ALBUQUERQUE – Tom Begaye, Jr., 27, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Waterflow, N.M., made his initial appearance this morning in federal court in Farmington, N.M., on a criminal complaint charging him with kidnapping and murdering an 11-year-old Navajo child. Begaye remains in federal custody pending a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing both of which are scheduled for May 6, 2016, at the federal courthouse in Albuquerque, N.M. The criminal complaint alleges that on the evening of May 2, 2016, Begaye picked up the victim and a boy (witness) at a location near Shiprock, N.M., and drove them in his vehicle towards the Shiprock Pinnacle. It further alleges that the witness observed Begaye, who was carrying a piece of metal, take the victim out of his vehicle and walk towards a hill leaving the witness alone in the vehicle. Begaye allegedly returned about an hour later, still carrying the piece of metal but without the victim. Upon his return to the vehicle, Begaye allegedly told the witness to get out of the vehicle. Thereafter, the witness provided a description of Begaye and his vehicle to the police, and a second witness corroborated the descriptions.
According to the criminal complaint, on May 3, 2016, investigators located and arrested Begaye at a sweat lodge outside of Shiprock based on the descriptions provided by the two witnesses. Investigators located the victim’s body near Navajo Route 13, which is located within the Navajo Indian Reservation, and observed that the victim’s head was bloody and appeared to have sustained blunt force trauma.
If convicted on the kidnapping of a minor charge, Begaye faces a statutory mandatory minimum of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If convicted on the murder charge, Begaye faces a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Charges in criminal complaints 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 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.