Navajo man charged with murder
This morning, Derrick Frank, 21, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Don J. Svet on a criminal complaint charging him with the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Frank is charged with stabbing Ty Smith, also an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, and causing his death on December 31, 2010. If convicted on the offense charged in the complaint, Frank faces up to life imprisonment. During this morning's hearing, Magistrate Judge Svet found that there was probable cause for charging Frank with Mr. Smith's murder and ordered Frank detained pending trial.
United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that the alleged homicide arose out of a physical altercation between Frank and Mr. Smith in a Navajo Housing Authority residence located on the Navajo Reservation. According to the criminal complaint, on December 31, 2010, officers of the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety (NNDPS) responded to a report of a stabbing and learned that Mr. Smith had been transported to the Fort Defiance Indian Medical Center where he was pronounced dead as a result of penetrating wounds to the right side of his chest, his upper back and the base of his neck. The complaint alleges that Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) interviewed the witnesses to the physical altercation between Frank and Mr. Smith. Each witness reported that Frank repeatedly stabbed Mr. Smith during the altercation. One witness, the sister of Mr. Smith and Frank's girlfriend, reported that the altercation arose after she informed Mr. Smith, her brother, that Frank had become increasingly abusive in their relationship.
Court records reflect that NNDPS officers arrested Frank on tribal charges on December 31, 2010. Frank remained in tribal custody until his arrest on the federal murder charge on January 17, 2011.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the NNDPS, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jack E. Burkhead.
A criminal complaint is only an accusation. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.