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.

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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”

Sentencing set for Breadsprings man who beat girlfriend to death

Troy Livingston pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder
• He beat to death Tyler Lamebear, his girlfriend

Update: Sentencing has been continued to May 17, 2021.

See the case write-up or more stories about the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Troy Livingston is set to be sentenced on Nov. 12, 2020, after he pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder for beating his 19-year-old girlfriend to death.

A notice on the docket states the sentencing will be at 9:30 a.m. in the Cimarron courtroom in front of District Judge William Johnson.

The docket and notice do not state if the hearing will be in person, virtual, a combination of the two or if that has not been decided yet.

Livingston, 20, pleaded guilty on Aug. 4, 2020, to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Tyler Lamebear’s beating death on April 6, 2019. Livingston is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life.

According to the plea deal signed by prosecutor David Cowen, Livingston will be entitled to a two-level reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines, although where that puts his sentence is unknown pending the outcome of a pre-sentence report.

According to the plea, Livingston admitted to beating Lamebear with his hands, feet and a metal flashlight causing severe head, face and body injuries.

Although Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing took the plea, she deferred final acceptance until the sentencing hearing in front of Johnson.

It appears from the docket that the pre-sentence report may have been filed because entry 50 from the docket is missing, pre-sentence reports are not public and a sentencing date has been set.

What federal probation officers think his sentencing range should be has not been entered into the court docket yet. It is usually revealed either through a prosecution or defense sentencing memorandum.

A federal grand jury previously indicted Livingston on a charge of first-degree murder on Jan. 29, 2020.

Sentencing guidelines

The base offense level, per the sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder, is 38. The plea deal provides Livingston 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 Livingston’s proposed sentence, sans any increases or decreases, at 16 to 20 years. At a base offense level of 38, the range increases to 20 to 24 years.

According to New Mexico and federal court records, Livingston has one past criminal case, for intoxicated driving and child endangerment from March 2019. Prosecutors dismissed that the case at the magistrate level, without prejudice, on May 8, 2019 in a form dismissal and wrote that Livingston was in federal custody for “an alleged capital offense.” Past arrests or convictions in tribal court are unknown. His addresses are listed as Church Rock and Vanderwagen in state court documents.

Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.
Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43. Sentence ranges are in months. Second-degree murder has a base level of 38 (sentence range of 20 to 24 years) and the plea deal means a two-level reduction, to 36, creating a sentence range of 16 to 20 years.

 

The killing

On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston’s mother, Gertrude Livingston, identified in charging documents as G.L., was at home when her son and his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, came home to her Rodeo Road home in Breadsprings, FBI Agent Monty Waldron wrote in a statement of probable cause for Livingston’s arrest.

At 3 a.m., Livingston and Lamebear were arguing and Gertrude Livingston could “sense tension” between them. She then heard crying, which she believed was from her son hitting Lamebear. He ordered his mother out of the bedroom and she complied, Waldron wrote.

When she heard more crying, she went into the bedroom and saw her son allegedly stomping his girlfriend with his foot and described the girlfriend as being in a ball, her arms and hands around her head, he wrote.

“Again LIVINGSTON told G.L. to get out, so G.L. left the house,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON locked the door behind G.L. From outside, G.L. could hear screaming, thumping and banging.”

When it was quiet, the mother went back into the house and heard wheezing from inside the bedroom door. At some point, she called the Navajo Police Department to report a violent “dispute,”  Waldron wrote.

Officers found Lamebear lying on the floor, covered in blood, badly beaten. They asked her who beat her and she responded, “Troy did this to me.” Livingston was lying on the bed next to his 2-1/2-year-old toddler, who was not harmed, he wrote.

Medics transported Lamebear to the Gallup Indian Medical Center. She either died at the hospital or before she arrived, he wrote.

Livingston told FBI Agent David Loos and Navajo Criminal Investigator Ben Yazzie, during an interrogation, that he “took it too far, way too far.” He was angry Lamebear admitted to having sex with his friend. He also admitted to using a flashlight to beat her, Waldron wrote.

According to the autopsy report by Lori Proe, Lamebear had multiple “bruises, scrapes and skin tears of the face and scalp” and many of them had a distinctive shape, like that of a flashlight. Her nose was broken and there was bleeding in the deep tissues of her scalp and bleeding over the surface of her brain, which was swollen, “a change that can occur when the organ is damaged and/or deprived of oxygen.”

