Tavor Tom to be sentenced in March for brutal stabbing death of aunt

Tavor Tom stabbed or slashed aunt Roberta Clyde at least 75 times
• Tom pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November
• Judge William Johnson has total discretion to sentence him from no time to life imprisonment

See the case write-up or read previous stories on the case

SHIPROCK, N.M. — Tavor Tom could be sentenced as early as March 12, 2021, after he pleaded guilty in November to second-degree murder for the brutal stabbing death of his maternal aunt, Roberta Clyde, 45, of Shiprock.

District Judge William Johnson tentatively set the virtual sentencing hearing via a notice entered on Jan. 27. Assuming the case is not continued, it will be conducted over the video conferencing platform Zoom.

Federal sentencing guidelines appear to place Tom’s suggested sentence at 16 to 20 years. No sentencing memorandums, from the prosecution or defense, have been filed n the case.

Tom, 19, of Shiprock, pleaded guilty on Nov. 24, 2020, to second-degree murder for stabbing Clyde to death in 2019. The plea was conditionally accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa during a virtual hearing that lasted just over 30 minutes.

federal grand jury indicted him on July 9, 2019, on a charge of second-degree murder. He stabbed his aunt to death on July 1, 2019. According to the plea deal proffered by federal prosecutor Joseph Spindle, there is no agreement as to the sentence.

The stabbing

At 10 a.m., July 2, 2019, Clyde was found dead in her house by her father. Sometime during that same morning, Tavor Tom was found in her 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 Clyde 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 the fence. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.

Pathologist Ross Zumwalt wrote in the autopsy report that Clyde suffered a total of 75 separate “sharp force injuries,” meaning stab wounds and incised, or slashing, wounds.

“Two of the stab wounds of the back of the head penetrated the skull resulting in bleeding around the brain,” Zumwalt wrote.

Clyde also has four stab wounds in her chest and one in her abdomen, which penetrated her stomach. She also has cutting wounds on her hands, which Zumwalt classified as probable defensive wounds.

“Death was a result of the blood loss caused by the multiple wounds,” Zumwalt wrote.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

See the case on CourtListener.com or read the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

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Zachariah Joe sentenced to 15 years for stabbing death of cousin, per binding plea

• The binding plea deal offered by prosecutor David Cowen mandated a sentence of 15 years
Zacharian Joe stabbed cousin Brett Micah Morgan to death as he begged him to stop

See the full case summary or past stories on the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal district court judge sentenced Zachariah Joe to 15 years in prison for fatally stabbing his cousin in Shiprock, after accepting a binding plea agreement.

District Judge James Browning sentenced Joe on Jan. 14, 2021, to 15 years followed by supervised release for three years, according to a sentencing minutes sheet filed eight days after the hearing.

The minutes do not state if anyone spoke at the hearing.

Joe admitted to stabbing his cousin, Brett Micah Morgan, 10 times, although court documents indicate he also kicked him after repeatedly stabbing him. Morgan begged him to stop as Joe stabbed him, according to court documents.

Joe owes $6,546 to his cousin’s family, according to the judgement filed in the case.

He pleaded guilty on Oct. 31, 2019, to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Brett Micah Morgan’s death, offered by federal prosecutor David Cowen. Joe admitted to stabbing Morgan 10 times in the chest and neck.

Multiple family members wrote letters to the judge encouraging him to accept the plea.

The stabbing

On Jan. 3, 2019, Joe showed up at a house where Morgan, 32, and another man, identified by the initials B.M., were hanging out. Joe had just been fired from Burger King in Shiprock, Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Lance Roundy wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint for the arrest of Joe.

Photo of Shiprock on a snowy day.
Shiprock in the snow. Photo by Larry Lamsa/Flickr. CC-BY

Joe hit Morgan in the face with the back of his hand, then tried to attack Morgan, on the ground, but B.M. wrestled him to the ground. Morgan and B.M. got out of the house and Joe could be heard searching through kitchen drawers and cabinets. B.M. ran to Joe’s house and broke a window. While he was gone, Joe had stabbed Morgan 10 times, Roundy wrote.

Joe admitted in the plea deal to stabbing Morgan as he begged him to stop.

