild Rose Village to a garbage dump. On Saturday, after Alexander's body had been photographed and taken away for an autopsy, Denny was allowed to visit the scene. Just before nightfall, she spread dirt over the ground to cover the bloodstains, she said.
On Monday, she pointed out the spot, about 50 feet from a large trash bin. It had had been marked with a simple arrangement of flowers and a plate of food.
"I feel a lot of hate, but I don't want to feel that way," she said. "Some of our men wanted to get revenge, to get the people who did this. I had to bring them together and tell them that is not the way."
Stiffarm and Denny said they were told by the FBI that agents had seized a white passenger car matching the description of the one that Alexander was last seen in. The car was found at a residence in a nearby village, Stiffarm said, adding that the FBI told her they found bloodstains in the vehicle.
Alexander's family also said they believe the FBI has arrested several people in connection with his death.
Bob Wright, a spokesman at the FBI's Salt Lake City office, said Monday that no one was in custody. The FBI did not return calls seeking comment today.
On Monday afternoon, the family had still not learned how Alexander was killed, and was awaiting the autopsy results.
"Hopefully we know something soon. Right now, we need to know for sure," Alexander-Mendez said.
The mortician was scheduled to pick up the body today, Denny said.
"He needs to see for himself whether (the casket) will be open or closed," she said.