Police Blotter: Man arrested, charged in kidnapping, torture

By Donovan Quintero
Navajo Times


A Petaca, New Mexico man has been charged with several felonies in connection with the alleged kidnapping and torture of a woman in Española.

According to state police, Brenton Rael, 44, and an unknown female on Feb. 28 forced the victim into the front passenger seat of Rael’s vehicle at gunpoint on Taos Lane.

Once in the vehicle, state police said, the woman told police she was struck several times by Rael and strangled by the unknown female. The victim also reportedly had her eyes taped shut and covered by a bandana.

She told police she was then driven to a residence in El Duende, New Mexico, seven miles northwest of Española. There, police say, the woman’s clothing was removed. After being stripped of her clothing, she was reportedly saturated with Clorox bleach. The victim was then injected with heroin and driven to a bridge off U.S. Highway 74, which is near the Ohkey Owingeh Pueblo Reservation, she told police. Rael and the female then allegedly pushed the victim into the Rio Grande River. She floated down the river before managing to swim to the riverbank. She walked to an nearby residence where she called the Okay Owingeh tribal police.

State police responded to the Okay Owingeh Police Department at about 2 a.m. Feb. 29 and began their investigation. Agents were able to locate and obtain a search warrant for Rael’s residence.

During a search of the residence, agents found evidence described by the kidnapped female. Investigators found tape, Clorox, a red strap, a blue bandana, human hair and a bag of clothing that belonged to the kidnapped victim inside the Rael’s residence. Officers located a red bandana near the bridge on U.S. Highway 74.

A no-bond arrest warrant was issued for Rael by the Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court and he was arrested in Española on Monday without incident. He was booked into the Rio Arriba County Detention Center.

Rael was charged Kidnapping (1st Degree Felony), Aggravated Battery (Use of a Deadly Weapon) (3rd Degree Felony), Tampering with Evidence (3rd Degree Felony), Assault with Intent to Commit a Felony (With Intent to Kill) (3rd Degree Felony), and Conspiracy (4th Degree Felony).

Police did not say if the woman was treated for any injuries or if she was a member of the Okay Owingeh tribe. It is also not known if they arrested the female suspect.

Four plead guilty in convenience store robbery

By Bill Donovan

LOS ANGELES – Convenience store robberies are common in areas surrounding the Navajo Reservation. Someone decides they want liquor and realizing they have no money will go to the nearest convenience store or gas station that sells liquor, sneak in and when no one is looking, grab a pack of beer and run away.

Very few get caught since the general description of a Native American male in his 20s or 30s with black hair wearing blue jeans does nothing to narrow the field of suspects.

Occasionally, the robbery is more intense with the robber or robbers carrying guns and shooting them in the air to scare clerks into giving them money in the cash drawer. As they leave, they usually take with them liquor and/or cigarettes. They usually wear masks and most are never arrested, given the number and the level of law enforcement covering the area. And if caught, they usually are able to get a plea agreement for less than a year in jail.

But in rare circumstances, the FBI gets involved and if a person is arrested, it could be life-changing. Such was the case when on April 18, 2019, four Native American men – Kevin Marquez, Julian C. Silversmith, Karl Thompson and Aurelius Jamal Eddie – decided to rob the Mustang store in Vanderwagen, New Mexico.

By a stroke of bad luck on their part, all four were eventually arrested and later entered into plea agreements and are facing lengthy prison sentences. According to court records, the robbery went much as planned with Eddie, Marquez and Thompson entering the store at about 3:30 p.m. Silversmith waited outside in the getaway car.

A store video recorded what happened next. It showed that two of the men entering the store carried guns. When one of the suspects pointed his gun at store clerks and customers, the other fired his into the air. McKinley County Sheriff deputies later found unopened and broken bottles of alcoholic beverages both inside and outside of the store.

A .40-caliber cartridge was found near the front door. Another cartridge was found near the refrigeration coolers. Deputies also found a .22-caliber pistol on the ground near the cash register. After taking as much alcohol they could, they allegedly fled out the door to the waiting car. No one was injured but court records said the customers and store clerks were all in fear for their lives. By the time deputies arrived on the scene about 10 minutes after the robbery, the suspects were all gone.

