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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gallup Man Sentenced to Ten Years in Federal Prison for Second Degree Murder Conviction

ALBUQUERQUE – Thomas Benally, 53, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Gallup, N.M., was sentenced to ten years in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release for his second degree murder conviction.  Benally’s co-defendant, Luke Spencer, 48, a Navajo man who also resides in Gallup, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release for his involuntary manslaughter conviction.   The two men were ordered to pay $3,442.34 in restitution to cover funeral costs for the victim of their crimes.

Benally and Spencer were indicted in March 2012 in an indictment charging Benally with second degree murder and Spencer with aiding and abetting second degree murder.  According to the indictment, Benally, aided by Spencer, killed a man while driving under the influence of alcohol on the Navajo Indian Reservation between Oct. 1, 2010 and Oct. 2, 2010.  

In June 2013, Benally entered a guilty plea to a second degree murder charge and admitted that on the night of Oct. 1, 2010 or the early hours of Oct. 2, 2010, he drove Spencer’s truck while severely intoxicated.  He further admitted that, while backing up, he ran over a 71-year-old Navajo man.  Benally also admitted that he and Spencer, who was in the passenger’s seat, drove away in the truck without making any effort to check on the victim’s condition or calling the authorities to report the accident.  The victim died of injuries he sustained and his remains were found by a passerby on Oct. 7, 2010. 

In May 2013, Spencer pleaded guilty to a felony information charging him with involuntary manslaughter and admitted that he permitted Benally to drive his truck while intoxicated. 

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer M. Rozzoni and Jack E. Burkhead based on an investigation by the Gallup office of the FBI and the Crownpoint office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.

Updated January 26, 2015