• Maroquez Clah pleaded guilty without a plea deal
• He faces a maximum sentence of eight years for killing Darrel Chavez, 22
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Maroquez Clah pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, Sept. 21, for killing his friend in a drunk driving crash near Mitten Rock.
According to the plea minute sheet, Magistrate Judge John Robbenhaar accepted the plea. Robbenhaar allowed Clah to remain on his current conditions of release. He is living with his parents in Red Valley.
No sentencing date has been set.
A grand jury indicted Clah on a charge of involuntary manslaughter on Nov. 25, 2019 for crashing his truck while drunk near Mitten Rock, killing Chavez. He was not arrested until Feb. 14, 2020. Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones released him to a halfway house over the objection of prosecutor Wilson. Briones refused to release him to his home in Red Valley to help his ailing parents amid the coronavirus pandemic. Federal District Court Judge Kea Riggs overruled Briones and ordered him released on April 20, 2020.
Details of the crash
FBI Agent Lancy Roundy wrote in a search warrant filed for Clah’s truck on Sept. 4, 2019, that Clah told federal investigators, while in the hospital, he had been drinking alcohol throughout the day prior to driving from Farmington to his home in Red Valley, Arizona. Chavez is referred to as “John Doe” in court records.
“Clah recalled John Doe being a passenger of his vehicle at some point during the drive,” Roundy wrote. “Clah admitted to drinking vodka approximately six hours prior to driving his vehicle home and remembered losing control of the vehicle while driving approximately 70 miles per hour before the vehicle rolled several times.”
Roundy wrote that, according to Clah’s hospital records from his treatment after the crash, his blood-alcohol content was 0.258, over three times the legal limit of 0.08.
According to Chavez’s autopsy report, he was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the truck during the crash.
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Suspect: Maroquez Clah
Victim: Darrell Chavez, 22
Charges: Involuntary manslaughter
Date of incident: Aug. 30, 2019
Type of incident: DWI crash
Status: Plea without a deal; pending sentencing, maximum 8 years
Investigating Agency: FBI
Location: Mile Marker 2, Navajo Route 13 (Indian Services Route 13) Mitten Rock, NM
Federal district case number: 19-cr-4447
Search warrant case number: 19-mr-01054
Prosecutor: Novaline Wilson
Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office
Plea judge: Magistrate Judge John Robbenhaar
Sentencing judge: None set