Reehahlio Carroll Pleads Guilty to Murdering Catholic Nun During Commission of a Burglary on the Navajo Reservation
Plea Agreement Requires Forty Year Prison Sentence
ALBUQUERQUE – Reehahlio Carroll, 21, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Navajo, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to a second degree murder charge under an agreement that requires him to serve a 40 year federal prison sentence. Carroll’s guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, and John Billison, Director of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.
Carroll was arrested in Nov. 2009, based on federal charges arising out of the murder of Sister Marguerite Bartz of the Order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which is part of the Diocese of Gallup, N.M. The murder occurred on Nov. 1, 2009, during the burglary of Sister Bartz’s home on the Saint Berard Mission which is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Proceedings in the case were delayed by protracted competency proceedings resulting in a judicial finding that Carroll was competent to stand trial.
In announcing today’s guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, “No one, especially one who had dedicated her life to the service of others, should have to endure the brutal and terrifying death that Sister Marguerite Bartz suffered at the hands of Reehahlio Carroll. Although Carroll’s guilty plea cannot atone for the loss of Sister Marguerite’s life, I hope that it can bring a measure of solace to her biological family and her spiritual family as well as the community she chose to serve.”
Sister Bartz’s body was discovered in a pool of blood in the bedroom of her ransacked home, a double-wide trailer located next to the church, on the evening of Nov. 1, 2009, by a nun who was concerned about Sister Bartz’s failure to show up for mass in the Diocese’s church in Sawmill, Ariz. Today, Carroll pled guilty to a felony information charging him with the second degree murder of Sister Bartz. During his plea hearing, Carroll admitted that he killed Sister Bartz at approximately midnight on Nov. 1, 2009, after he broke into a trailer home on the grounds of the Catholic Church in Navajo for the purpose of stealing cash or items that he could readily sell for cash.
According to court records, after Carroll broke a window to gain access to Sister Bartz’s trailer, he rummaged through drawers and cabinets searching for cash and items of value that he could sell for cash or trade for drugs or alcohol. Carroll found a flashlight in a room that he used for illumination as he continued searching for items to steal. When Carroll encountered Sister Bartz in one of the bedrooms and she attempted to defend herself by hitting him with a slipper, he brutally murdered her by beating her repeatedly with a flashlight and then, in an attempt to silence her, strangling her with a t-shirt. The pathologist who performed the autopsy concluded that the cause of death was multiple blunt force head trauma and ligature strangulation.
Carroll was arrested on tribal charges on Nov. 5, 2009, after law enforcement officers learned that he had been observed driving a car that was reported stolen from the Mission’s grounds. Following his arrest, Carroll provided a detailed confession in which he admitted murdering Sister Bartz while burglarizing her home. Carroll remained in tribal custody until he was arrested on federal charges on Nov. 10, 2009. Carroll remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
“The successful investigation and prosecution of this crime would not have been possible without the hard work and collaborative efforts of the Albuquerque FBI and our law enforcement partners,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lee. “Outstanding detective work by FBI Special Agents, the FBI's Evidence Response Team, Navajo Nation Tribal Authorities and the New Mexico State Police resulted in a solid case against the defendant. We hope this guilty plea brings some closure to the victim's family, which endured a great deal of personal grief as a result of this senseless crime. The FBI takes its role in protecting tribal communities seriously. We will continue to work closely with our tribal partners and the U.S. Attorney's Office to ensure the safety and security of the reservations and pueblos in New Mexico.”
“Sister Marguerite Bartz spent the last decade of her life serving the Navajo people, and her death was a tremendous loss to the community she loved and served as a teacher, companion, spiritual advisor and advocate,” said Director Billison of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. “I commend the tribal officers and criminal investigators who worked with the FBI to investigate this heinous crime and who are dedicated to ensuring the safety and welfare of the Navajo people.”
This case was investigated by the Gallup office of the FBI and the Crownpoint office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, with assistance from the New Mexico State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Presiliano A. Torrez and Paul H. Spiers are prosecuting the case.