But just a few minutes after beginning to interview witnesses at the scene, they got the break they needed to find and arrest the suspects. A witness, only identified as L.L. in the court records, told deputies that he was driving on the nearby Breadsprings road and saw a car blocking traffic.

He identified the driver as Julian Silversmith and said he saw three other men inside the vehicle. After seeing the car, L.L. said he drove on to the Mustang store. His wife went into the store with their two children. Seconds later, the car he saw blocking the road showed up and the three passengers in the car got out and went inside.

He said two of the men were carrying pistols. He said he could hear them talk about robbing the store as they went to the front door. Shortly after they entered the store, L.L. said he heard gunshots.

A couple of minutes later, he said he saw them running out of the store carrying bottles of alcoholic beverages. Another witness who was inside when all this was happening told a deputy one of the robbers told the people inside the store that “I’m not afraid to kill you.” On the following day, Navajo Nation Police and sheriff’s deputies arrested Silversmith and Eddie. On April 20, Eddie was interviewed and immediately admitted taking part in the robbery. He then gave out the names of the others involved in the robbery. During the interview, he said he had no idea what was going through his head to convince him to do the robbery.

He said he also didn’t know why his father would give him a gun. His father is Julian Silversmith. While Eddie gave law enforcement officers Marquez’s name, he said the only name he knew the last suspect by was Clarence. An anonymous phone call two days later identified the name of the last suspect as Karl Thompson.

The FBI became involved since the store is owned by Giant, which also has stores in Arizona and Colorado. The whiskey that was stolen was manufactured outside New Mexico, in Canada.

Even though he was just the driver, federal prosecutors are asking for a hefty sentence for Silversmith, saying his criminal record goes back 20 years to when he was 19 years old and was arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. Since then, he has had four DWI convictions and a conviction for not responding to a police command.

Although he has had no convictions since 2009, prosecutors said “his criminal behavior has not changed” with him getting charged again with DWI and making a false statement while applying for unemployment benefits. Prosecutors are also asking the court to take notice that he encouraged his teenage son to take part in the robbery instead of encouraging him not to get involved in criminal acts.

“Even under the most charitable view of the facts, the defendant willfully ignored the fact that someone could be killed or seriously injured in the robbery,” the sentencing memo said.

The memo said Thompson told his mother it was Silversmith’s idea to rob the store and that he had to “pump up” his son to get him to participate. For these reasons the federal prosecutors are recommending he get a sentence of between 108 and 114 months. In his response to the sentencing recommendation, Silversmith denied giving his son a gun, saying the gun in question belonged to his son. He also pointed out that the gun was never found by law enforcement officers.

Because of that, he is asking for a lower sentence. As for Eddie, his sentencing memo points out he is 18 years old and has lived near Gallup with his grandmother for almost all of his life. His mother left him with his grandmother when she left this area to get a job.

He told federal authorities that he views his grandmother as being very strict and has been abusing drugs since he was eight years old. He left school in the ninth grade and up until recently had not been spending very much time with his father and much of the time they did spend together was drinking liquor. In his sentencing memo, he said he is agreeable to a 12-year sentence and requests that he be allowed to continue his education and receive counseling to overcome his behavior problems.

Marquez is asking for a seven-year minimum mandatory sentence with credit for the time he has served already. Federal prosecutors are opposed to that, saying it is too lenient given the fact that the surveillance video shows him pointing his gun at a clerk’s head. He is only 19 years old and this should be taken as a mitigating factor but his sentence should be higher, say the prosecutors.

Thompson so far has not had a sentencing recommendation. Marquez, Eddie and Silversmith were scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday but it was postponed. A new date has not been set.

FBI seeks info about 2013 murder

PHOENIX – The FBI is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the homicide of Caldwell Dewyne Smith. Smith’s body was found on Sept. 15, 2013, in Shonto, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation.

Anyone with information about the homicide is asked to call the FBI at 623-466-1999 or they can report tips to tips.fbi.gov.