Multiple ribs were broken and she was bleeding in her chest and what would be a bite mark on her left shoulder, Proe wrote.

According to a deputy field investigation by Harolynn Yazzie, she was covered in dried blood and her clothing was soaked in blood.

For more details on the incident, see the case write-up

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Breadsprings man pleads to second-degree murder for beating death of girlfriend

Troy Livingston pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the beating death of 19-year-old Tyler Lamebear
• Livingston’s 2 1/2 year old child was in the house while he beat Lamebear to death
• He faces up to life in prison

See the case write-up or more stories about the case

ALBUQUERQUE,  N.M. — During a virtual 30-minute hearing Aug. 4, 2020, Troy Livingston, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the beating death of his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, 19.

Troy Livingston

Livingston pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Lamebear’s death on April 6, 2019.

According to the plea deal signed by prosecutor David Cowen, Livingston will be entitled to a two-level reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines, although where that puts his sentence is unknown pending the outcome of a pre-sentence report.

According to the minutes, Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing asked why the plea needed to be held so soon, and made findings as to why the plea hearing was held, but not what those findings were. The final acceptance of the plea was deferred until the sentencing hearing in front of a district court judge.

According to the plea, Livingston admitted to beating Lamebear with his hands, feet and a metal flashlight causing severe head, face and body injuries.

No sentencing hearing has been set.

Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life.

A federal grand jury previously indicted Livingston on a charge of first-degree murder on Jan. 29, 2020.

According to the autopsy report by Lori Proe, Lamebear had multiple “bruises, scrapes and skin tears of the face and scalp” and many of them had a distinctive shape, like that of a flashlight. Her nose was broken and there was bleeding in the deep tissues of her scalp and bleeding over the surface of her brain, which was swollen, “a change that can occur when the organ is damaged and/or deprived of oxygen.”

Multiple ribs were broken and she was bleeding in her chest and what would be a bite mark on her left shoulder, Proe wrote.

According to a deputy field investigation by Harolynn Yazzie, she was covered in dried blood and her clothing was soaked in blood.

The incident

On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston’s mother, Gertrude Livingston, identified in charging documents as G.L., was at home when her son and his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, came home to her Rodeo Road home in Breadsprings, FBI Agent Monty Waldron wrote in a statement of probable cause for Livingston’s arrest.

At 3 a.m., Livingston and Lamebear were arguing and Gertrude Livingston could “sense tension” between them. She then heard crying, which she believed was from her son hitting Lamebear. He ordered his mother out of the bedroom and she complied, Waldron wrote.

When she heard more crying, she went into the bedroom and saw her son allegedly stomping his girlfriend with his foot and described the girlfriend as being in a ball, her arms and hands around her head, he wrote.

“Again LIVINGSTON told G.L. to get out, so G.L. left the house,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON locked the door behind G.L. From outside, G.L. could hear screaming, thumping and banging.”

When it was quiet, the mother went back into the house and heard wheezing from inside the bedroom door. At some point, she called the Navajo Police Department to report a violent “dispute,”  Waldron wrote.

Officers found Lamebear lying on the floor, covered in blood, badly beaten. They asked her who beat her and she responded, “Troy did this to me.” Livingston was lying on the bed next to his 2-1/2-year-old toddler, who was not harmed, he wrote.

Medics transported the girlfriend to the Gallup Indian Medical Center. She either died at the hospital or before she arrived, he wrote.

Livingston told FBI Agent David Loos and Navajo Criminal Investigator Ben Yazzie, during an interrogation, that he “took it too far, way too far.” He was angry Lamebear admitted to having sex with his friend, Waldron wrote.

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Gallup man indicted 16 months after allegedly killing child in DWI crash in July 2018

  • Harrison Davis allegedly crashed a vehicle while drunk on July 1, 2018, which led to the death of a child
  • A federal judge released Davis to the custody of his wife

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A year after an alleged drunk driving crash that resulted in the death of a child, a federal grand jury indicted a Gallup man on a charge of child endangerment resulting in death.