Another witness, D.T., told Roundy that he saw Joe kicking an unresponsive Morgan, after he had been stabbed, Roundy wrote.

See the full case summary, as well as a more complete narrative of the killing. Read the affidavit for a criminal complaint written by FBI Agent Lance RoundySee all the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud view the case and documents on Court Listener.

Do you have information about this case? NM Homicide needs your assistance to tell the stories of homicide victims. Please fill out this form.

Continue reading “Zachariah Joe sentenced to 15 years for stabbing death of cousin, per binding plea”

Sentencing date set for Zachariah Joe in stabbing death a year after guilty plea

See the full case summary or past stories on the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Over a year after he pleaded guilty to stabbing his cousin 10 times, as he begged for him to stop, Zachariah Joe will be sentenced to 15 years in prison during a virtual hearing in January 2021.

Joe, 28, of Shiprock, is set be virtually sentenced at 3 p.m., Jan. 14, 2021 in the Vermejo courtroom in Albuquerque by District Judge James Browning.

He pleaded guilty on Oct. 31, 2019, to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Brett Micah Morgan’s death, offered by federal prosecutor David Cowen. Joe admitted to stabbing Morgan 10 times in the chest and neck. The plea deal mandates Morgan’s sentence will be 15 years, assuming Browning accepts the plea.

Browning’s only discretion will be in how long Morgan will be on supervised release after serving his prison sentence. Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa initially accepted the plea in October 2019.

Cowen and Joe’s attorney, Melissa Morris, both wrote sentencing memorandums although did not order a pre-sentence report be completed.

Joe will appear remotely for the hearing.

The stabbing

On Jan. 3, 2019, Joe showed up at a house where Morgan, 32, and another man, identified by the initials B.M., were hanging out. Joe had just been fired from Burger King in Shiprock, Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Lance Roundy wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint for the arrest of Joe.

Joe hit Morgan in the face with the back of his hand, then tried to attack Morgan, on the ground, but B.M. wrestled him to the ground. Morgan and B.M. got out of the house and Joe could be heard searching through kitchen drawers and cabinets. B.M. ran to Joe’s house and broke a window. While he was gone, Joe had stabbed Morgan 10 times, Roundy wrote.

Joe admitted in the plea deal to stabbing Morgan as he begged him to stop.

Another witness, D.T., told Roundy that he saw Joe kicking an unresponsive Morgan, after he had been stabbed, Roundy wrote.

Sentencing memorandums

Cowen and Morris both submitted sentencing memorandums imploring Browning to accept the binding plea deal, which mandates a sentence of 15 years for Joe.

Cowen wrote in his sentencing memorandum that Morgan was Joe’s close friend, and cousin, and that his death was “completely avoidable,” although he never specifies how it was avoidable. At the onset of the case, he worked with Morris to “investigate what took place with the goal of working towards a reasonable outcome.”

Cowen wrote that the sentencing guidelines for Joe put his sentence much higher, at just under 20 to to 24 years, but the decrease in sentence will avoid a trial. He wrote:

The proposed plea agreement avoids forcing the victim’s family, who is also Defendant’s extended family, to testify about the facts outlined above. One of the victim’s family members voiced an opinion that the family did not agree with the stipulated 15-year sentence, PSR ¶ 102, but in finalizing the plea agreement the government received support to resolve the case with this proposed 15-year sentence from the victim’s mother and stepfather. This support naturally came with emotion and a realization that no term of imprisonment would bring the victim back to the family.

The plea and 15-year sentence will allow the victim’s family “an opportunity to reconnect with the Defendant’s side of the family,” Cowen wrote.

Photo of Shiprock on a snowy day.
Shiprock in the snow. Photo by Larry Lamsa/Flickr. CC-BY

Joe’s familial history was a childhood of physical abuse perpetrated by his alcoholic father, he wrote.

“According to Defendant’s mother, he unfortunately inherited his father’s tendency to become angry when he drinks alcohol,” Cowen wrote.

Joe had a history of misdemeanor convictions from age 18 to 21, which appear to be two drunk driving arrests and a charge of assault on an officer. He was never convicted of a felony but the convictions gave him a criminal history category of IV, he wrote.