Navajo County Sheriff’s report: March 1 to 7 HOLBROOK – The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office reports the following activity from March 1 through March 7.

• On Sunday, March 1, Federico Elias, 50, from Henderson, Nevada, was issued a criminal citation for excessive speeding.

• On Sunday, March 1, Junior Frances Kee, 49, from Ganado, was arrested for a warrant out of the Holbrook Justice Court for failure to appear on a charge of possessing liquor in motor vehicle.

• On Wednesday, March 4, Leander Matthew Jensen, 26, from Tuba City, was arrested for disorderly conduct fighting and disorderly conduct noise. Jensen was booked into the Navajo County Jail.

• On Thursday, March 5, Hanson Gregg Jose, 34, from Holbrook, was arrested in Holbrook on a felony probation violation warrant out of Maricopa County Superior Court and two Holbrook Justice Court warrants for failure to comply with original charges of liquor in passenger compartment of vehicle and shoplifting.

• On Friday, March 6, Germaine Gonnie, 27, from Winslow, was arrested in Winslow on a misdemeanor warrant out of the Holbrook Justice Court for disobeying a lawful court order on original charges of criminal damage, failure to appear, and failure to comply. Gonnie was booked into the Navajo County Jail.

• On Friday, March 6, Brittney Nicole Billie, 25, from Holbrook, was arrested for driving under the influence-slightest degree, driving under the influence above .08, driving under influence .15 or above, aggravated driving under the influence, and child endangerment. Passenger Truman Small, 48, from Holbrook was arrested for liquor in a motor vehicle. Both individuals were booked into the Navajo County Jail.

• On Saturday, March 7, Bernardo Higgins, 45, from Ganado, was arrested Holbrook for one misdemeanor warrant out of the Holbrook Justice Court for failure to pay fines on a charge of disorderly conduct- fighting. Higgins was booked into the Navajo County Jail.

• On Saturday, March 7, Bryan J. Begay, 20, from Indian Wells, Arizona, was arrested for driving under the influence-slightest degree, driving under the influence above .08, driving under influence .15 or above, aggravated driving under the influence, and possession of marijuana. Passenger Jared Wes Todacheenie, 21, from Indian Wells, was arrested for liquor in a motor vehicle, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Passenger Jake Brandon Lester, 22, from Indian Wells, was arrested for liquor in a motor vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia. All individuals were booked into the Navajo County Jail.

• On March 2, Ian Colwell, 41, of Heber was arrested for disorderly conduct, assault and driving on a suspended driver license. Ian was issued a criminal citation with promise to appear in court on a later date.

• On March 3, Navajo County deputies responded to the Family Dollar in Heber regarding a shoplifting. Upon completion of the investigation, Nylen Locust, 29, of Tucson was arrested for shoplifting. Nylen was issued a criminal citation with promise to appear in court on a later date.

• On March 4, Audra Waddell, 23, of Show Low, was arrested for a warrant. She was transported and booked into the Navajo County Jail in Holbrook.

• On March 1, Jennifer Lindsey, 38, of Show Low, was arrested for disorderly conduct and threatening and intimidating per domestic violence. Jennifer was transported and booked into the Navajo County Jail Annex in Show Low.

• On March 4, Richard Demetrio, 27, of Bakersfield, California, and Mario Morales-Rosa, 38, also of Bakersfield, were arrested for transportation of marijuana for sale, possession of marijuana for sale and possession of marijuana. Both were transported and booked into the Navajo County Jail Annex in Show Low.

• On March 5, Kellie Colonna, 37, of Lakeside, and Shawn Reese, 39, of Lakeside, were arrested for possession of dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia and child abuse. Both Kellie and Shawn were transported and booked into the Navajo County Jail Annex in Show Low.

• On March 7, Robert Carmichael, 56), of Show Low, was arrested for driving on a suspended driver license. Robert was issued a criminal citation with promise to appear in court on a later date.

If you have any information that would assist the Sheriff’s Office in keeping your community safe: WeTip at 1-800-782-7463.


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