Havre Daily News
Those who knew Angel Lynn Denny, the 15-year-old Hays-Lodge Pole junior whose body was found in a home that burned to the ground early Saturday morning, described her today as outgoing, athletic, artistic and close to her family and traditional beliefs.
Wanda Joe Denny said her daughter was a vibrant young woman who loved basketball, drawing and the outdoors. She was very close to her friends and family, Denny said. Traditional religion and beliefs were important to her and are a part of the family's life, she said.
"She was always smiling and always happy," Denny said. "She was outgoing, and tried to be involved in all of the activities they had at the high school and in the community. She was a very generous person. She cared a lot about her friends and her family."
Angel Denny's aunt, Debra Shambo, said Angel had a lot of goals for herself once she graduated from high school. One of them was to attend Montana State University-Billings, she said. Denny loved to dance at powwows and hang out with her brothers, sisters and cousins, she said.
"She was a very happy, outgoing girl - always smiling," Shambo said. "She was curious about everything."
Denny will be missed by both the staff and students at Hays-Lodge Pole High School, principal James Martinez said.
"She was actually very happy-go-lucky," Martinez said. "She had a large amount of friends. She was a real social person. She matured tremedously this year and was making the effort to be a successful student. She was much improved."
He said teachers and community members led group healing circles and traditional ceremonies on Monday. Counselors and individual teachers were also available for individual talks with students.
The school has set up a memorial at the entrance. Some of the teachers have been especially affected, he added.
"The teaching staff, especially those that have been here a long time, have known Angel since she was little," Martinez said. "It's been very difficult for some of our staff."
Some teachers are related to the family, he added.
"The school, the students and the staff have handled this very well and, as one of our respected language teachers said, even with this tragedy we have to grow closer as a community. As we go on, she'll always be overseeing us," Martinez said.
Bruce Denny Sr., Angel's father, said the fire burned the home of a relative, where Angel and high school friends had gathered. The other kids were able to escape and tried to help Angel get out, he said.
"Her friends tried to get her out and they couldn't," he said. "That house went fast. It was an older-model house."
Authorities declined to describe what happened.
The FBI is working with Fort Belknap authorities to investigate the fire, a spokesman said.
"We're coordinating the investigation pretty closely with the police department there at Fort Belknap," special agent Bob Wright said Monday in a telephone interview from the Salt Lake City office. "It's an ongoing effort. We hope to resolve it as soon as possible."
Wright added that as the investigation continues, information will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's Office for consideration.
Fort Belknap acting Police Chief Jeff Stiffarm said the department is assisting in the investigation. No arrests have been made, he added. He declined to comment further on the incident.
State fire marshal Dick Swingley and Fort Belknap Volunteer Fire Chief Stanley Johnson both said they were not releasing any information on the fire investigation at this time.
Blaine County coroner Marvin Edwards said the official cause of Denny's death has not been released. The girl's body was transported to Missoula on Sunday for an autopsy.
Her body was found in a bedroom, which had collapsed into the basement of the one-story structure during the intense fire.