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Press Release

Zuni Pueblo Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Assault and Voluntary Manslaughter Charges

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

ALBUQUERQUE – Vernon Poleahla, 34, an enrolled member and resident of Zuni Pueblo, N.M., pled guilty today in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M., to assault and voluntary manslaughter charges.

The FBI arrested Poleahla on May 3, 2018, charging him with killing one man and assaulting another man on Zuni Pueblo in McKinley County, N.M., on April 27, 2018.  According to the complaint, Poleahla killed the first victim by stabbing him in the abdomen and assaulted the second victim by strangling him and stabbing him in the neck.

The Zuni Pueblo Tribal Police Department arrested Poleahla on tribal charges on April 27, 2018.  Poheahla remained in tribal custody until he was arrested by FBI on May 3, 2018.

During today’s proceedings, Poleahla pled guilty to a felony information charging him with voluntary manslaughter and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.  In entering the guilty plea, Poleahla admitted that on April 27, 2018, during an argument with one of the victims, he killed the first victim by stabbing him in the stomach.  Poleahla also admitted assaulting the second victim by strangling and stabbing him in the neck.  Poleahla acknowledged that the second victim became unconscious and suffered hypoxia and a four-centimeter laceration on his neck as the result of the assault. 

At sentencing, Poleahla faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison for the voluntary manslaughter charge and a maximum penalty of ten years in federal prison for the assault charge.  He remains in federal custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Zuni Pueblo Tribal Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Jaros is prosecuting the case.

Updated September 26, 2018

Indian Country Law and Justice