Police Blotter: Navajo brothers sent to prison in murder


Three Navajo brothers will be in prison for a total of more than 18 years in connection with a murder and an aggravated assault that occurred last March in Fruitland, New Mexico.

All three reside in Kirtland, New Mexico.

Elijah Shirley, 31, was sentenced Tuesday to 121 months. Michael Shirley, 32, was sentenced Tuesday to 63 months and Maynard Shirley, whose sentencing is not scheduled until Feb. 13, will be sentenced to 43 months.

They all admitted in the plea agreements to murdering a Navajo man in Fruitland and assaulting his father, putting him in the hospital causing him serious injuries, injuries he is still dealing with today.

Navajo police arrived at the scene of the homicide about 1 a.m. on March 21, 2015 after a woman, who turned out to be the sister of the victim who died and the daughter of the man who survived, reported the incident.

She said she was in the trailer where the assaults took place.

When Navajo police arrived on the scene, the first thing they saw was something that looked like blood on the wooden deck and on the door. When they went inside, they saw a man lying on the floor wearing blue boxers and soaked in blood. There was a woman, who is identified in the indictment as Jane Doe 2, holding him in her arms, “crying and extremely distraught.”

Police searched for a pulse and could not find one. They did find what looked like a large stab wound to the upper left chest area.

Then they saw another man sitting on the couch near a pool of blood. He appeared to have multiple stab wounds.

Another female in the trailer, who was referred to as Jane Doe 3, said three  men broke into the trailer and began fighting with the man who later died. She said at one point one of the men left the trailer and came back with a gun and she then she heard a gunshot.

She also said one of the men who broke into the trailer had a knife that looked like a machete. She was also able to identify them, saying they were the Shirley brothers and that they all lived in Fruitland. She later said she had no doubts about their identity.

Jane Doe 2 later told police that she and the murder victim were sleeping in the bedroom. When the victim went out to see what the noise was all about, Jane Doe 2 said she stayed in the bedroom until she heard people in another section of the trailer fighting.

She said she went into the hall and saw the three brothers fighting with the victim. She said she tried to push them off, but they threw her against the wall numerous times. She said she saw one of the three men holding something in his hands, but she could not tell what it was.

She said she thought that the brother who was fighting with him was Elijah.

The second victim also reported hearing the noise and going out of his room to see what was going on. It was at that point, he said, that he was attacked by a man he did not know.

Police talked to several other witnesses who identified the Shirley brothers as being the cause of the attack on the two men in the trailer.

Shortly thereafter, Navajo police began trying to find the Shirley brothers to ask them questions.

Michael Shirley was the first to be contacted and he agreed to come in at 3 p.m. and talk to Navajo police investigators and the FBI, but he never showed up or responded to phone calls.

Finally, family members said that Michael Shirley would talk to them. However, shortly before the allotted time they said he would not be coming. This kept on going on for another day until he finally came in to talk and then demanded to see an attorney.

His two brothers were taken into custody the following day.

In the end, Elijah Shirley pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and admitted to killing the victim in the heat of passion. Michael Shirley pled guilty to being an accessory, dmitting that after the victim had been killed, he assisted Elijah Shirley by burning a BMW car and helping his other brother, Maynard, secure housing and transportation.

Maynard Shirley has also pled guilty to being an accessory after the fact of voluntary manslaughter.

Troubled man gets 12 years in fatal DWI


ALBUQUERQUE — Derrick Haskan, 42, of Kayenta was sentenced

Monday to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

After serving his sentence, he is to be placed on supervised probation for five years.

According to Navajo Police reports, Haskan was involved in a collision on May 24, 2015 at milepost 0.9 on Route 6530 near Chinchinbito, Arizona.

A police reconstruction of the accident showed Shirley going northbound in his pickup when he crossed the center line and collided with a vehicle going southbound on that road. That vehicle was driven by Birdie Yazzie Nez and carried passengers Harriet Nez and Vida Charley.

Birdie and Harriet Nez died in the accident while Charley and Haskan received injuries for which they had to be hospitalized.

Haskan was later tested for alcohol and posted a breath alcohol level of more than .20. The reconstruction indicated he put on his brakes for about three to four seconds and was traveling 63 miles per hour at the time of impact.

Haskan’s attorney had asked for a sentence of 12 years. In his motion for a more lenient sentence, he included a letter from Haskan’s parents to U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Logan.

In the letter, Dale and Melanie Haskan pointed out that their son had a twin brother who died two weeks after birth because his lungs had not fully developed.

“Coming home to a house without electricity and running water on the Navajo Nation had him in and out of the hospital continually with pneumonia for years,” they said.

“He survived third-degree burns over three-fourths of his body by backing into a tub of scalding water at the age of three, countless bouts with pneumonia, meningitis, and many childhood diseases due to him being born prematurely.”

They said their son had to struggle to stay alive during his childhood and at one point, his heart stopped twice on the way to the hospital.

As he grew older, they said, his life was dominated by bullies all throughout elementary and high school.

“He turned to whatever would gain him recognition and status which mean alcohol and drugs (while) maintaining good grades at school,” they added.

He married and had three children but his parents said it was not a happy one. He spent a lot of time in jail for domestic violence, which they said should be blamed on his ex-wife. Eventually he was sent to prison, they said, and when he came out, his ex-wife denied him any contact with his children.

“That is when he began deteriorating,” they wrote.

He earned his living by hauling coal and wood and doing welding jobs.

He spent a lot of time taking care of his uncle and is beloved by friends and family, they said.

In response to that petition for leniency, the prosecution pointed out that before Haskan got involved in that accident, his mother, Melanie Haskan, had called Navajo Police to report that her son was drunk.

Fourteen minutes later, she called again and said “he hit me now and was threatening to kill us. He took a knife outside.” She also reported that her son had left the house with a knife and was threatening to kill himself.

The prosecution had a different interpretation of the crash data, saying that the report shows he was traveling 85 miles per hour five seconds before the impact and that he did not put on his brakes until the final second before impact.

The prosecution disagreed with Haskan’s attorney who viewed this as a vehicular homicide case worth 12 years in prison.

“The case is not a manslaughter case. It is a murder case,” their brief said, pointing out that Haskan acted with malice and extreme, reckless disregard for human life.

“Twelve years is simply not enough to satisfy the sentencing goals of punishment and future deterrence,” the attorneys argued.

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About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.