Morris wrote in her sentencing memorandum for Joe that he has been drinking since he was 13 and when he drinks, “his personality changes and he sometimes does things that he would not do otherwise.”

Although his family is “saddened and confused by his actions,” they are still supportive of him. Joe never intended to kill his cousin and does not know how the events leading up to his brutal stabbing resulted in it, she wrote.

“Mr. Joe respectfully submits that this offense, like every other criminal offense he committed in the past, is the product of the disease of alcoholism, which in turn may be the product of his traumatic childhood experiences and his family history of alcoholism,” Morris wrote.

Morris submitted a packet of seven letters on Joe’s behalf, dated around December 2019.

  • Joe’s maternal aunt, Fremina Funmaker, submitted a letter on behalf of Joe and asked that the judge make a decision that “will allow him to seek mental well-being and self-development through sentencing.”
  • Aunt Tiva Esplain wrote that Joe is not a violent person and he has made large and small mistakes in the past and that alcohol caused him to stab his cousin 10 times.
  • Cousin Jerilyn Frank wrote that Joe is one of the “funny guys” and has a contagious laugh.
  • Joe’s mother, Miranda Begay, wrote that Joe and Morgan were “two peas in a pod” and there was not a day that went by when they had not communicated with each other. Without access to alcohol, Morgan would have never died.

 

Do you have information about this case? NM Homicide needs your assistance to tell the stories of homicide victims. Please fill out this form.

See the full case summary, as well as a more complete narrative of the killing. Read the affidavit for a criminal complaint written by FBI Agent Lance Roundy. See all the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud view the case and documents on Court Listener.

Continue reading “Sentencing date set for Zachariah Joe in stabbing death a year after guilty plea”

Tavor Tom pleads to 2nd-degree murder for killing of aunt

Tavor Tom pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
• He faces a maximum sentence of life for killing his aunt
Federal sentencing guidelines put his sentence at 16 to 20 years

See the case write-up or read previous stories on the case

SHIPROCK, N.M. —  Tavor Tom could receive a sentence of up to life in a federal prison after he pleaded guilty, Nov. 24, 2020, to second-degree murder for stabbing his aunt to death in 2019.

Tom, 19, of Shiprock, pleaded guilty in front of federal Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa during a virtual hearing that lasted just over 30 minutes. Khalsa deferred final acceptance of the plea deal until sentencing by a district court judge, who has not been assigned yet.

Shiprock. Photo by Joseph Novak/Flickr

Tom will remain in jail pending his sentencing hearing.

A federal grand jury indicted him on July 9, 2019, on a charge of second-degree murder. He stabbed his aunt to death on July 1, 2019.

According to the plea deal proffered by federal prosecutor Joseph Spindle, there is no agreement as to the sentence.

Prosecutors will agree that Tom accepted responsibility for his conduct and grant that, under the sentencing guidelines, he is entitled to a reduction of two levels from the base offense. Spindle and Tom’s defense attorney, James Loonam, can argue whatever they want when it comes to the sentence.

In the plea agreement, Tom wrote that he stabbed his aunt repeatedly with a knife, “intentionally and without justification.”

When interrogated by FBI agents, he said he stabbed her repeatedly and slit her throat, according to court documents.

A records request for the autopsy report is pending with the Office of the Medical Investigator.

Sentencing guidelines

Second-degree murder carries a base offense level, per the federal sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder, is 38. The plea deal provides Tom with a two-level reduction for pleading guilty, putting the base level at 36.

According to the federal sentencing table, with little or no criminal history, that puts Tom’s proposed sentence, sans any increases or decreases, at 16 to 20 years. At a base offense level of 38, the level without the consideration of his guilty plea, the range increases to 20 to 24 years.

Based on a search of federal and state court records, Tom does not appear to have any prior state or federal arrests. His tribal criminal records are unknown.

His final sentence will be up to the sentencing judge. No sentencing date has been set.

Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.
Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.

The crime

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 the fence. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

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Plea set for Tavor Tom in aunt’s stabbing death in Shiprock

• 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

See the case write-up or read previous stories on the case

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.

