21-year-old gets 57 months for involuntary manslaughter

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

GALLUP, Oct. 31, 2013

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A Crownpoint man has been sentenced to federal prison for an accident that resulted in all three of the passengers in his car dying.

A federal district court judge sentenced Oct. 30 Brendan Harry, 21, to 57 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his conviction on involuntary manslaughter and assault charges. Harry also was ordered to pay $2,052.13 in restitution to cover funeral and other expenses incurred by one victim's family.

Harry was charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury, which arose out of a single motor vehicle crash that occurred at approximately 5 a.m. on March 31, 2012, near Borrego Pass.

Three individuals who were passengers were ejected when the vehicle rolled at high speed. Each of the three victims died as a result of injuries they sustained during the crash. A fourth passenger suffered serious bodily injuries. All four victims were young adult and members of the Navajo Nation.

On June 3, Harry pleaded guilty to all four counts of the indictment. In entering his guilty plea, Harry admitted that he was driving while intoxicated and caused the death of three of his passengers and serious injury to a fourth passenger when he crashed the vehicle.

Man gets 10 for shooting, killing girlfriend

GALLUP, Oct. 31, 2013

A Torreon man was sentenced to federal prison for shooting his girlfriend several times.

Permanuel Castillo, 23, was sentenced Wednesday by a federal judge in Albuquerque to 10 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

The charges against Castillo arose out of the Sept. 27, 2012 shooting of his girlfriend. On that day, New Mexico State Police officers responded to a call regarding a shooting at Castillo's residence.

During questioning, Castillo initially claimed that his girlfriend had been the victim of a drive-by shooting. After further questioning, Castillo admitted shooting the victim multiple times in the chest but claimed that it was an accident.

Castillo was arrested on Sept. 27, 2012, on tribal charges by tribal police and was held in tribal custody until his arrest on Oct. 24, 2012, on a federal criminal complaint. Castillo subsequently was charged in a three-count indictment with (1) assault with a dangerous weapon, (2) assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and (3) using a firearm during a crime of violence.

On April 30, Castillo pleaded guilty to Count 3 of the indictment, charging him with using a firearm during a crime of violence, and admitted assaulting the victim by shooting her with a rifle. As a result of the assault, the victim sustained three gunshot wounds to the chest.

Many Farms man gets 11 for home invasion

WINDOW ROCK - A Many Farms, Ariz. man has been sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison for a home invasion.

Lee Kinder Tso, 51, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake to 141 months in federal prison. He had previously pleaded guilty on March 15 to assault with a dangerous weapon and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

On Feb. 3, 2012, Tso used his rifle to shoot two victims in the chest, causing serious injuries to the victims. He was angry with the victims because he believed they harmed his nephews earlier in the day.

Tso and others drove to a residence and shot one victim in the chest after he answered the door. The second victim came out of a bedroom, and Tso also shot him in the chest. Both victims survived following lengthy hospitalizations and multiple surgeries.

Robbery accomplice sentenced to nearly 5 years

GALLUP, Oct. 31, 2013

A Shiprock man has been sentenced to federal prison in connection with an armed robbery that occurred in Shiprock.

Neilson McKensley, 49, was sentenced in federal district court in Albuquerque to 57 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for his conviction for aiding and abetting an armed robbery in Indian Country.

McKensley was arrested on Nov. 13, 2012, on a criminal complaint charging him with being an accomplice to an armed robbery of a residence on Oct. 26, 2012.

According to court records, McKensley assisted Randy Coolidge, 46, in robbing the residence of an acquaintance by driving Coolidge to the residence. After putting duct tape over his face to conceal his identity, Coolidge approached the residence armed with a pistol.

When Coolidge tried to push his way into the residence, the victim attempted to take the pistol away from Coolidge. As the two men fought over the pistol, the pistol discharged and Coolidge was shot in the chest and stomach. Coolidge subsequently died of his wounds.

The victim then realized that McKensley, whose face also was covered with black duct tape and who was armed with a steel pipe, was standing by his door. After attempting unsuccessfully to drag Coolidge from the residence, McKensley left Coolidge behind and drove away. Officers initiated the investigation leading to McKensley's arrest after Coolidge's body was found shortly thereafter.

On May 6, McKensley pleaded guilty to the indictment and admitted driving Coolidge to the victim's residence knowing that Coolidge intended to take items of value from the victim by force and violence. McKensley also admitted that he intended to help Coolidge rob the victim.

Chinle woman charged with shoplifting at Wal-Mart

WINDOW ROCK - A Chinle woman Tuesday was charged with shoplifting more than $700 worth of merchandise from the Gallup Wal-Mart store.

The woman, Margaret Lee Yazzie, 26, told police that she planned to resell the items, which consisted mostly of DVDs, so she could raise enough money to reroof her home.

Tuba City resident pleads guilty to second-degree murder

WINDOW ROCK - A Tuba City man has been sentenced in Arizona federal district court to nearly 22 years in prison for the murder of a woman in Tuba City.

Steven Begaye pleaded guilty in June to second-degree murder in the 2012 death of Lolita Bedoni.

According to court documents, Begaye, who had been drinking, struck Bedoni in the stomach with his hands, causing severe bleeding. Prosecutors say he then dumped her body in a pond at Black Mesa and used a broken beer bottle to sexually mutilate her.

Acting police chief indicted on felony charges

HOLBROOK, Ariz. - On Oct. 22, a Navajo County grand jury levied several felony charges against the acting police chief for the Tonto Apache Tribe, who was involved in a domestic shooting and several hour standoff with law enforcement in Heber, Ariz., on Oct. 19 and 20, according to a news release from the attorney's office.

It is alleged that Samuel B. Lujan, 47, was involved in a domestic violence disturbance which included him shooting his estranged wife's unoccupied vehicle at least 18 to 25 times on a residential street in the 1800 block of Park View in Heber on Oct. 19 then returning to his residence where he barricaded himself for several hours before eventually surrendering to law enforcement officials.

The attorney's office reviewed the case against Lujan on Oct. 21 and convened a grand jury on Oct. 22, which returned indictments late that day for the following charges:

  • Stalking domestic violence, a Class 3 felony;
  • Discharging a firearm at a structure, a Class 3 felony;
  • Misconduct involving body armor, a Class 4 felony;
  • Criminal damage domestic violence, a Class 6 felony; and
  • Disorderly conduct/domestic violence, also a Class 6 felony.

Lujan was being held in Navajo County Jail on a $250,000 bond and has been served with an order to appear in Navajo County Superior Court Division I before Judge Ralph Hatch on Oct. 31 at 9 a.m. to answer the indictment.

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