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Justice News

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Federal Grand Jury Returns Indictment Charging Tom Begaye, Jr., with Murder, Kidnapping and Aggravated Sexual Assault Charges

Prosecution Brought Under Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative

ALBUQUERQUE – A federal grand jury has returned a six-count indictment that charges Tom Begaye, Jr., 27, with murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual abuse offenses arising out of the alleged abduction and murder of an 11-year-old Navajo child on May 2, 2016.  U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and Director Jesse Delmar of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety announced the filing of the indictment.

Begaye, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Waterflow, N.M., was arrested on May 4, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging him with kidnapping and murdering an 11-year-old Navajo child.  He has been in federal custody since that time. 

The indictment, which was filed on May 24, 2016 and publicly posted this afternoon, charges Begaye with the following six offenses:  first-degree murder, felony murder, kidnapping resulting in death, aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death (two counts), and kidnapping of a minor.  The indictment alleges that Begaye killed a victim, identified as a female child under the age of 12 years, by striking her with a tire iron.  It further alleges that Begaye caused the victim’s death while kidnapping the victim and sexually assaulting her.  The indictment also alleges that Begaye kidnapped a second victim, identified as a male child under the age of 18 years.  According to the indictment, Begaye committed the six crimes on May 2, 2016, on the Navajo Indian Reservation in San Juan County, N.M. 

A hearing for Begaye’s arraignment on the indictment has yet to be scheduled. 

The statutory penalty for a conviction on each of the first five counts of the indictment is a sentence of mandatory life imprisonment.  The statutory penalty for the sixth count, the kidnapping of a minor charge, is a mandatory minimum of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.  Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.

The FBI and Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety investigated the case with assistance from the FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, U.S. Marshals Service, New Mexico State Police, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and the Farmington Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Niki Tapia-Brito and David Adams are prosecuting the case.

The case is being prosecuted under a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution.  Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution primarily based on their prior criminal convictions with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible.

Begaye Indictment

Indian Country Law and Justice
Violent Crimes
Updated May 26, 2016