Federal Jury Finds Shiprock Man Guilty on Three Second-Degree Murder Charges
ALBUQUERQUE—A federal jury returned a verdict today finding Tillman Naskia Begaye, 33, guilty on three counts of second-degree murder after a five-day trial, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez, Special Agent in Charge Carol K.O. Lee of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, and Director John Billison of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.
Begaye, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Shiprock, New Mexico, was arrested on July 22, 2013, on a criminal complaint charging three counts of second degree murder and was indicted on the same charges on August 7, 2013. According to the indictment, Begaye killed a Navajo woman and two of her adult children on July 14, 2013, while driving under the influence of alcohol on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Trial began on May 12, 2014, and concluded today when the jury returned a verdict of guilty on each of the three counts of the indictment.
The evidence at trial established that on July 14, 2013, officers of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety were called to the scene of a two vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 491 south of Newcomb, New Mexico, near Sheep Springs, New Mexico. The officers’ investigation revealed that Begaye caused the crash by driving his full-sized pickup truck northbound on the southbound lane of the highway and crashing head on into a vehicle occupied by the three victims who died at the scene.
The investigation revealed that Begaye was intoxicated at the time of the crash. Begaye’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level was .18 when his blood was drawn when he was transported to a nearby hospital an hour after the crash. The investigation also revealed that Begaye was driving northbound on a southbound lane of a four-lane highway at a speed of 75 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone prior to impact.
Through a stipulation, the jury learned that Begaye had two prior DWI convictions. According to the stipulation, Begaye was convicted on a driving under the influence charge in October 2012 in the state of Colorado. Begaye also was convicted on an aggravated driving while intoxicated charge in January 2001, in the Municipal Court in the City of Farmington, New Mexico.
The jury deliberated approximately an hour-and-a-half before returning its guilty verdict.
Begaye has been in federal custody since his arrest. He remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, Begaye faces a prison term of any term of years to life in prison on each of the three second-degree murder charges.
This case was investigated by the Shiprock Office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety and the Farmington office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Presiliano A. Torrez and Louis E. Valencia.