The two people accused in a pair of Missoula murders may be taking steps to get married while in jail, according to court records.
An application for a search warrant reviewed by the Missoulian said that at Augustus Standingrock’s request, he and Tiffanie Pierce have been sent marriage application material.
Standingrock and Pierce are each charged with two counts of deliberate homicide after the dismembered bodies of 15-year-old Marilyn Pickett and 24-year-old Jackson Wiles were found in tubs of chemicals in the basement of Pierce’s home in August. Standingrock and Pierce have been in the Missoula County jail since their arrest, each held on $2 million bail.
Several potential barriers to any marriage for the incarcerated couple appear to exist. For one, a senior jail staffer says he doesn't know of another case where two inmates have married each other, and doesn't know how that would be handled.
On top of that, a judge’s order in the case bans Standingrock and Pierce from having any contact with one another for any reason.
The search warrant application said that in November, Standingrock sent a letter to his mother, thanking her for sending him marriage paperwork.
“Did you send them to her as well? I hope you’re ready to accept Tiffanie into the family,” he wrote.
Standingrock and Pierce have also made repeated requests to family members for copies of the lyrics to “Meat Cleaver” by Brotha Lynch Hung, which reference killing and dismembering a woman. The warrant application notes that a music video for the song shows an African-American woman in a basement with tarps, tubs, and references to dismemberment.
“The crime scene in this case involved two victims, one of which was an African-American female victim who was dismembered with knives and an axe and placed into a tub in a basement with tarps on the ground,” a detective wrote in the application.
If Standingrock and Pierce do fill out a marriage application, it’s unclear whether a wedding between two jail inmates can take place.
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Jail Commander Jason Kowalski was out of the office and unavailable for comment on Friday, but Chief Detention Officer Reese Richter said that in his more than two decades at the jail, he doesn’t know of a case where two current inmates got married in custody.
“To my knowledge, it’s never happened in my career,” he said. “To be perfectly honest, I just don’t know what we would do about that because I’ve never had to deal with it.”
Even at the Montana State Prison, marriages between inmates don’t happen, public information officer Amy Barton said. There are marriages between an inmate and a person on the outside, but Barton said the prison doesn’t play a role in the process. The outside person needs to fill out the paperwork to do a marriage by proxy, she said.
While a policy technically allows a marriage ceremony to occur in the visiting room at the jail at the couple’s expense, Barton said it requires the inmate to get a staff sponsor, and as far as she is aware that has never happened.
The Department of Corrections also has a policy regarding inmate marriages — which wouldn’t apply to Pierce and Standingrock unless they were convicted and sentenced. That state policy said requests for marriage should be considered, and are granted at the discretion of an administrator.
The policy also notes that codefendants of an ongoing investigation or active court case cannot get married until all cases have been fully adjudicated.
In addition to homicide charges for Pickett's and Wiles’ deaths, Pierce is charged with attempted homicide and assault with a weapon, counts that arise from a July incident where she’s accused of breaking into a Missoula home and repeatedly stabbing a woman. Standingrock is also charged with witness tampering for allegedly calling a witness in the homicide case and telling him not to speak to a detective.
At this point, Standingrock and Pierce’s cases are being tried separately. Standingrock’s trial is currently set to start Nov. 7. Pierce’s is set to begin Sept. 14.