• A change of plea hearing is set for Tavor Tom on Nov. 24, 2020 • A grand jury indicted Tom on a charge of second-degree murder for allegedly killing his aunt • Tom told FBI agents he stabbed her seven to eight times and slit her throat
SHIPROCK, N.M. — The Shiprock man who told police he stabbed his aunt and stole her car, before crashing it into a fence on his way to Farmington in 2019, is set for a change of plea hearing on Nov. 24, 2020.
According to a hearing notice, Tavor Tom, 19, is set for a change of plea hearing at 10 a.m. in front of Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa. The hearing is to be held virtually, via Zoom.
A federal grand jury indicted him on July 9, 2019, on a charge of second-degree murder and his case has been continued at least four times. A jury trial in front of District Judge William Johnson had been set for Jan. 4. 2021.
Tom has been in custody since he was arrested on July 2, 2019. The prosecutor in the case appears to be Joseph Spindle with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At 10 a.m., July 2, 2019, the victim was found dead in her house by her father. Sometime during that same morning, Tavor Tom was found in the victim’s Jeep Cherokee, after he crashed into a fence in front of a church in Nenahnezad. Navajo Nation police officers found a bloody knife in the car, FBI Agent Cary Cahoon wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.
During an interrogation, Tom told FBI agents he killed his maternal aunt with a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle. He intended to go to her house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex. After he stole it from the store, he drove on the back roads toward Shiprock and he crashed the vehicle into a fence at a church in Nenahnezad. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.
According to the plea deal, Joe admitted killed Brett Micah Morgan by stabbing him 10 times in the chest and neck on Jan. 3, 2019.
The plea deal, signed off on by federal prosecutor David Cowen, states Joe would only receive a 15-year sentence, although any time spent on supervised release after serving a prison sentence would be up to the sentencing judge.
The woman, described by interviewed witnesses as Tom’s maternal aunt but unnamed in court documents (but identified by her year of birth, 1974), was found dead in her home at 10 a.m. the following day, July 2, 2019, by her father. Sometime during that same morning, Tom was found in the victim’s Jeep Cherokee, after he allegedly crashed into a fence in front of a church in Nenahnezad. Navajo Nation police officers found a bloody knife in the car, FBI agent Cary Cahoonwrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.
FBI agent Kalon Fancher interviewed Tom and advised him he did not have to speak with him, but Cahoon did not write if Fancher told Tom his Miranda rights.
According to Fancher’s interview with Tom, the latter allegedly admitted to killing the victim with a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle with the intention of going to the victim’s house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex, Cahoon wrote.
Zachariah Joe first attacked Brett Micah Morgan after visiting with him and another man at a house in Shiprock. After being tackled to the ground, he locked Morgan and the other man, only identified in court documents as B.M., out of the house. He then found a kitchen knife and stabbed Morgan 10 times in the chest and neck, killing him, according to court records.
Joe pleaded guilty on Oct. 31, 2019 to a single charge of second-degree murder, according to court records.
The binding plea deal states he will receive a sentence of 15 years. However, the magistrate judge in the case has deferred acceptance of the plea agreement until sentencing by a district court judge.
Roundy referred to Morgan in court documents initially as “B.M.M.,” then by “John Doe.” The other identifiers Roundy included were Morgan’s year of birth, 1986, and that he was a Navajo Nation tribal member, as is Joe.
Roundy wrote someone interviewed B.M., who said Joe had been texting with Morgan while Morgan and B.M. drank at a Shiprock house. During the evening, Joe texted Morgan that he left work, at Burger King, and wanted to come over.
When Joe showed up, he was drunk and upset about being fired, Roundy wrote.
“Joe continued his tirade about losing his job throughout the evening and at one point, JOE violently struck John Doe in the face with the back of his hand, sending John Doe back towards the wood burning stove,” Roundy wrote, citing the interview with B.M.
Joe tried to attack the prone victim but B.M. punched Joe several times in the head and wrestled him to the ground long enough for Morgan and B.M. to get of the house. Joe locked the door from the inside. Morgan and B.M. could hear him searching through kitchen drawers and cabinets in a “violent” manner, Roundy wrote.
“B.M. then became upset feeling that his home was being invaded, and subsequently ran to the known residence of JOE and broke a window,” Roundy wrote. “B.M. then returned to his residence approximately five minutes later and found John Doe on the ground just outside the door bleeding.”
Joe was standing over Morgan. At some point two other people, identified as “D.T.” and “V.B.” arrived and drove Morgan to the hospital. Navajo police then arrested B.M. for breaking Joe’s window.
