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Teesto man given 5 years for arson


Neville Roanhorse, 39, of Teesto, Arizona, has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for setting a neighbor’s house on fire.

This is one of those rare cases where an arson case was bumped up to federal prosecution. But it turned out to be more than a simple arson and included skinwalkers and an attempt to commit suicide by cop.

According to court records, Roanhorse was arrested on July 6, 2020, three days after Navajo Police received a call from Roanhorse’s mother complaining that her son was wandering around the area of her residence either extremely drunk or high.

When a police officer arrived at her house, Laura Roanhorse told them that her son was walking toward their neighbor’s house and he was in possession of a knife.

The officer then traveled the 1.5 miles to the neighbor’s residence and when he got there, he saw a man going into a shed on the property.

The officer instructed the man to come out of the shed and when he did, he was carrying a rifle.

Feeling in danger of his life, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired, hitting the man. The officer then called for backup and a medic.

Neville Roanhorse was then transported to the Flagstaff Medical Center and treated for his injury. He had been shot twice, once in the left forearm and then again in the right shoulder.

By the time backup showed up, they realized the main structure was on fire and they contacted the Navajo Fire Department which was unable to save the structure. It burned to the ground.

On July 4, Roanhorse agreed to waive his rights and talk to FBI agents.

He stressed that he had not been drinking that day and said he did not take drugs. Early on he said he became convinced the previous morning that his neighbors were planning to send witches or skinwalkers to his home to harass him and his family.

He said he came to the belief that his neighbors were out to get him because of a recent incident in Winslow where they were out drinking and Roanhorse broke his neighbor’s arm.
He said he decided to go over to his neighbor’s house that day to burn down their hogan and kill them before they killed him.

Armed with a knife, Roanhorse went to his neighbor’s residence and went into their hogan located north of the house. He said he tried to burn the hogan down with a match but he couldn’t get it to light up.

He said he then went to the front door of the residence and knocked but no one answered. He then went to the back door and broke out the windows.

He entered the house and began tearing up anything he could find. He was able to find a lighter, cooking oil and paper in the house.

He lighted the papers and one by one he placed them on furniture throughout the house.

As he was doing this, he found a rifle and decided to steal it. He said he thought at first it was a .22 but looking at it closely he realized it was a pellet gun. The rifle, however looked real so he decided to take it with him.

As he was leaving, he saw a Navajo Police unit drive up to the residence so he quickly ran to a nearby shed. When the officer told him to step out, he said he knew he would be arrested and did not want to go back to prison.

He came out holding the rifle over his head. He then lowered his arms and pointed the rifle at the officer. He said he knew when he pointed the rifle at the officer, he would be shot. Once he was shot, he dropped the rifle and fell to the ground.

He also said in the interview that members of his family knew what he planned to do and they tried to stop him.

Roanhorse had been in custody since his arrest and will be given credit for time served. Upon his release, he will be under supervised probation five years.

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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