Fourth Defendant Pleads Guilty to Second Degree Murder Charge in Case Arising from Kidnapping and Murder of Navajo Woman
ALBUQUERQUE—Scott Thompson, 28, of Farmington, N.M., pled guilty today to a second degree murder charge arising out of the kidnapping and brutal murder of a 28-year old Navajo woman. Three co-defendants, Justin Benally, 26, of Farmington, N.M., Mariah Benally, 22, and LaSheena Jacquez, 27, both of Kirtland, N.M., entered similar guilty pleas in Oct. and Nov. 2014.
Thompson, Justin Benally, Mariah Benally and Jacquez are four of five individuals, all of whom are enrolled members of the Navajo Nation, who were indicted in Jan. 2014, on criminal charges arising from the kidnapping and murder of the victim on Oct. 23, 2013. The five defendants previously had been arrested in Dec. 2013, on a criminal complaint that was filed after law enforcement authorities received information that the victim, who had been reported as missing in Nov. 2013, had been murdered. The victim’s remains were recovered on Dec. 9, 2013.
In addition to charging Thompson, Justin Benally, Mariah Benally and Jacquez, the four-count indictment also charged Patrick Benally, 26, of Kirtland, N.M., 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 a warrant for an unrelated crime. The indictment alleges that the crimes charged occurred on the Navajo Indian Reservation within San Juan County, N.M.
This morning, Thompson pled guilty to a felony information charging him with second degree murder. In entering his guilty plea, Thompson admitted aiding and abetting the victim’s murder by participating in her kidnapping and taking actions that ultimately resulted in the victim’s death. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Thompson will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment within the range of 252 to 360 months (21 to 30 years).
On Nov. 19, 2014, Justin Benally pled guilty to a felony information charging him with second degree murder. In entering his guilty plea, Justin Benally admitted aiding and abetting the victim’s murder by participating in her kidnapping and taking actions that ultimately resulted in the victim’s death. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Justin Benally will be sentenced to a 22-year term of imprisonment.
On Oct. 29, 2014, Mariah Benally also pled guilty to a second degree murder charge. Mariah Benally admitted causing the victim’s death by throwing rocks at her, and aiding and abetting others who also caused the victim’s death. She also admitted throwing rocks at the victim after the victim had been repeatedly stabbed by three of her co-defendants and thrown off a cliff by one of the co-defendants. Mariah Benally also aided her co-defendants in restraining the victim and transporting her to the murder site, and destroying evidence of their crimes.
Jacquez pled guilty to a second degree murder charge on Oct. 16, 2014, and admitted causing the victim’s death on Oct. 23, 2013, by repeatedly stabbing the victim with a knife, throwing rocks at the victim, and aiding and abetting others who also caused the victim’s death. Jacquez also admitted that she destroyed evidence and aided and abetted others in the destruction of evidence in an effort to evade prosecution.
Thompson, Justin Benally, Mariah Benally and Jacquez have been in federal custody since they were arrested and remain detained pending their sentencing hearings, which have yet to be scheduled. Each faces a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment.
Patrick Benally has entered a not guilty plea to the indictment and is detained pending trial, which is currently scheduled for May 2015. If convicted of the charges in the indictment, Patrick Benally faces a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted in a court of law.
This case was investigated by the Farmington office of the FBI, the Farmington Police Department and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Niki Tapia-Brito and David Adams are prosecuting the case.