LUMMI RESERVATION - A Nooksack man was arraigned in an ax murder case Thursday, Dec. 20, after a federal grand jury indicted him with killing a 67-year-old man at a home on Lake Terrell Road.
Levi Eugene Joseph Charles, 25, stands accused of first-degree murder in the death of Kenneth Lee Joseph.
An indictment filed this week alleged Charles attacked Joseph with an ax during a burglary Oct. 23. Joseph, a member of the Lummi and Sauk-Suiattle tribes, was found dead in his house at 4667 Lake Terrell.
After an autopsy, Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel said the victim suffered wounds to his head and injuries from a beating.
A detailed narrative of the charges was not available Thursday because the grand jury proceedings weren't available to the public.
A few days after Joseph's death, Charles turned himself in to police for an unrelated warrant. Investigators interviewed him in Whatcom County Jail and named him as a suspect in the killing, according to tribal police.
Court records show Charles has a checkered past - for example, forging prescriptions for painkillers and breaking into a minimart in the middle of the night - but no convictions in Washington state for violent crimes.
The case is being tried in U.S. District Court because it's a serious crime involving members of Indian tribes.
Joseph tutored math at Northwest Indian College and worked as a fisheries enforcement officer. In an obituary, his family said he loved to hunt, fish and ride motorcycles.
The tribe Charles is affiliated with was corrected Thursday evening, Dec. 20.