Shiprock in the snow. Photo by Larry Lamsa/Flickr. CC-BY

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.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

Continue reading “Plea set for Tavor Tom in aunt’s stabbing death in Shiprock”

Supreme Court upholds Ameer Muhammad’s conviction for 2017 ABQ stabbing death

• The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld Ameer Muhammad‘s conviction on felony murder
• The justices rejected arguments that Muhammad’s mental illness prevented him from waiving his Miranda rights
• He received a mandatory life sentence, with parole after 30 years.

See the full case write-up or previous stories about this case

SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously upheld the felony murder conviction of Muhammad Ameer, 26, who stabbed Aaron Sieben to death in 2017.

The justices rejected his defense attorney’s arguments, that District Court Judge Jacqueline Flores refusal to suppress Muhammad’s statement to the police and not allowing a self-defense instruction made the case worthy of a new trial.

Ameer Muhammad

Defense attorney Steven Forsberg wrote in the appeal that the statement should have been suppressed because Muhammad was “in the grips of severe mental illness” when he made the waiver of his Miranda rights and gave a statement to detectives.

Justice Barbara Vigil wrote in the opinion for the court that Flores rejected the initial argument to suppress the statement, “stating that without more information about Defendant’s apparent delusions there was not enough to conclude that those delusions impacted Defendant’s ability to waive his rights.”

She did not, however, address if it was made “knowingly and intelligently.”

In challenging the unsuppressed statement, Forsberg wrote that the Flores used the wrong legal standard to determine if it needed to be suppressed.

Vigil wrote that the defense argued that Muhammad thought it was pointless to exercise his right not to speak to detectives because he had delusions that they would hear his thoughts and therefore they already knew everything. She wrote:

“The recording of the interview at the MDC demonstrates that Defendant’s mental illness did not affect his understanding of his rights but rather his motivation for not exercising those rights. No other evidence was presented concerning Defendant’s claimed diagnosis of schizophrenia or its effect on his ability to comprehend his rights. Because the record otherwise supports the district court’s findings that Defendant was cogent and could accurately articulate his rights and the consequences of abandoning them, the totality of the circumstances demonstrates that Defendant’s waiver was knowing and intelligent.”

As for the argument that a self-defense instruction should have been given, there was no evidence that the Sieben, 30, ever had a weapon, even if he struck first.

“We have held that evidence of a simple battery against a defendant is insufficient for a reasonable jury to find that the defendant acted reasonably by responding with deadly force,” Vigil wrote, before quoting State v. Lucero, a 2010 case, which in turn quotes a 1996 case, State v. Duarte.

There was not enough evidence to support a self defense claim, she wrote.

The case

On July 27, 2018, a jury found Ameer, 26, guilty of felony murder and armed robbery, although the latter charge was dropped as the predicate felony for felony murder. The jury acquitted him on a charge of tampering with evidence.

According to court documents, victim Aaron Sieben and Ameer allegedly got into some kind of argument while Sieben was in his truck on March 19, 2017, parked at a Circle K gas station in Albuquerque.

After Ameer allegedly fled from Sieben, Sieben pursued him, leading to a fist fight. As the fight progressed, Ameer allegedly produced a knife and stabbed Sieben two to three times. After stabbing Sieben, Ameer allegedly took his wallet. Sieben died at the scene and Ameer allegedly fled, only to be arrested shortly thereafter.

District Judge Jacqueline Flores sentenced Ameer to life in prison, which is a term of 30 years, on Sept. 25, 2018, according to court documents.

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UNSOLVED: James Naswood — 11-8-2019

Summary

On Nov. 8, 2019, James Naswood was found dead in the front passenger seat of a red Pontiac Grand Am on Highway 602, between mile markers 19 and 20 in Red Rock, on the Navajo Nation. He had last been seen alive the previous day.

He had 30 stab wounds and cuts on his neck and chest and his wounds were clustered on the right side of his neck and on the left side of his chest, according to an autopsy report.

In July 2020, FBI agents received a search warrant for the DNA of Moses C. Jack, 57, of Red Rock, after his DNA was initially found on a beer can in the car Naswood was discovered in. As of December 2020, the FBI was still seeking information on Naswood’s killing, and offering $5,000 for information.

