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Press Release

Navajo Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for First-Degree Murder and Witness Tampering

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Brian Tony, 47, of Gallup, N.M., was sentenced to life imprisonment today in federal court in Santa Fe, N.M., following his previous conviction at trial for first-degree murder and witness tampering, announced U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge James C. Langenberg of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and Director Jesse Delmar of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety (NNDPS).

A jury found Tony, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, guilty of these offenses on September 30, 2017.  The evidence at trial established that on May 8, 2016, Tony drove his girlfriend’s Jeep to a home in Gallup with his brother and his girlfriend.  Tony picked up the victim and the victim’s friend from this location.  Tony also retrieved a hammer and placed it in his Jeep.

According to testimony from the victim’s friend, Tony drove them to a place called “Superman Canyon,” where Tony ordered the victim out of the Jeep and led him to an area out of sight from the vehicle.  The victim’s friend heard the victim yell, but stayed in the Jeep because Tony’s brother threatened him. 

A short time later, the victim called “911” and told the operator he was in a ditch and bleeding.  The victim reported that Tony had hit him in the head with a hammer.  The victim told the operator, “Hurry, here he comes now!  Hurry!” 

The next day, the victim’s body was found in a ravine by Rock Flats Road near Churchrock, N.M.  There was a hammer and large rock with bloodstains nearby.  The victim was wearing an empty knife sheath on his belt.  The victim had more than 23 stab wounds and blunt force trauma to his head and neck.  

The evidence at trial also established that Tony committed witness tampering while awaiting trial at the Santa Fe County Detention Center.  Tony made more than 1,000 calls to friends and relatives, imploring them to convince the victim’s friend to leave town and to prevent the friend from testifying.  The jury also heard Tony try to persuade his girlfriend not to cooperate with law enforcement.  Tony testified during the trial and claimed that he killed the victim in self-defense.

 “The life sentence imposed today cannot bring the victim back to his family and friends, but I hope it gives them a measure of comfort and closure,” said U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson.  “I commend the FBI and the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety for their extraordinary and tireless efforts during the investigation of Mr. Tony’s heinous crimes.” 

“The FBI worked closely with the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety to make sure justice was done in this case,” said Special Agent in Charge James C. Langenberg of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division.  “Although the defendant committed a gruesome, premeditated murder for which he will spend the rest of his life in prison, our focus should be on the victim and his loved ones.  We hope this punishment helps the family and friends of the deceased find some closure, while sending a clear message that violent crime on the Navajo Nation will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“It is very unfortunate that a life was taken under the circumstances of a crime so heinous and violent,” said Director Jesse Delmar of the NNDPS.  “Our prayers are with the victim and his family. A special thanks to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI and the Navajo Nation Law Enforcement for working this case and bringing justice to the victim and his family.”

The Albuquerque and Gallup offices of the FBI investigated this case along with the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney’s Joseph M. Spindle and Nicholas J. Marshall prosecuted the case as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets violent, repeat 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 for federal prosecution violent or repeat offenders with the goal of making communities in New Mexico safer places for people to live and work.

Updated November 27, 2018

Indian Country Law and Justice
Violent Crime