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Press Release

Mitten Rock, N.M., Woman Sentenced to Prison for Federal Involuntary Manslaugher Charge

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Patrica Benally, 37, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Mitten Rock, N.M., was sentenced this morning to 46 months in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release for her involuntary manslaughter conviction.

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. 

On April 23, 2014, 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.

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 was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers.

Updated January 26, 2015