Jack does not appear to have ever been charged in relation to the case.

The incident

Photo of James Naswood
James Naswood

James Naswood, 48, of Red Rock, went missing from his house sometime on Nov. 7, 2019. His mother came home at 2 p.m. that day and noticed Naswood was gone, as was his red Pontiac Grand Am, Office of the Medical Investigator Field Investigator Summer Baker wrote in a deputy field investigation attached to the autopsy report.

“The red car didn’t have a battery or fuel,” Baker wrote. “So they’re unsure where he got a battery and gas.”

His mother called his daughters the following morning when he didn’t come home. The daughters drove around town, trying to find him the following day. They prepared to drive to Arizona to see if he was at the house of one of his sons but instead drove south on Highway 602, where they spotted his car, Baker wrote.

Naswood was in the passenger seat. The front windshield was broken and there was no damage to the car. A screw driver was sitting in his lap. Naswood had a bloody nose but “it’s unclear if he hit his head into the windshield,” Baker wrote.

It is unclear if the vehicle had a battery or if there was fuel in the gas tank.

Search warrant

Navajo Nation police officers and FBI agents were called to the car. They found the keys were in the ignition and a search of the southbound and northbound lanes turned up nothing of evidentiary value, FBI Agent Agent Justin Tennyson wrote in a search warrant affidavit.

Inside the car, a beer can was seized and swabs were taken from the driver’s-side interior door handle and from the gear shift, Tennyson wrote.

In June 2020, a swab from the beer can listed a hit for a man named Moses Jack, 57, who lives in Red Rock, about five miles north of where Naswood was found, Tennyson wrote.

Tennyson wrote in the search warrant affidavit that he wanted a swab from Jack to get his DNA.

“Based on my training, experience, and the facts set forth in this affidavit, I believe there is probable cause that violations of United States Co.de Title 18 §1153 – Offenses committed within Indian country and 1111 – Murder were committed by JACK,” Tennyson wrote.

Tennyson wrote that Jack had a criminal history.

“A review of JACK’s criminal history reveals several law enforcement contacts and arrests,” Tennyson wrote. “JACK has been convicted of the felonies of Driving while Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor. In 1987, JACK was arrested and indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Albuquerque, New Mexico after he was alleged to have beaten a victim, B.S, year of birth 1937, with a steel pipe and hammer on the head. JACK was convicted of beating, striking, or wounding in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. l 13(d), a lesser included offense of the crime that was charged in the indictment, Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury.”

Online federal court records for New Mexico and Arizona show no entries for Jack, or for other permutations of his name. New Mexico state court records show he pleaded guilty in two separate cases to fourth-offense drunk driving in 2010. All state court records for criminal cases are for drunk driving. There are no arrest records for Jack in Arizona. As of December 2020, the FBI is still seeking and offering a reward for information on Naswood’s death.

Tennyson wrote that DNA evidence from Jack would “provide evidence that JACK did, within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation, commit crimes in violation of United States Code Title 18 §1153 -Offenses committed within Indian country and 1111 – Murder.”

Tennyson wrote that in 2017, a person with the initials M.J. said Jack had been waving a gun around and threatened to harm her, and also waved around a machete and said he was going to chop up her and her wife and a machete was seized at that 2017 scene. Although he was arrested on charges of threatening a family member and disorderly conduct, its unclear what court they were filed in.

“In 2018, Crownpoint, New Mexico police officers were advised of a stabbing that JACK was alleged to have committed,” Tennyson wrote. “The victim, E.J, year of birth 1963, stated that he was stabbed in the neck with a pocket knife by JACK after a fight broke out between them because JACK was always beating his daughter up, which was E.J.’ s girlfriend.”

Several other police reports detail JACK threatening to hurt and/or kill other family members and law enforcement officers. This has caused a few of JACK’s family members to obtain Orders of Protection against JACK, which are currently in effect”

Again, no court documents appear federally at all for Jack and all state criminal cases are for drunk driving.

The swab from Jack was taken at 12 p.m., Aug. 3, 2020. Court documents do not state if Jack was in custody when the swab was taken.

