U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez announces Selection of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Assistant United States Attorney for the Southwest Region
ALBUQUERQUE – Patrick Walela, 33, a member and resident of Zuni Pueblo, N.M., was sentenced today to 120 months in prison for his conviction on a second-degree murder charge in federal court in Albuquerque, N.M. Walela will be on supervised release for three years after completing his prison sentence.
The FBI arrested Walela on Dec. 29, 2017, on a criminal complaint charging him with second degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. The complaint alleged that Walela killed a 45-year-old Zuni Pueblo man and seriously injured a 52-year-old Zuni Pueblo man on Dec. 20, 2017, when he caused a single motor vehicle crash in Zuni Pueblo on Dec. 20, 2017. According to the complaint, Walela was intoxicated while driving the vehicle in which the two victims were passengers at an excessive rate of speed. Information extracted from his vehicle’s event data recorder indicated that his vehicle was traveling at speeds between 86 and 97 miles per hour in the seconds leading up to the crash.
Walela was indicted in April 2018 and was charged with second degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. The indictment charged Walela with committing the crimes on Dec. 20, 2017 in McKinley County, N.M.
On June 21, 2018, Walela pled guilty to the second-degree murder charge. In entering the guilty plea, Walela admitted killing the victim with malice aforethought. Walela admitted consuming alcohol to the point that he could not operate a vehicle safely, and that he drove a vehicle even though he previously had been convicted of three DUI-related offenses in Zuni Tribal Court and had completed both a “victim impact panel” and “first offender” program informing him of the dangers of drinking and driving. Walela admitted that at the time of the crash, he drove the vehicle in excess of the speed limit and lost control of the vehicle and the victim died as the result of injuries he sustained in the crash.
This case was investigated by the Gallup office of the FBI and the Zuni Pueblo Tribal Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Murphy prosecuted the case as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets violent, repeat offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their prior criminal convictions for federal prosecution offenders with the goal of making communities in New Mexico safer places for people to live and work.