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Press Release

Navajo woman pleads guilty to abandonment and abuse of a child resulting in death

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

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Tonya Mae Dale, 28, of the Navajo Nation, NM, pleaded guilty in federal court on March 24 to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in Indian Country.

A grand jury previously returned an indictment against Dale on Sept. 25, 2019.  According to the indictment and other court records, Dale committed the offense in San Juan County on or about June 26, 2019. In her plea, Dale admitted to driving while intoxicated with her children in the vehicle, and her intoxication contributed to her vehicle becoming stuck. The next day Dale decided to leave her vehicle and began walking.  At some point, she decided to leave her children, a baby and a young child, and seek help on her own.  When she returned with assistance to the location she had left her kids, only the baby was still there. The other child had wandered away and was found deceased the next day.

Dale is currently in custody pending sentencing.  She faces up to eight years in prison.

The FBI investigated this case with assistance from the Navajo Nation Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Marshall is prosecuting the case.

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Updated March 30, 2021

Indian Country Law and Justice
Release Number: 21-55