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'Day by day': Family of Billings woman found dead in suitcase reflects on two losses in one month

Also related to 21-year-old murdered at America's Wild West
Daniel LaForge holding up his sisters memorial pamphlet
Posted at 4:45 PM, Mar 21, 2023

BILLINGS — Susan LaForge was an avid athlete. Her family says she could spend all day on the trails on the Billings Rims. In high school, she won state for cross country with Lodge Grass High School. But now she's gone, and her family is left remembering her—reeling from two tragedies in one month.

Daniel LaForge said his sister, Susan, was always the first person to offer a helping hand.

"She was always the first one to get out there and help a person regardless of their issues. We heard a lot of testimonies from her friends and family regarding that. Regardless of whatever the issue, she was always there to help them," Daniel said on Saturday. "Whether it was lending a couch, lending a few dollars, or giving them a meal, she was always there to help them. And we had a lot of people that we didn’t know personally that came and gave their condolences during her services."

Susan LaForge

On Feb. 28,police were called to Susan's residence at the 1600 block of 12th Street West in central Billings for a report of a death at the residence. Susan's 12-year-old son, Lezane, called the police after discovering his mother's body inside of a suitcase.

“Part of the frustration from my family was some of the news that we were hearing. We were hearing secondary. The point being that when they found her body in the suitcase, that wasn’t even relayed to the family before it was on social media. So again, that type of trauma was really unnecessary. And in my opinion, probably shouldn’t have been brought out," Daniel said. "Because we were told not to say too much regarding the case because it was still under investigation. Yet these kinds of facts we were finding out online secondary from an unknown source. Whether they released it or how it was released. And that’s a primary frustration for my family right now.”

LaForge family
LaForge family

Charging documents revealed the gruesome details behind Susan's murder. Thirty-year-old Terrell Spotted Wolf was arrested on March 6 in connection with the homicide. According to court documents, Lezane told police his mother was dating Spotted Wolf, and he remembered the two arguing two days before discovering his mother's body. He had two other teenage friends in the house when he called police.

Daniel said his family was not made aware of the details surrounding Susan's death until they saw social media posts, and that he was frustrated with the lack of clarity from investigators.

“I know they’re trying their best, but again, from the initial point of contact, the first detective I spoke to said there was cross-jurisdiction between city and county. So I believe there were like three different detectives that me and my aunt spoke to," Daniel said. "The detective I spoke to wasn’t even the same detective that she spoke to. So we really had no primary point of contact. We were just kind of scrambling to catch up on exactly what was going on."

But this isn't the first time the LaForge family has been frustrated with a homicide investigation.

"Even with our own family, we’ve been touched (by tragedy) almost every other year now. I believe it’s been almost 10 years now since my nephew was killed just south here in Pryor at a ranch. Steven (Bearcrane) Cole," Daniel said. "He was murdered out there. The investigation was basically flopped, in my opinion. There was nobody brought to justice even though they knew who the suspect was. They said it was a fight gone wrong, is basically what they said and he got off."

bearcrane, steven.jpg
Steven Bearcrane

In 2005, Steven Bearcrane was shot and killed by a coworker at a ranch on the Crow Reservation. Daniel said no arrests were ever made in the case.

“Now we kind of really don’t know what to expect. So it’s kind of like, ok, what’re we going to hear today? And just seeing things secondary on social media, it’s just kind of a fear now," Laforge said. "Like what are we going to hear next about the case? I mean, worst-case scenario, they let Steven’s killer go. What if they let Susan’s killer go?”

And to make matters even worse, when the news of Susan's death broke, the family was already trying to navigate a different tragedy.

“We have a very large, extended family. The young man that was killed at The Wild West, was actually our nephew as well too. Beau Beaumont was our nephew," Daniel said. "We were still kind of reeling from that as well too, and then to hear the news of Susan that morning when it happened like I said it was just a shock.”

On Feb. 12, 21-year-old Beau Harlan Beaumont was shot and killed outside of America's Wild West in Billings. Xavier Buffalo, 18, was charged with deliberate homicide in the case.

All this happened not even a month before Susan was killed.

Justice for Beau

“We didn’t even believe that it was real. Several of us had to kind of rush to her house just thinking it might’ve been somebody playing a prank or just putting bad news out there," Daniel said. "But when we arrived onsite, the police were actually already there and the house was taped off. The detective immediately spoke to us and told us they had a female deceased body on location."

And Daniel said Susan's son has a long road to emotional recovery ahead.

“Lezane still has a long journey to go. And that was kind of some of the reason it was recommended to us to set up that GoFundMe as well too. So that’s kind of there, and I’m overseeing that for him. Ultimately, the goal would be to put aside a few dollars for him so whenever he is of age he’ll at least have a little something to kind of help him along," Daniel said. "Whether it’s helping him get his first apartment or anything like that. Just having some money available for him from now until he comes of age because he’s got a long road ahead of him. His dad’s not in the picture and now he’s lost his mom, so I mean it’s dependent on the rest of the family just to kind of pick up the pieces and kind of help him move forward."

Susan LaForge and her 12-year-old son, Lezane
Susan LaForge and her 12-year-old son, Lezane

According to Daniel, Lezane's father is not in his life, and he is left to rely on other family members now that his mother is gone. The family has set up a GoFundMe for Lezane to make sure he is always taken care of.

And the family also has plans to honor Susan's memory at their annual youth camp.

“We have an annual youth camp. Our family name is Enemy Hunter. We’re descendants of our great-great-grandpa. She was actually in the process of changing her last name. That’s why if you notice her last name is Enemy Hunter on here as well too," Daniel said while holding up the pamphlet from Susan's memorial. "We have an annual youth camp. During that youth camp this summer, I believe it’s in July in the Pryor mountains, so we’ll probably do something there in her memory.”

Daniel LaForge holding up his sisters memorial pamphlet
Daniel LaForge holding up his sisters memorial pamphlet

And her memory will live on through those who loved her.

“She cared for everybody. She did her best. And she had a lot of trauma, but she was a very spiritual woman. She participated in a lot of the Absaroka (Crow) cultures, and with her faith, that was just part of the tools that she used to move forward in other traumas," Daniel said. "We had a lot of people come forward to let us know that she helped them. Whether it was just sitting and listening, or giving a couple of dollars. I mean she was always there to help them. And that was part of her belief, just to be there, just to help people, and to love them regardless of whatever their issues are."

To learn more about the investigation or charges against Spotted Wolf, click here.

To view the GoFundMe for Lezane or to make a donation, click here.

“It’s just kind of surreal. We’re just kind of taking it day by day, and it’s still hard," Daniel said. "She used to work at EZ Money check cashing on the West End. So even just being in that area is kind of hard because we associate that with where Susan used to work. So things like that are still pretty soft and still pretty emotional.”

Daniel and Susan LaForge
Daniel and Susan LaForge