Three Navajo Men Sentenced to Lengthy Federal Prison Terms for Convictions Arising from Kidnapping and Murder of Navajo Woman
Defendants Prosecuted as Part of Federal Initiative to Address the Epidemic Incidence of Violence Against Native Women
ALBUQUERQUE – Earlier this week a federal judge sitting in Santa Fe, N.M., sentenced three members of the Navajo Nation to lengthy federal prison terms for convictions arising out of the kidnapping and murder of a Navajo woman in Oct. 2013. Scott Thompson, 28, of Farmington, N.M., was sentenced to 23 years; Justin Benally, 28, also of Farmington, was sentenced to 22 years; and Patrick Benally, 28, of Kirtland, N.M., was sentenced to 18 years. Each defendant will serve a five-year term of supervised release after completing his prison sentence.
The sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Terry Wade of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and Director Jesse Delmar of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.
Thompson, Justin Benally and Patrick Benally, together with co-defendants LaSheena Jacquez, 27, and Mariah Benally, 22, both of Kirtland, were indicted in Jan. 2014, on criminal charges arising from the kidnapping and murder of a 28-year-old Navajo woman on Oct. 23, 2013. The indictment charged all five defendants with first degree murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy to kidnap. It also charged Justin Benally, Mariah Benally, Jacquez and Thompson with harboring Patrick Benally to prevent his arrest on charges arising out of an assault that was unrelated to the kidnapping and murder case. The crimes charged in the indictment occurred on the Navajo Indian Reservation within San Juan County, N.M. All five defendants previously had been arrested in Dec. 2013, on a criminal complaint filed after law enforcement authorities received information that the victim, who was missing in Nov. 2013, had been murdered. The victim’s remains were recovered on Dec. 9, 2013.
All five defendants entered guilty pleas to second-degree murder charges. Patrick Benally also pleaded guilty to an assault with a dangerous weapon charge in a separate case. The assault conviction arose out of an Oct. 10, 2013, incident during which Patrick Benally shot a different Navajo woman in the face during an argument in the victim’s home in Fruitland, N.M.
The kidnapping and murder case was investigated by the Farmington office of the FBI, the Farmington Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. The assault case was investigated by the Farmington office of the FBI and the Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Niki Tapia-Brito and David Adams are prosecuting both cases.
These cases were brought pursuant to the Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (Tribal SAUSA) Pilot Project in the District of New Mexico which is sponsored by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women under a grant administered by the Pueblo of Laguna. The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project seeks to train tribal prosecutors in federal law, procedure and investigative techniques to increase the likelihood that every viable violent offense against Native women is prosecuted in either federal court or tribal court, or both. The Tribal SAUSA Pilot Project was largely driven by input gathered from annual tribal consultations on violence against women, and is another step in the Justice Department's on-going efforts to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.