Navajo Man Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Kidnapping, Sexually Assaulting and Murdering 11-Year-Old Navajo Child
U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico Prosecuted Tom Begaye, Jr., Under Federal “Worst of the Worst” Anti-Violence Initiative
ALBUQUERQUE – U.S. District Judge William P. “Chip” Johnson of the District of New Mexico sentenced Tom Begaye, Jr., 29, to a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of release for his conviction on murder, aggravated sexual abuse and kidnapping charges arising out of the abduction, rape and murder of an 11-year-old Navajo child on May 2, 2016.
President Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation, Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, and Director Jesse Delmar of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety made the announcement.
“The Nation has mourned the loss of our daughter Ashlynne Mike ever since learning of her horrific death. The sheer brutality of the crimes committed against this child were so deplorable that it was difficult to fathom justice in this matter,” said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. “Tom Begaye Jr., received life in prison today for kidnapping, raping, strangling and ultimately killing Ashlynne Mike. In hearing the details of these tragic crimes, we feel just as Ashlynne’s family and her home community feel: can justice truly be served in this case? No child deserves to die in this way and the Navajo Nation will continue to work to strengthen protections for all our children and tribal members.”
“Today’s hearing brings to a close the criminal case against Tom Begaye, Jr., and the sentence of life imprisonment holds him fully accountable for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering Ashlynne Mike and for the trauma he inflicted on her brother. Although the prosecution is over, the pain and loss experienced by Ashlynne’s family and community will continue well into the future,” said Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney. “I commend the FBI and the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety for their extraordinary and tireless efforts during the investigation of Begaye’s heinous crimes. I also thank all the law enforcement partners who came together with the common goal of finding Begaye and bringing him to justice.”
“The man responsible for one of the worst tragedies to hit the Navajo Nation is going to prison for a long time,” said Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI. “The FBI and its tribal and other partners worked together to bring Ashlynne's killer to justice. Many people who never met Ashlynne joined to share their grief with her family, and we hope today's sentencing gives them some measure of solace.”
“This case was very unfortunate because of the age of the victim. The Navajo people cherish our little young ones, and so this case was so extreme and so shocking to us all. It was especially hard for the law enforcement personnel who had to deal with this case directly,” said Director Jesse Delmar of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. “I thank the Navajo Nation law enforcement personnel, the FBI, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their work on this case and for bringing Justice to the victim and her family today. Today has been an emotional day for all of us as we continue to grieve the loss of our little one, our Ashlynn Mike.”
The FBI and Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety arrested Begaye, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Waterflow, N.M., on May 4, 2016, on a criminal complaint charging Begaye with kidnapping, sexually abusing and murdering an 11-year-old Navajo child on May 2, 2016, on the Navajo Indian Reservation in San Juan County, N.M. On May 24, 2016, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Begaye with six offenses: first-degree murder, felony murder, kidnapping resulting in death, aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death (two counts), and kidnapping of a minor. According to the indictment, Begaye killed a female child under the age of 12 years by striking her with a tire iron, and caused her death while kidnapping and sexually assaulting her. The indictment also charged Begaye with kidnapping a second victim, a male child under the age of 18 years.
Begaye pled guilty on Aug. 1, 2017, to all six-counts of the indictment. In his plea agreement, Begaye admitted kidnapping the 11-year-old victim and her nine-year-old brother on May 2, 2016, by tricking the children into getting into his van by offering to drive them to their home. Instead, Begaye drove them to a location near the Shiprock Monument where he led the victim away from the van to an area beyond her brother’s field of view. Begaye sexually assaulted the victim before killing her by strangling her and repeatedly hitting her on the head and face with a tire iron. Begaye then returned to his van, directed the victim’s brother to get out of the van, and drove away, leaving the child behind.
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 Jennifer M. Rozzoni prosecuted the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted Begaye under its anti-violence initiative, which 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.