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Press Release

Washington Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison for Second-Degree Murder and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Yakima, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Silaz Elijah James, age 19, was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of Second-Degree Murder and one count of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke imposed a sentence of 240 months imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release as well as $6,620 in restitution.

According to court documents and information presented at the sentencing hearing, on April 13, 2022, James, who is an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation, got into an argument with his victim about money. As James walked out of the house in Toppenish, where the argument took place, he turned and fired a single shot from a pistol. The shot stuck the victim in the chest, killing her. James then got into a vehicle with two other people. As the driver of the vehicle pulled away, James fired two additional shots at people standing outside the home. Neither of those shots stuck anyone.

On April 7, 2023, the Court granted the United States’s motion to transfer James’s case from juvenile to adult status. On January 9, 2024, James, who was 17 at the time of the offense, pleaded guilty.

“This case is tragic in every way.  A young lady’s life was taken and Mr. James will spend the next several years in federal prison. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragic and senseless crime. No sentence will ever erase the tragic loss of the life of the victim,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “I am grateful to the FBI and the Yakama Nation Tribal Police as well as the Assistant United States Attorneys from my office who worked to see this case through and seek justice on behalf of the young life that was taken.”

“Mr. James’s decisions ended the life of one person and put other innocent bystanders in immediate danger.” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “His actions demonstrated a disregard for the lives of people around him. Our hope is that the victim’s loved ones find some solace with today’s sentence.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Yakama Nation Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Murphy.


Robert Curry

Public Affairs Specialist 

Updated April 2, 2024

Indian Country Law and Justice