As of December 2020, the FBI was still seeking information on Naswood’s killing, and offering $5,000 for information.

Autopsy report

Pathologist Karen Cline-Parhamovich and Pathology Fellow Ben Murie wrote in the autopsy report that Naswood had “sharp force injuries” to his neck and chest.

They found a total of 30 stab wounds or cuts on his neck and chest, they wrote.

“The majority of injuries were clustered on the right side of the neck and incised major blood vessels of the neck and surrounding soft tissues,” they wrote. “The majority of the chest stab wounds were clustered on the left chest which penetrated the left lung without causing blood in the left chest cavity. There were no wounds of the hands, forearms, or arms.”

A toxicology report showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.25.

See the case documents on Document Cloud.

Tavor Tom: Roberta Clyde (aunt) — 7-1-2019

 

Summary

Tavor Tom, a member of the Navajo nation, allegedly went on July 1, 2019 to Roberta Clyde’s house (his maternal aunt) and stabbed her repeatedly, killing her, stole her car, then crashed it into a fence, according to his alleged confession.

He was allegedly trying to get to Farmington because he wanted to steal the over-the-counter drug Mucinex, generically known as guaifenesin.

A federal grand jury indicted him eight days later on July 9, 2019, on a charge of second-degree murder.

On Nov. 24, 2020, Tom pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and he is set to be sentenced at 11 a.m., March 12, 2021, during a virtual hearing.

The incident

Shiprock Pinnacle. Photo by DiAnn L’Roy/Flickr

At 10 a.m., July 2, 2019, the Roberta Clyde, 45, was found dead in her house by her father. Sometime during that same morning, Tavor Tom, of Shiprock, was found in the Clyde’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.

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 Clydewith a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle with the intention of going to her house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex, Cahoon wrote.

Tom allegedly said he went to the Clyde’s trailer, “slit her throat and then stabbed her seven (7) or (8) times with the knife he took from his father’s vehicle, and then stole her vehicle,” Cahoon wrote.

Tom allegedly said he drove to the Wal-Mart in Farmington, stole Mucinex from the store around 7 p.m. and drove on the back roads toward Shiprock, Cahoon wrote.

He then crashed the vehicle into a fence at a church in Nenahnezad, rendering the vehicle undriveable. He was found in the vehicle the next morning.

Crashed car

Navajo Nation firefighter Derrick Woody told Cahoon that he responded to Tom’s car crash and that Tom allegedly tried to overdose on Mucinex. The drug, as well as vomit, were found in the vehicle, Cahoon wrote.

Navajo Nation Sgt. Francis Yazzie told Cahoon that he also responded to the crash and he found a folding knife with blood on it on the passenger-side floorboard, Cahoon wrote.

Family interviews

Clyde’s father, only identified by the initials R. C., found his daughter, when he went to check on her at the behest of her adult children, who could not reach her on the phone, Cahoon wrote. Clyde is unnamed in federal court documents and referred to as “victim.”

“After R.C. discovered Victim and realized she was deceased, he called 911,” Cahoon wrote.

Cahoon was called by Navajo Nation detective Jerrick Curley that there had been a killing in Shiprock, in the exterior boundaries of the reservation, he wrote.

Curley told Cahoon that he found Clyde lying on her bedroom floor with multiple cuts and blood around her. He also told Cahoon that Clyde’s nephew, Tom, had been in a car crash near Nenahnezad. The car he crashed allegedly belonged to Clyde and inside the vehicle police found a knife with blood on it.

Clyde’s father, Tom’s grandfather, told Cahoon that Tom had come to his house, next door to the victim’s, at 6 p.m., July 1, 2019, to use his computer, and then left.

Tom’s mother, who was Clyde’s sister and is only identified by the initials “M.T.,” told Cahoon that Tom lived with her at her house in Shiprock, which was in “close proximity” to Clyde’s house, a single-wide trailer. Tom got around on a red ATV, parked next to R.C.’s house.

“M.T. received a text message from TOM the previous night (07/01/2019) and indicated he was with his friends,” Cahoon wrote. “M.T. went to visit Victim at her residence the previous evening (07/01/2019), at approximately 6:30 p.m., when M.T. arrived and saw that Victim’s vehicle was gone, she assumed Victim left in her vehicle to go somewhere.”