Roundy wrote that the Office of the Medical Investigator found that Morgan suffered from 10 “puncture and/or laceration wounds.” He was pronounced dead at the Northern Navajo Medical Center.
Roundy wrote that someone interviewed D.T., who said that he arrived at the house with V.B. and saw Joe kicking Morgan on the ground, outside the house. D.T. got out of the car and pushed Joe back from Morgan, saw he was unresponsive and heard Joe say that Morgan “was stabbed.”
D.T. then kept Joe at a distance and tried to get Morgan to his feet but realized he was bleeding, put him in a car and drove him to the hospital, he wrote.
D.T., who also lived at the house, later realized a kitchen knife was missing from a drawer, Roundy wrote.
V.B. said during an interview that when she arrived with D.T., she did not notice anything in Joe’s hands.
In the plea deal, Joe attested that he initially hit Morgan. B.M. threw Joe down, but eventually Joe locked them out of the house.
“I located a knife in the residence and armed myself with it,” the plea deal states. “A short time later, I exited the residence and confronted John Doe. I started a fight with John Doe and I stabbed John Doe with the knife approximately 10 times in his chest, side and neck.”
In the plea, he admitted that his stabbing caused Morgan’s death.
“While I stabbed John Doe, he begged for me to stop, but I did not,” the plea deal states. “In doing so, I acted with callous and wanton disregard for human life.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Mexico only published a press release on the case after Joe pleaded guilty and did not publish one after he was arrested.
The case had been continued multiple times because the prosecution and Joe’s defense attorney, Melissa Morris, were trying to reach a plea in “pre-indictment negotiations,” according to the docket and an Aug. 16 motion to continue the grand jury presentment. The plea was also signed by federal prosecutor David Cowen.
The plea agreement states Joe will receive a sentence of 15 years, although the sentencing judge can decide how much, if any, time Joe should spend on supervised release after serving his sentence. She can also levy a fine.
According to the plea, the possible maximum sentence for second-degree murder is life imprisonment.
The plea agreement states the 15-year sentence considers Joe’s acceptance of responsibility and that 15 years is the “appropriate disposition.”
In the plea agreement, Joe attested that he locked Morgan and B.M. out of the house, he found a knife and then confronted Morgan.
“I started a fight with John Doe and I stabbed John Doe with the knife approximately 10 times in his chest, side and neck. These stab wounds caused John Doe’s death. While I stabbed John Doe, he begged for me to stop, but I did not. In doing so, I acted with callous and wanton disregard for human life.”
Court documents give no indication of future court dates.
On Dec. 9, 2017, Jerome Dayzie was driving back from Colorado to his home in Round Rock, Ariz, with his wife, identified as Terra Dayzie, and a friend, Marvin Johnson, 37. Jerome Dayzie, who had a blood-alcohol content of 0.196, crashed into the back of a parked trailer on the side of the road. Johnson was ejected and died at the scene, according to court records.
Jerome Dayzie was initially arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court records.
On April 16, 2018, he pleaded guilty to the same charge and on Feb. 26, 2019, District Judge Martha Vazquez sentenced him to the minimum under the sentencing guidelines, just over three years, despite four previous convictions for DUI, according to court records.
They had driven to Cortez, Colo., to buy beer at the G-Whil liquor store. There, they bought three cases of St. Ides malt liquor, all in 40-ounce bottles. St. Ides has an ABV, or alcohol by volume, of 8.2 percent. They were sharing the liquor as they drove back to Arizona and Jerome Dayzie estimated he drank a whole bottle by himself, he told Fancher in an interrogation, according to Fancher’s affidavit.
Jerome Dayzie said Johnson was the one who wanted to go, Fancher wrote.
After he turned off Highway 491 and onto BIA/Indian Services/Navajo Route 13, the sun was in his face and a car was heading toward him. A trailer was parked “half on the road,” Fancher wrote, summarizing his interview with Jerome Dayzie.
“He stated ‘it’s either I hit the other vehicle or I hit the trailer,'” Fancher wrote. “He stated he hit the end of the trailer and flipped right over.”
Johnson was in the back seat of Jerome Dayzie’s Ford Explorer when he was ejected from the vehicle.
Jerome Dayzie’s wife, Terra Dayzie (identified as T.D. or Jane Doe-1 in some court records), said Jerome Dayzie drank about half of a 40-ounce bottle, Fancher wrote.
“JANE DOE-1 stated she fell asleep and woke up when DAYZIE hit the back of a trailer parked along the side of the road. JANE DOE-1 stated (V-1) flipped over. She stated JOHN DOE-1 was thrown out of (V-1) and she tried to wake him up but he was not responding.”