Gallup. Photo by Wolfgang Staudt/Flickr

The grand jury indicted Harrison Davis on the single count on Nov. 25, 2019, although the case was not entered into the federal court system until Dec. 3, 2019. He was arrested a week later, on Dec. 11, 2019, by Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Brad Simons, according to an arrest warrant.

Details of the case are extremely scarce and, according to the indictment, Davis is a Native American who was allegedly driving while intoxicated with a boy, age unlisted, and that driving while drunk caused the boy’s death.

It is not clear from court documents if the boy died immediately following the crash, on July 1, 2018, or later on.

According to a motion to continue filed on Jan. 6, 2020, by public defender Sylvia Baiz, the crash happened “in a remote area near Gallup.”

Davis was initially ordered detained on Dec. 12, 2019, in federal court in Albuquerque following a request by prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall, according to a minute sheet.

Davis was arraigned a day later on Dec. 13, 2019, pleaded not guilty to the charge. A different federal prosecutor, David Cowen, did not object to the recommendations of the pretrial services officer and the judge adopted them, according to court minutes.

The minutes sheet does not list what the conditions are. The order releasing him states he can only travel in New Mexico, he can talk to his family but not about the case, he may not use alcohol and he must participate in any outpatient programs ordered by pretrial services. Federal District Court Judge Karen Molzen ordered him released to the custody of his wife, Juanita Davis, and allowed to live in their home near Gallup, according to a minute sheet.

According to the court docket, the case was continued twice, once in January and once in March, and is now set for a tentative trial of June 8, 2020, on the trailing docket.

Davis is being federally charged with a state crime, which is a first-degree felony in New Mexico law.

According to the federal statute, if found guilty, Davis would face the same penalties as he would in New Mexico.

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Breadsprings man indicted for first-degree murder in beating death of girlfriend

  • A federal grand jury indicted Troy Livingston on a single charge of first-degree murder on Jan. 29, 2020
  • Investigators allege Livingston confessed to beating her to death
  • Livingston’s child, 2 1/2, was found in the room with the beaten woman and Livingston

See the case write-up here.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal grand jury indicted a Breadsprings man, Jan. 29, 2020, for the beating death of 19-year-old Tyler Lamebear, his girlfriend, on April 6, 2019.

Troy Livingston, a member of the Navajo Nation, was originally charged on April 6, 2019, for his Tyler Lamebear’s death. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing as well as a grand jury indictment within 30 days before he was indicted on Jan. 29. He waived the indictment in hopes of securing a more lucrative plea deal, according to a motion for a continuance.

No trial date has been set.

The incident

FBI Agent Monty Waldron wrote in a statement of probable cause for his arrest that his mother made the call to 911 that eventually sent police, and then medics, to help the woman, who identified Livingston as her assailant.

His mother, Gertrude Livingston, identified in charging documents as G.L., was at home when her son and Lamebear, identified in court documents as T.L. or “Jane Doe,” came home to her Rodeo Road home in Breadsprings, Waldron wrote.

Continue reading “Breadsprings man indicted for first-degree murder in beating death of girlfriend”

Shiprock man pleads guilty to second-degree murder for killing fellow Navajo Nation man

  • Prosecutor David Cowen’s binding plea deal mandates a 15-year sentence for Zachariah Joe
  • The magistrate judge deferred acceptance of the plea until the “final disposition hearing”
  • No sentencing hearing has been set

See the full case summary

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 28-year-old Shiprock man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, Oct. 31, 2019, for the stabbing death of a 32-year-old Navajo Nation tribal member at the beginning of the year.

Shiprock Pinnacle. Photo by DiAnn L’Roy/Flickr

Zachariah Joe pleaded guilty in federal Magistrate Court in Albuquerque to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder, according to court documents.

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.

According to the minutes from the plea hearing, Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa accepted the plea but deferred final acceptance to the “final disposition hearing” in front of a district court judge.

Continue reading “Shiprock man pleads guilty to second-degree murder for killing fellow Navajo Nation man”

Felix Curtis: Unnamed man — 9-14-2019

Summary

Prosecutors allege that Felix Curtis, age unlisted, killed an unnamed man while driving drunk on Sept. 14, 2019, in San Juan County.

On Aug. 11, 2020, 11 months after the man’s death, a federal grand jury indicted Curtis on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter. He was not previously charged in magistrate court with the death, making the charge a direct indictment.