She said her son had been addicted to Mucinex for several years and uses it to get high.

“TOM also had been suicidal in the past and has become more violent recently,” he wrote.

M.T. alleged her son often takes her car without permission and drives it to stores where he can steal Mucinex. She also acknowledged that Tom was found in the Clyde’s vehicle, he wrote.

“M.T. believed TOM was the one who killed Victim,” Cahoon wrote. “R.C. and M.T. both advised that Tom often went by and visited Victim at her house and that they got along with one another.”

The crime scene

In the afternoon of July 2, 2019, officers searched the interior and exterior of Clyde’s trailer, although Cahoon did not write whom he obtained consent from, since Clyde was dead.

During the search, officers found the key to Tom’s red ATV on a couch in the living room. A cell phone was found on a different couch in the living room and there were drops of blood in the kitchen, laundry room and bedroom.

“Additionally, the medicine cabinet door was open in the kitchen and it appeared that someone had rummaged through the prescriptions and over-the-counter medications,” Cahoon wrote.

The field investigator with the Office of the Medical Investigator found Clyde had “trauma” and cuts to her neck, back and chest.

Autopsy report

Pathologist Ross Zumwalt wrote in the autopsy report that Clyde suffered a total of 75 separate “sharp force injuries,” meaning stab wounds and incised, or slashing, wounds.

“Two of the stab wounds of the back of the head penetrated the skull resulting in bleeding around the brain,” Zumwalt wrote.

Clyde also has four stab wounds in her chest and one in her abdomen, which penetrated her stomach. She also has cutting wounds on her hands, which Zumwalt classified as probable defensive wounds.

“Death was a result of the blood loss caused by the multiple wounds,” Zumwalt wrote.

According to the deputy field investigation conducted by Kayelynn Williams, Clyde got home after work at 5:15 p.m. and went next door to check on her parents at 6 p.m.

Roberta Clyde

According to her obituary, Clyde had three children, Erik, Alyssa and Ryland Benally, all of Shiprock, as well as three sisters and two brothers.

She was a piano player for the Ojo Amarillo Baptist Church.

According to her autopsy report, she worked at the Northern Navajo Medical Center.

Held without bail

According to the court docket, Tom initially appeared July 3, 2019 and on July 10 in Albuquerque federal court, and he was ordered held indefinitely after his attorney waived a detention hearing.

On July 10, his attorney filed a waiver of a preliminary hearing. However, a federal grand jury had already indicted him on July 9, 2019, on a charge of second-degree murder.

Plea to second-degree murder

Tom pleaded guilty, Nov. 24, 2020, to second-degree murder in front of federal Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa during a virtual hearing that lasted just over 30 minutes. Khalsa deferred final acceptance of the plea deal until sentencing by a district court judge.

According to the plea deal proffered by federal prosecutor Joseph Spindle, there is no agreement as to the sentence.

Prosecutors will agree that Tom accepted responsibility for his conduct and grant that, under the sentencing guidelines, he is entitled to a reduction of two levels from the base offense. Spindle and Tom’s defense attorney, James Loonam, can argue whatever they want when it comes to the sentence.

In the plea agreement, Tom wrote that he stabbed his aunt repeatedly with a knife, “intentionally and without justification.”

When interrogated by FBI agents, he said he stabbed her repeatedly and slit her throat, according to court documents.

According to the autopsy report, she had 75 separate stab and incised wounds on her face, scalp, neck, chest, abdomen, back, arms and hands.

Zumwalt did not write in the autopsy report her throat was slit but did note many wounds to the back of her neck, some of which went from the back to the front of her neck.

Sentencing guidelines

Second-degree murder carries a base offense level, per the federal sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder, is 38. The plea deal provides Tom with a two-level reduction for pleading guilty, putting the base level at 36.

According to the federal sentencing table, with little or no criminal history, that puts Tom’s proposed sentence, sans any increases or decreases, at 16 to 20 years. At a base offense level of 38, the level without the consideration of his guilty plea, the range increases to 20 to 24 years.

