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Court Cases | Man pleads guilty to murder of St. Michaels man


Jeremiah Cleveland has pledged guilty to second-degree murder for a 2018 killing of a St. Michaels man.

Cleveland, no age listed, was arrested in November 2018 after Navajo tribal police began investing the death of M.K., who was listed in court records as a resident of St. Michaels Housing.

In a plea agreement, Cleveland said he and M.K. had gotten into an argument which led to Cleveland pulling out a handgun and shooting him twice, once in the leg and once in the chest. He later died from his injuries.

Cleveland was charged originally with first-degree murder but agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charges which carries a maximum life sentence. But because he accepted responsibility for his actions and showed remorse, federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend a cap of 20 years when he goes before a judge for sentencing.

There is no date set for his sentencing which will take place in the federal court in Prescott.

Before he agreed to the plea agreement, he had filed a motion to have the charges dismissed because of claims that his sixth amendment rights have been violated by the federal government.

He claimed that between March to November 2020, he had been held in prison without any updates to his trial, no visits from his defense attorney and no court dates. During this time, he said he was constantly exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

Because of the threat of the virus, the federal court had canceled all of its hearings which Cleveland said caused him great anxiety.

He said this violated his sixth amendment rights to a speedy trial. The court rejected this argument.

Curley pleads guilty to murder, robbery

Shawnavon Curley last week agreed to plead guilty to second degree murder and robbery of an adult and a child in federal district court in Prescott.

In his plea agreement, he admitted that he, along with Armondo Whiterock and two juveniles participated in a home invasion within the Arizona portion of the Navajo Reservation.

“We coordinated, worked together and aided and abetted each other to threaten and attack the family,” he said.

The home invasion occurred on Sept. 19, 2019. Curley said he and the others broke inside while the family was sleeping. They carried bats and used the bats on the five members of the family. He admitted using the bats and participating in the attack and telling members of the family to “stay down or they would be kept killed.”

Curley admitted hitting M. W., who died of his injuries. He said he hit him in the head, chest and legs while others also used their bats on him and kicked him to prevent him from getting up from the floor. M. W. would later die of trauma to the head.

“My accomplices and I stole items of value, including a vehicle, a firearm, a pellet gun and a cell phone,” Curley said, adding that he was the one who drove the vehicle away from the residence.

As part of the agreement, the federal government agreed to dismiss multiple charges ranging from kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. He was facing a maximum life sentence but by signing the plea agreement, the prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison sentence of no more than 30 years.

Court records state the home invasion occurred in Sweetwater, south of Red Mesa. The attack occurred before 6 a.m. when the house was occupied by the parents, one adult daughter and two teenage sons.

Those who were injured were taken to the San Juan Medical Center. The daughter had a puncture wound to her lower back. One of the teenage boys had a laceration to his right hand.

Shortly after taking the vehicle, Curley crashed it. He was taken into custody after a brief foot pursuit near the victim’s home. One of the juveniles was arrested near the wrecked vehicle. Whiterock and the other juvenile were arrested within the next couple of days.

Police said when Curley was arrested, he was carrying a blood-stained aluminum bat. The juvenile who was arrested by the wrecked car made a spontaneous statement to police saying “they” had turned on him and tried to kill him.

P.W., the wife of M.W. told FBI agents later that the break in occurred between 4:15 to 4:30 a.m. She said she heard the attackers come in through the front door. Two of them had metal bats while a third had a machete.

The attackers wed first interviewed the bedroom of the two teenage boys. When she went to protect them, she said she was hit twice on the left side of the head. She said she then began bleeding and was thrown on the bed.

She said she will win messed her daughter and husband being beaten and one of her sons, who had tried to hide in a closet, being stabbed. She said after the attack was over and the attackers were preparing to leave the house, she smelled smoke and heard Whiterock say they were going to burn the house down.

She estimated the attackers we’re in the house for 90 minutes as they searched the entire house for valuables. She said during that time they destroyed the house and things inside the house.

She said she had no doubts who the attackers were because she knew all four of them. She said she thought the attack was retaliation for an incidence where their grandfather was killed.

Two days after the attack, FBI agents interviewed Curley who had a noticeable limp. H said after the car crash, he ran away down a cow trail and stepped on a bush, injuring his knee. After that he got on a nearby road and flagged down a car not realizing it was a police vehicle.

He said he day before the invasion, he and one of the juveniles were talking to Whiterock who told them he had been threatened. He said the people who threatened him lived in the house they broke into the following day.

The person who was making the threats was listed as Q in the police report. They knew Q stayed the over at that house now and then. However, on the day of the break-in, he was not there.

He said when they broke in, they asked for Q and told the occupants not to mess with them. them. But some of the occupants got mad and tried to defend themselves. He said when they first entered the house, he went to the bedroom where he thought Q would be located but instead a man and woman in the room attacked him.

He said he left the room where a man and a woman were lying on the bed. He then went into the living room where he told the other three, they needed to leave because Q was not there. He said he kind of blacked out then and didn’t remember anything until he got into the vehicle to drive away.

He said he did not know who the vehicle belonged to. He said he could not remember who was driving. He also said he had had no plans to go inside the house. He only planned to yell from the outside.

He said when the others broke down the door, he went inside only to protect them from Q and to get items that Q had stolen from him. He said he fought the family first only with his fists until he discovered a bat inside the house.

Whiterock, who had signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last summer, said H was listening to music the day before the break-in when the other three showed up at his house. They then went to the home of a nearby bootlegger where they stole several bottles of 40-ounce beer bottles.

They continued to drink throughout the night until they decided to go to where they though Q lived to get him to return the things he had stolen from them. He said all four carried bats. He added that when they broke in, he began searching the house for the items Q had stolen. He said he could hear fighting going on in other parts of the house.

He admitted fighting with one of the teenage boys over a bat and he then using it to strike the boy three times.

Whiterock is also waiting to be sentenced.

About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan wrote about Navajo Nation government and its people since 1971. He joined Navajo Times in 1976, and retired from full-time reporting in 2018 to move to Torrance, Calif., to be near his kids. He continued to write for the Times until his passing in August 2022.


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