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Court Cases: Shiprock man facing child molestation charges

LOS ANGELES

A Shiprock man is facing child molestation charges in the federal district court in Albuquerque.

Bennick Yazzie, 31, was arrested Sept. 23 by FBI agents after a child forensic specialist interviewed the accuser. He was charged with aggravated sexual abuse of a minor under the age of 12 years old.

He was accused of sexually assaulting the accuser numerous times between 2016 and 2021. The last occurrence is alleged to have been this past August.

Court records said that during an interview with Yazzie shortly after his arrest, he admitted to FBI agents that he sexually assaulted the victim five or six times.

He is currently being held in custody by the U. S. Marshall’s Office in Albuquerque. No date has been set for his arraignment.

Guilty plea in 2nd-degree murder case

Simeon Atcitty, 38, of Shiprock, has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison by a federal district court judge in Albuquerque after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

In the plea agreement he signed last April, Atcitty said he was drinking with the victim, who was identified in court records as John Doe, on June 19, 2020 when Doe said something that upset him.

“I struck Doe in the head and chest repeatedly in anger, seriously hurting him. Even when he was seriously injured, I disregarded how injured he was and without justification, continued striking him until he was no longer moving,” he said.

He then wrapped up Doe, whom he described as a friend, and left him in his house.

“Afterwards, I called my ex-girlfriend and told her I killed somebody,” he said, adding that Navajo Police found the body a week later.

Medical officials later said Doe died from severe trauma to the chest and had at least 10 rib fractures.

Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison but prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of nine years because he accepted responsibility and showed remorse for his actions.

After being released, Atcitty will be under supervised probation for five years.

12 years for sexual contact

Nathan Thomas, 45, of Pueblo Pintado, was sentenced last week to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to one act of sexual contact of a female under the age of 12 years.

In his plea agreement, signed last November, Thomas admitted on two occasions between 2007 and 2010 he had sexual contact with the victim.

He could have faced a maximum sentence of life but prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of between 12 and 18 years because he took responsibility for his actions and showed remorse.

After he serves his sentence, he is to be put on supervised release for three years and be placed of the register of sexual offenders.

Man who abducted 4 children faces federal charges

A Rock Springs, New Mexico, man is facing federal felony charges after abducting his four children and leading Navajo Police and FBI agents on a 10-hour pursuit to recover the children.

Rumaldo Peshlakai, 40, has not been charged in connection with the abduction. However, a firearm was found in his possession which is a crime because he is a convicted felon who is not allowed to possess any firearms.

According to court records, Peshlakai’s wife, identified only as C.P., called Navajo Police on Sept. 23 and reported she had been assaulted by her husband who then took their four children, ages two to 11, away with him in her Chevrolet Tahoe.

Police began searching for Peshlakai and an Amber Alert was sent out throughout New Mexico and Arizona in an attempt to find the children.

Police were told he may be headed toward Window Rock and that he was armed and threatened to shoot anyone who tried to stop him.

Later that day, C.P. received a text message from Peshlakai on her cell phone. It said, “You know what you can call the cops. I don’t care. Remember I am not going back to prison. You won’t see any of us ever again.”

Police said his wife also texted him several times begging him to bring the kids back home. A little later, police reported Peshlakai drove back to his residence but turned around when he saw police.

After turning around, according to police, he drove to a nearby wooded area with the children and left the Tahoe in a secluded location where police found the vehicle. Law enforcement officers stayed back in an attempt to first determine if there was anyone in the vehicle. Because of the dark tint on the windows, it was unclear if it was occupied.

Law enforcement officers determined the vehicle was unoccupied by using a drone which also picked up footprints leading away from the vehicle. The footprints led to a nearby housing area where it appeared that a car had picked them up.

Shortly after that, police received word from a female witness that Peshlakai and his four children were all right but she would not say who gave her that information. Within the hour, Peshlakai called police dispatch and spoke to FBI agents.

He said the children were safe at his mother’s house but he refused to say where he was or to meet with law enforcement agents. He did agree, however, to turn himself in the next morning. Police later found the children where Peshlakai said they were and rescued them without incident.

The next morning Peshlakai turned himself in and agreed to waive his rights and be interviewed.

He said his wife came home early the previous morning with alcoholic beverages and they began drinking until it was time to get the children up for school.

He said by that time, he and his wife began arguing and as he was leaving to take the children to school, they bumped heads and Peshlakai saw blood on his wife’s head.

Peshlakai said he and the children left but when he saw a police car, he panicked because he did not want to go back to prison. So, he said, they went “roading.”

He told his oldest daughter that he was not trying to hide and that her mother was trying to get him in a lot of trouble. He told her he was half scared and half mad.

He said he didn’t know where the guns were but police found ammunition in his car with his fingerprints on them. There were also photos of guns on his cell phone.

He told police that if the guns were not in the Tahoe, they could be in the center console. The guns belonged to his wife but they may have his fingerprints on them because he had to move the guns.

His wife told FBI agents that the guns belonged to her and she used them for target practice. She said the last time she saw them was on Sep. 22 in a tote bag next to her bed. She gave them permission to search the Tahoe but no weapons were found.

Peshlakai s currently being held in custody by the U. S. Marshall’s Office in Albuquerque.

Sentence is 15 years for 2nd-degree murder

A Sheep Springs man has been sentenced by a federal district court judge in Albuquerque to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to second degree murder.

Garrett Neal, 28, will also have to serve five years of supervised release after he serves his prison sentence.

Neal admitted that he killed a man on the Navajo Reservation back in 2015.

He said the two were in Sheep Springs when they engaged in a physical fight during which he said he punched and kicked the man while he was on the ground. He said he also hit him in the face and neck with brass knuckles and rocks.

He said he could hear him trying to breathe. He said the man did not fight back and tried to leave. He said he dragged the body to a nearby windmill area and left it there.

An autopsy later determined cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Man receives 18 years for killing

A Crownpoint man has received a federal sentence of 18 months in prison after he admitted killing a man during a physical altercation.

Blaine Morgan, 35, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

He was originally arrested for murder. Upon his release, he will be required to serve five years of supervised release.

Morgan admitted in a plea agreement he made last May that he and another man, only identified as John Doe in court records, got into the fight in March of 2020 and during the fight he stabbed Doe multiple times.

Witnesses said Morgan and K.P. were arguing about work related matters in a friend’s trailer when K.P. asked Doe for help. Doe convinced K.P. and Morgan to go outside with him.

Another witness said he saw Morgan being attacked by two men. The witness said he saw Morgan with a knife in his hand.

That witness said Morgan told him later that one of the men had him in a choke hold and he believes he stabbed him.

Morgan later told FBI agents in an interview that he and K.P. were fighting when Doe showed up.

Morgan said he was hit in the head and stumbled out the door. He said he remember thinking to himself that the two men had jumped him.

Because he is a rancher he had a knife. He pulled out the knife and told them to back away and began waving the knife in the air, trying to get them to leave.

When investigators pointed out that the knife wounds to Doe were side to side, Morgan said he did not know why the wounds were different.

Morgan said he did not know what he did and it could have happened that way. He said his actions were all in self-defense.

A medical exam showed he had received a blow to the head.


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.

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