Court documents list no other details of the case and, if a search warrant in the case was sought, it appears to still be sealed, based on a review of federal search warrants in the weeks following the incident.

Federal Magistrate Judge Gregory Fouratt ordered Curtis released to the La Pasada Halfway House in Albuquerque during his arraignment on Sept. 23, 2020, according to court minutes, and ordered an unsecured $10,000 bond. The docket does not indicate when Curtis was arrested, although the case was not unsealed, and an initial appearance set, until Sept. 17, 2020. No warrants appear in the docket.

The minutes do not state if prosecutors opposed his release or not.

The case is currently set for the March 15, 2021 trial docket.

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View the case documents on Google DriveDocument Cloud or Court Listener.

Contents

Troy Livingston: Tyler Lamebear — 4-6-2019

 

Summary

On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston, 18, beat his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, to death with his fists, feet and a flashlight after she said she had slept with one of his friends, according to court documents.

On Jan. 29, 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Livingston on a charge of first-degree murder for Lamebear’s death.

On Aug. 4, 2020, he pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder. A virtual sentencing hearing is set for 9:30 a.m., May 17.

The incident

On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston’s mother, Gertrude Livingston, identified in charging documents as G.L., was at home when her son and his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, came home to her Rodeo Road home in Breadsprings, FBI Agent Monty Waldron wrote in a statement of probable cause for Livingston’s arrest.

At 3 a.m., Livingston and his girlfriend, Lamebear, were arguing and Gertrude Livingston could “sense tension” between them, he wrote.

Lamebear is identified as T.L. or “Jane Doe” in charging documents.

Troy Livingston

“G.L. heard crying from the bedroom and went in to see LIVINGSTON on top of Jane Doe with his fist raised,” Waldron wrote. “G.L. believes Jane Doe had already been hit because she was crying. Livingston told G.L. to get out of the bedroom which she did.”

When she heard more crying, she went into the bedroom and saw her son allegedly stomping his girlfriend with his foot and described the girlfriend as being in a ball, her arms and hands around her head, he wrote.

“Again LIVINGSTON told G.L. to get out, so G.L. left the house,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON locked the door behind G.L. From outside, G.L. could hear screaming, thumping and banging.”

When it was quiet, the mother went back into the house. She heard wheezing from inside the bedroom door, but did not know who was wheezing, he wrote.

At some point, she called the Navajo Police Department to report a violent “dispute” between Lamebear and her son, he wrote.

About 30 minutes after she went back into the house, Navajo police officers arrived and knocked on the door. When no one answered, they looked through the windows and saw blood on the floor. The mother then opened the door. Officers could see “lots of blood on the floor between the bedroom and the bathroom,” Waldron wrote.

Officers found the girlfriend laying on the floor, covered in blood, badly beaten. They asked her who beat her and she responded, “Troy did this to me.” Livingston was lying on the bed next to this 2-1/2-year-old toddler, who was not harmed, he wrote.

Medics transported the girlfriend to the Gallup Indian Medical Center. She either died at the hospital or before she arrived, he wrote.

FBI Agent David Loos and Navajo Criminal Investigator Ben Yazzie interrogated Livingston.

“I just got mad and took it too far, way too far,” Livingston said, according to Waldron’s statement of probable cause.

Livingston also allegedly said “I still can’t believe it, I killed her,” he wrote.

“LIVINGSTON stated that he was mad at her for sleeping with his friend as Jane Doe had finally admitted to doing,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON stated he ‘just started hitting her’ and took it too far. Livingston stated he hit Jane Doe with a flashlight and also used his foot.”

Livingston allegedly said he beat her in the bedroom and bathroom, he wrote.

FBI agents searched the house and found a flashlight with blood on it and photographs of Lamebear showed circular wounds that appeared to be consistent with the end of a flashlight, he wrote.

Autopsy report

According to the autopsy report by Lori Proe, Lamebear had multiple “bruises, scrapes and skin tears of the face and scalp” and many of them had a distinctive shape, like that of a flashlight. Her nose was broken and there was bleeding in the deep tissues of her scalp and bleeding over the surface of her brain, which was swollen, “a change that can occur when the organ is damaged and/or deprived of oxygen.”

