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Police Blotter: Kirtland woman pleads guilty to second-degree murder

ALBUQUERQUE

LaSheena Jacquez, 27, of Kirtland, N.M., entered a guilty plea Friday to a second-degree murder charge in federal district court here.

The guilty plea was entered under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Jacquez was one 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 brutal murder of a 28-year-old Navajo woman 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.

The four-count indictment charged Jacquez, Patrick Benally, 26, of Kirtland, Justin Benally, 26, of Farmington, N.M., Scott Thompson, 28, of Farmington, and Mariah Benally, 22, of Kirtland, with first-degree murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy to kidnap. It also charged Jacquez, Justin Benally, Thompson and Mariah Benally 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.

During the recent proceedings, Jacquez pled guilty to felony information charging her with second-degree murder. In her plea agreement, Jacquez causing to 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 admitted acting in wanton disregard for human life knowing that her actions created a serious risk of death or serious bodily injury. Jacquez also admitted that she destroyed evidence and aided and abetted others in the destruction of evidence in an effort to evade prosecution.

Jacquez has been in federal custody since her arrest and remains detained pending her sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. Jacquez faces a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment.

Jacquez’s four co-defendants have entered not guilty pleas to the indictment and are detained pending trial, which has not yet been scheduled. If convicted of the charges in the indictment, each 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.

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