When law enforcement arrived, they declared him dead at the scene, he wrote.
After crashing into the rear, Jerome Dayzie’s Ford Explorer flipped. Johnson was ejected and pinned under the driver’s side, Ruiz-Velez wrote.
One witness, behind Jerome Dayzie, said his car had been swerving from side to side before it hit the trailer, rolled, and landed on the driver’s side, she wrote.
The owner of the trailer said he and his son were driving to Arizona when they noticed the straps holding the furniture down seemed to be loose. They pulled to the side of the road to check the straps before Jerome Dayzie crashed into the back of the trailer, Ruiz-Velez wrote.
According to a deputy field investigation by Tiffany Keaton, with the Office of the Medical Investigator, witnesses told law enforcement that the Explorer “clipped” the left corner of the trailer, causing the trailer to “fork” to the left. The explorer then flipped one and a half times. Johnson was ejected out the passenger-side window before it landed on him. He was not wearing a seat belt.
“Witnesses, were able to pull the vehicle off of Marvin Johnson,” Keaton wrote.
Fancher filed the for the arrest warrant two days after the crash, on Dec. 11., 2017.
Jerome Dayzie pleaded not guilty, waived a preliminary hearing and a grand jury presentment on Dec. 15, 2017, and federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough released him to the La Pasada Halfway House in Albuquerque, according to the docket and a response by Ruiz-Velez to a motion to allow Jerome Dayzie to speak to his wife, Terra Dayzie.
Among the conditions of release, Jerome Dayzie was prohibited from speaking to any of the witnesses, his wife included.
Ruiz-Velez wrote that she opposed letting Jerome Dayzie talk to his wife “to assure the integrity of the judicial proceedings against the Defendant.”
According to the plea deal, Jerome Dayzie admitted to killing Johnson while driving drunk.
The plea agreement contained agreement as to the sentence, other than that he was entitled to a reduction of two levels in the federal sentencing guidelines because he pleaded guilty.
Ruiz-Velez wrote in a sentencing memorandum, dated Feb. 7, 2019, that Jerome Dayzie should be sentenced to the high end of the guidelines for his crime, 46 months, or just under four years.
She wrote that he had an offense level of 19 and a criminal history category of III, resulting in a guideline sentence range of 37 months (just over 3 years) to 46 months.
She wrote that his blood-alcohol content was extremely high, at 0.196, over double the legal per se limit of 0.08.
His criminal history included five prior arrests for DUI, four of which resulted in convictions, although only two of those were considered to calculate his criminal history category.
“It is troubling that Defendant was sentenced for these two convictions on June 21, 2016 and January 12, 2017, less than two years before the instant offense,” Ruiz-Velez wrote. “Defendant’s convictions show that he was aware of the illegality of his conduct when he decided to drive his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol on December 9, 2017.”
His “past conduct” endangered the lives of others, including his 15-year-old son, she wrote.
“He was a friend and family member,” Butcher wrote. “The three were drinking together. The alcohol found at the accident was due to the fact that the group was bootlegging alcohol back to the reservation.”
Butcher then wrote that they, as friends, went out drinking together.
“Unfortunately, they decided to drive home while intoxicated,” Butcher wrote. “Mr. Dayzie recognizes the loss caused by John Doe’s death.”
Jerome Dayzie is an electrician and is trying to get the licenses needed to “improve his employment,” although he is currently employed as such.
“More importantly, Mr. Dayzie has taken his drug and alcohol treatment extremely serious. As the Court is aware, Mr. Dayzie has a long history of substance abuse. The defendant has remained totally sober while on Pretrial Conditions of Release. He understands now that when he drinks alcohol, ‘bad things tends to happen.'”
Butcher initially asked for a sentence of two years, which he called a mistake. In an amended sentencing memorandum, Butcher asked for a sentence of 37 months (just over 3 years).
The minutes do not contain any information about the reasoning behind the judge’s decision.
According to the minutes, Vazquez addressed Jerome Dayzie and then Johnson’s family members addressed Vazquez.
Although Ruiz-Velez was the prosecutor on the case, according to the sentencing minutes, she did not attend or argue for the sentence she requested at his sentencing hearing. Instead, prosecutor Novaline Wilson attended the hearing. Court documents do not state why she was missing.
Jerome Dayzie then spoke to the judge, and then the judge spoke to him again and imposed the sentence, according to the minutes.
She also ordered he pay $1,592.97 to the New Mexico Crime Victim Reparation Commission and $2,448.72 to Johnson’s sister.