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Press Release

Shiprock, N.M., Man Pleads Guilty to Second Degree Murder and Attempted Robbery Charges

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Malcolm Altisi, 31, a member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Shiprock, N.M., pled guilty this morning to second degree murder and attempted robbery charges under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Altisi will be sentenced to 19 years in prison followed by not more than five years of supervised release.

Altisi and his co-defendant, Emery Whitehair, 21, a Navajo man from Shiprock, were charged in an eight-count superseding indictment based on events occurring on Oct. 17, 2011, on the Navajo Indian Reservation. According to court records, on that day, Altisi killed Rolan Joe, a 25-year-old Navajo man, after Altisi and Whitehair attempted to rob another Navajo man. Whitehair is charged with assaulting the robbery victim with a dangerous weapon and causing the victim serious bodily injury. Whitehair also is charged with using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

During today’s plea hearing, Altisi admitted that, on Oct. 17, 2011, he attempted to rob a man at his Shiprock home and brandished a firearm at the victim in an effort to compel the victim to give him money. Altisi also admitted shooting Mr. Joe with a .357 revolver later that day when Mr. Joe traveled to Altisi’s residence to confront Altisi about the attempted robbery. Mr. Joe died as a result of the gunshot wound inflicted by Altisi.

Altisi has been in federal custody since his arrest on Nov. 10, 2011, and will remain detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Whitehair has entered a not guilty plea to the offenses with which he is charged. The charges against Whitehair are only accusations and he is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Whitehair has been in federal custody since Oct. 18, 2011, and remains detained pending his trial, which is scheduled for April 15, 2013.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jack E. Burkhead and Jennifer M. Rozzoni, and was investigated by the Albuquerque and Farmington offices of the FBI and the Shiprock Division of the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety.

Updated January 26, 2015