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Press Release

Navajo Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Involuntary Manslaughter Charge

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Clara Beth Joe, 26, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Gallup, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in Albuquerque, N.M., to an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Joe was arrested on Aug. 27, 2014, on an indictment filed Aug. 12, 2014, charging her with involuntary manslaughter on Jan. 30, 2014, in San Juan County, N.M.

During today’s proceedings, Joe pled guilty to the indictment and admitted that on Jan. 31, 2014, she was found by law enforcement in Crystal, N.M., on the Navajo Indian Reservation, near a creek, heavily intoxicated and suffering from hypothermia.  Joe admitted that her cousin also arrived at the scene and asked where Joe’s 13-month-old son was, and after a search by law enforcement, the boy was found drowned near where Joe had been found.  Joe further admitted that her level of intoxication was a negligent act and was an important contributing factor in her son’s death.

At sentencing, Joe faces a statutory maximum penalty of eight years in federal prison followed by up to three years of supervised release.  A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the Gallup office of the FBI and the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers is prosecuting the case.

Updated August 20, 2015