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Press Release

Mitten Rock, N.M., Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Involuntary Manslaugher Charge

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Patricia Benally, 36, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Mitten Rock, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to an indictment charging her with involuntary manslaughter under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Benally was arrested on Feb. 5, 2014, on a criminal complaint charging her with involuntary manslaughter of a four-year-old Navajo child on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  Benally was charged by indictment for involuntary manslaughter on Feb. 26, 2014.

According to court filings, Benally was intoxicated when the vehicle she was driving was involved in a rollover collision near mile marker 72 on U.S. Highway 491 south of Shiprock, N.M.  The victim was one of five passengers, four of whom were young children, in Benally’s vehicle at the time of the collision.  Benally’s blood alcohol content was .237 shortly after the collision. 

During today’s plea hearing, Benally admitted killing the victim while driving under the influence of alcohol.  According to the plea agreement, Benally was driving intoxicated at a high rate of speed when she fell to sleep and lost control of the vehicle, causing it to roll over and crash.  The victim was killed as a result of the crash.

Benally has been in federal custody since her arrest and remains detained pending her sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.  At sentencing, Benally faces a statutory maximum penalty of eight years in federal prison. 

The case was investigated by the Albuquerque and Farmington offices of the FBI and the Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers.

Updated January 26, 2015