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FBI raises reward for murder info: Mother pleads anyone who knows to come forward

FBI raises reward for murder info:  Mother pleads anyone who knows to come forward

NENAHNEZAD, N.M.

The FBI has increased the reward from $5000 to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of Zachariah Juwaun Shorty.

Shorty’s body was found by a runner on July 25, 2020, on a dirt trail south of the San Juan River approximately a half mile west of the Nenahnezad Chapter House.

Shorty’s cause of death was gunshot wounds. He was 23 at the time of his death.

Navajo Times | Cyrus Norcross
Vangie Randall-Shorty holds a sign reading, “My mom is my voice,” on Jan. 9. Randall-Shorty’s son, Zachariah Shorty, was found dead half a mile west of Nenahnezad Chapter house on July 25, 2020.

The last time Zach’s mother, Vangie Randall-Shorty, saw her son alive was July 21, 2020, when she dropped him off at Journey Inn in Farmington to create music with friends.

He was missing later that night and his friends called Randall-Shorty twice to tell her that her son had not returned back to the hotel.

On July 23, 2020, Randall-Shorty filed a missing person report and a search party began looking for Zach.

The following Monday Randall-Shorty heard rumors that law enforcement had found a body matching the description of Zach. That Tuesday, on July 28, local authorities identified the body as Zachariah Juwaun Shorty.

“I was in disbelief, I was in shock, and I was in denial,” said Randall-Shorty.

“I want justice for Zach, somebody out there has answers,” she said. “They are afraid to come forward and share the information. It’s been frustrating.”

FBI seeks public’s help

The FBI is seeking information to solve the murder.

“We have good information and we have good strings that we just need to be able to tie together,” said Frank Fisher, FBI public affairs officer. “Somebody out there has that missing piece that will allow us to tie these strings together.”

The partnership with the Navajo Police Department and Department of Criminal Investigation is what helps the FBI solve the many cases on the Navajo Nation.

“We are working hard on this case,” Fisher said. “We work very closely with the Navajo Nation Police. We couldn’t do it without them.

“They are, 99% of the time, the first on the scene,” he said. “They are able to secure the scene, talk to people, and by the time we get there, we link up. They are great.”

Regarding their involvement in the case, the Navajo Police said in a statement, “The Navajo Police Department continues to support and stand united with the family of Zachariah Shorty, the Navajo Department of Criminal Investigation, and our FBI partners in this joint effort to bring awareness to this case and renew our plea to the public for information.

“Our hope is someone will come forward with information that will help solve this case and get justice for Zachariah and bring much needed closure to his family,” the statement said.

“We have Navajo-speaking victim specialists who are a big help, ” said Fisher. “We realize it’s difficult for the families, we know that families want these cases solved right now and we are doing our best.”

“Zachariah was a young man when he was killed,” Fisher said. “He was only 23 years old.

“He had his entire life ahead of him,” he said. “He did not deserve to have this happen to him. He left behind a family, and a grieving mother.

“We want anyone with information about this case to come forward and supply those answers,” Fisher said, “Give this grieving mother some peace and justice.”

Advocate for missing

Randall-Shorty has since become involved with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Missing and Murdered Indigenous People movements.

“When there are missing persons awareness events being held, we attend those events,” she said. “We have assisted with search parties, like for Ellamae Begay and Ranelle Bennet.

“I’m thankful to come across the ladies within the MMIW movement, we show strength and encouragement,” she said, “They are like lady warriors. It’s a whole new world, a different level of sisterhood.

“Going through something like this, you feel so lost and alone,” Randall-Shorty said, “I’m just glad that I have them. Without them, I don’t think I would be where I am today.

“Everything reminds me of him (Zach)” she said, “I still go to all the places that remind me of him, all those memories I don’t want to lose.

“We would go to Twin Peaks together, that was our spot, and I still go up there and just think,” said Randall-Shorty, “I play his music from his Youtube channel, I laugh, I cry, I sit there, to find him.

“I know there are so many cold cases and there are families out there that are afraid,” she said, “Afraid to talk about it. I hope with this movement (MMIW) that they see the strength that we have and they reopen their cases.

“There are so many out there,” she said, “so many missing people that have not been found, so many murders and there are no answers.

“There are people out there who have the answers,” she said. “I just wish that they would come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 505-889-1300 or go online at tips.fbi.gov.


About The Author

Cyrus Norcross

Cyrus Norcross is a full-time staff photographer for the Navajo Times.

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