Police Blotter: School bus driver charged with child abuse
By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times
A school bus driver is facing felony child abuse charges after being arrested by Navajo Nation Police for being intoxicated and placing the children in his bus in harm’s way.
Duane Aaron Skeet is also facing charges of violating the Major Crimes Act.
The arrest report states that the children he was driving home were dropped off “terrified and crying” and after telling their parents what was happening, McKinley County Sheriff’s Office deputies rushed to the scene and took him into custody and waited for a tribal police officer to show up.
According to his arrest warrant, Skeet, 48, was driving a school bus for the Chichiltah Jones Ranch Community School on Sept. 24 when officials began receiving calls from parents about 3:10 p.m. that one of their bus drivers was apparently intoxicated while driving students home. Alvernon Tsosie, a criminal investigator for the Navajo Police Department, states that Jens Rossler, the principal of the school, contacted the McKinley County Sheriff’s Office. According to school officials, Skeet showed up late that afternoon and the students were waiting outside his bus. He left at 3:05 p.m. Feeling that something may be wrong, a school employee began following him and reported seeing his bus weaving and going off the road within five minutes of leaving the school. The employee called Rossler. Rossler then left the school but was unable to locate the bus so the sheriff’s office was notified.
By then, the school was receiving phone calls from parents who had been told by their children that their bus driver was intoxicated. After being told by her child that the bus driver was intoxicated, one of the parents got in her car and began looking for the bus, finding it on the Manuelito Canyon Road, and began following it. At its next stop, Tsosie said the parent got on the bus and confronted the driver and took possession of the keys to the bus. Three students ran off the bus. When Sheriff’s Deputy Monty Yazzie arrived on the scene, he also confronted Skeet who agreed to take a portable breath-alcohol test. He blew a sample of 0.172, which was more than the legal limit on the reservation, which is 0.10.
The children on the bus reported that somewhere along the route, Skeet hit an unknown object, causing damage to the school bus doors to the point where they could not close the door. The parent who confronted Tsosie told police that when her children got off the bus, they immediately told her that the driver was intoxicated and that the children still on the bus were “scared and crying.” When he was interviewed by tribal police, Skeet was asked if he had been drinking earlier in the day. He admitted that he had four tall cans of beer about 10 a.m. He was then asked why he put himself and the children in danger by driving the bus and he reportedly replied, “We’re short of bus drivers so I had to do it.”
He was then arrested on tribal charges of DWI and endangerment of children. When children who were on the bus were later interviewed, they all said they were scared and afraid the bus was going to be in a wreck. Some of the children said they began screaming at one point when the bus was making a turn and appeared to be on the brink of flipping over. At another point, the bus was driven through branches and the children said some of the branches came into the seats where they were sitting.
Nineteen children had been on the bus. On Sept. 27, Skeets was interviewed at his home by FBI agents and he reportedly told them on the day he was arrested by tribal police, he was having difficulties in his personal life which is why he was drinking. He said he normally picks up 32 students in the afternoon but some of them stayed at the school for sports practice. He was asked if he remembered the students pleading with him to stop the bus and telling him he was swerving. He said he remembered the pleading but he wasn’t swerving. When asked how he felt about putting the students, who ranged in age from five to 14, through that experience, he said, “Ashamed, terrible, horrified.”
He also agreed that the parents of the children had a right to be upset at him. He was then asked what he would say to the parents if they were there and he replied, “Apologize to them, tell them to hate me. Some of them know me for a long time, start off with an apology.” Asked if the alcohol he consumed that day prevented him from making a normal decision, he reportedly replied, “I don’t know what took me down that route. We’re all different. We all believe in different things. According to my belief, it was set for me to go down that route, you know,” he said.
He was formally charged in U.S. district court on Oct. 10 and on Oct. 16 was released on his own recognizance after he signed an agreement not to contact any of the students or parents and not to go within 100 yards of the school.
Teesto man convicted of murder
By Cindy Yurth
CHINLE — A Teesto, Arizona, man was convicted of first-degree murder, assault and kidnapping last Tuesday in connection with the death of his girlfriend in September of 2017. Giordano Jackson, 39, will be sentenced in February, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for Arizona. The crime was prosecuted in federal court because it was a capital crime that occurred on a Native American reservation. The case was investigated by the FBI.
The press release did not name the victim. According to the prosecution, Jackson beat the victim to death outside his home in Teesto, then assaulted two Navajo Nation Police officers with a machete when they came to investigate.
Two months earlier, according to the press release, Jackson had dragged the victim by the hair with enough force to pull out chunks of hair. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, assault resulting in serious bodily injury and kidnapping.
First-degree murder in Arizona is punishable by the death penalty or up to life in prison.
17-year-old runaway missing
WINDOW ROCK — The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the El Mirage Police Department are asking the public to help locate a 17-year-old boy.
The El Mirage Police Department, which is next to the City of Peoria, Arizona, describes Sage Maize, who has been missing since Jan. 26 of this year, as 6-foot-2 and weighing 230 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
Maize is considered a runaway, according to the El Mirage Police Department. Maize may be on the Navajo or Hopi Reservation. If found, NCMEC and El Mirage Police Department say to contact their offices.
NCMEC can be contacted at 1-800-843-5678, and El Mirage P.D. at 623-933-1341, or call your local law enforcement agency.