Based on a search of federal and state court records, Tom does not appear to have any prior state or federal arrests. His tribal criminal records are unknown.

His final sentence will be up to the sentencing judge.

A sentencing hearing is set virtually for 11 a.m., March 12, 2021, in front of District Judge William Johnson.

See the case on CourtListener.com, read the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud or read past stories on the case.

 

Past stories

Tavor Tom pleads to 2nd-degree murder for killing of aunt

Plea set for Tavor Tom in aunt’s stabbing death in Shiprock

Navajo Nation man, 19, arrested for allegedly stabbing his aunt to death in Shiprock

 

UNSOLVED: Tyrone Tallman — 7-17-2018

Summary

Tyrone Tytis Tallman
Tyrone Tallman

Tyrone Tallman’s body was found in a canal in Nenahnezad on July 17, 2018. A preliminary autopsy report showed he suffered stab wounds, broken bones and “trauma” to his skull, according to a website post by the FBI.

Tallman was wearing pants, socks with “Girls Rule” embroidered on them and shoes.

It is “believed” he was last seen alive on July 9, 2018, also where is not listed.

There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his killer.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI at (505) 889-1300.

Did you know Tyrone Tytis Tallman? NM Homicide needs your assistance to tell the stories of homicide victims. We want to know who he was, besides the victim of an unsolved homicide. Please fill out this form or contact us.

 

Taylor James Enriquez receives 19 1/2 years for killing Alberto Nunez after guilty plea

See the full case here

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — District Court Judge Douglas Driggers sentenced Taylor James Enriquez to 19 1/2 years, July 6, 2018, the maximum sentence after he pleaded guilty, April 10, 2018, to charges of second-degree murder, false imprisonment and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm. Driggers’ sentence was the maximum under the plea deal.

Enriquez stabbed Alberto Nunez in the neck with a broken bottle, killing him, on Feb. 26, 2017, according to court documents.

Taylor Enriquez

He also attacked Manuel Lopez Polanco, who had injuries to his face. The attack on Lopez Polanco was the basis of the aggravated battery charge.

According to the plea agreement, signed by prosecutor Rebecca Duffin, Enriquez was going to face a maximum sentence of 19 1/2 years in prison and that the sentences for each crime would run consecutively, or one after another. His defense attorney, James Baiamonte, agreed that he would argue for a minimum sentence of 15 years followed by five years of supervised probation while prosecutors would argue for 19 1/2 years.

On July 9, 2018, Driggers sentenced Enriquez to the maximum allowed, 19 1/2 years. Although second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, Enriquez was also sentenced to the maximum sentences on the charges of false imprisonment and aggravated battery.

Continue reading “Taylor James Enriquez receives 19 1/2 years for killing Alberto Nunez after guilty plea”

UNSOLVED: Donnie Barney — 8-19-2017

  • Suspect: UNKNOWN/UNSOLVED
  • Victim: Donnie Wade Barney, 32
  • Date of birth: Oct. 25, 1984
  • Status: UNSOLVED
  • Date found: Aug. 19, 2017
  • Last seen alive: Unlisted
  • Type of incident: Stabbing
  • Victim race: Native American
  • Investigating agency: FBI
  • Investigator: Unknown
  • Location: Inside a hogan on Shadow Farm Road in Rehoboth (east of Gallup), New Mexico
  • County: McKinley
  • Tribal entity: Navajo Nation

Summary

Donnie Barney

On Aug. 19, 2017, the body of Donnie Barney was found inside a hogan on Shadow Farm Road in Rehoboth, according to a post on the FBI’s website.

“An autopsy indicated Barney died from stab wounds to his torso,” according to the post.

A hogan is a traditional Navajo dwelling built of “logs and earth,” according to the post.

Neither the post, nor a poster produced by the FBI, indicate when Barney was last seen alive.

The FBI is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identification of his killer.

Anyone with information on his death can contact the FBI at (505) 889-1300.

Did you know Donnie Wade Barney? NM Homicide needs your assistance to tell the stories of homicide victims. We want to know who he was, besides the victim of an unsolved homicide.

Please fill out this form or contact us.