Bloomfield Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Involuntary Manslaughter Charge
ALBUQUERQUE—Jasper Fernandez, 40, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Bloomfield, N.M., entered a guilty plea this morning to a felony information charging him with involuntary manslaughter. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Fernandez will be sentenced to a prison term within the range of 37 and 46 months followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
Fernandez was arrested on Feb. 22, 2012, on a criminal complaint charging him with the Nov. 4, 2011, murder of a 36-year-old Navajo woman on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
During today’s plea hearing, Fernandez admitted that he killed the victim while defending himself from a physical assault by the victim. According to the plea agreement, Fernandez and the victim were both intoxicated when the victim began kicking and punching Fernandez because he criticized her. Fernandez, who lost a tooth as a result of the assault, pushed the victim away too hard and caused her to hit her head against the door pillar of a vehicle and die. Fernandez acknowledged that instead of seeking medical attention for the victim or contacting the police, he attempted to conceal his crime by burying the victim’s remains.
Fernandez remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
The case was investigated by the Albuquerque and Farmington offices of the FBI, the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety and San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers.
The case was 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.