Multiple ribs were broken and she was bleeding in her chest and what would be a bite mark on her left shoulder, Proe wrote.

According to a deputy field investigation by Harolynn Yazzie, she was covered in dried blood and her clothing was soaked in blood.

The indictment and plea

After waiving his right to a grand jury indictment, as well as a preliminary hearing, a federal grand jury indicted him on a charge of first-degree murder on Jan. 29, 2020.

On Aug. 4, 2020, Livingston pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for beating Lamebear to death.

According to the plea deal signed by prosecutor David Cowen, Livingston will be entitled to a two-level reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines, although where that puts his sentence is unknown pending the outcome of a pre-sentence report.

According to the minutes, Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing asked why the plea needed to be held so soon, and made findings as to why the plea hearing was held, but not what those findings were. The final acceptance of the plea was deferred until the sentencing hearing in front of a district court judge.

A sentencing hearing is set for Nov. 12, 2020.

Sentencing guidelines

The base offense level, per the sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder, is 38. The plea deal provides Livingston 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 Livingston’s proposed sentence, sans any increases or decreases, at 16 to 20 years. At a base offense level of 38, the range increases to 20 to 24 years.

According to New Mexico and federal court records, Livingston has one past criminal case, for intoxicated driving and child endangerment from March 2019. Prosecutors dismissed that the case at the magistrate level, without prejudice, on May 8, 2019 in a form dismissal and wrote that Livingston was in federal custody for “an alleged capital offense.” His past arrests or convictions in tribal court is unknown.

Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.
Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43. Sentence ranges are in months. Second-degree murder has a base level of 38 (sentence range of 20 to 24 years) and the plea deal means a two-level reduction, to 36, creating a sentence range of 16 to 20 years.

See the documents on Google Drive or on Document Cloud

Past stories

Sentencing set for Breadsprings man who beat girlfriend to death

Breadsprings man pleads to second-degree murder for beating death of girlfriend

Breadsprings man indicted for first-degree murder in beating death of girlfriend

 

Zachariah Stanley Joe: Brett Micah Morgan — 1-3-2019

 

Summary

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.

No more hearings have been set in the case.

The incident

Shiprock. Photo by Bowie Snodgrass/Flickr

On Jan. 3, 2019, Zachariah Stanley Joe, 28, showed up at a house where Brett Micah 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.

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.

Although Roundy only identified Morgan as “B.M.M.” in court documents, he was identified in his obituary in the Farmington Daily Times. In additional to the correct initials, his obituary states he was born in 1986 and he died on Jan. 3, 2019, all details that match with Roundy’s affidavit. The obituary has been archived here via the Internet Archive and here as a PDF.

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 Farmington Daily Times first broke the story on January 14, 2019. Joe was charged on Jan. 4.

Below is the affidavit for a criminal complaint filed by Roundy.

Autopsy report

According to the autopsy report by pathologist Matthew Cain, Morgan has 10 “sharp force injuries” to the head and torso.

“Several stab wounds to the torso injured ribs, lungs, liver, and heart – lethal injuries,” Cain wrote. “A stab wound of the neck injured soft tissue and neck muscle but the spinal cord was uninvolved.”

Two of the stab wounds “injured” the small bowel and Morgan also suffered from blunt trauma, including abrasions, skin tears and bruises in the face, torso and his arms and legs. He died from his stab wounds.

Plea and possible sentence

On Oct. 31, 2019, Joe pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, before he was indicted by a grand jury. He previously waived his right to a preliminary hearing, on Jan. 9.

Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa deferred acceptance of the plea agreement, according to the plea hearing minutes for the Oct. 31 hearing

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.”

Sentencing date set

Over a year after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, Joe will be sentenced to 15 years in prison during a virtual hearing at 3 p.m., Jan. 14, 2021 in the Vermejo courtroom in Albuquerque by District Judge James Browning.

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.

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.

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.

Sentenced

On Jan. 14, 2021, Browning sentenced Joe to 15 years, per the plea agreement, followed by three years supervised release. He also ordered Joe pay Morgan’s family $6,546 in restitution.

See all the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud view the case and documents on Court Listener.

Past stories

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

Shiprock man pleads guilty to second-degree murder for killing fellow Navajo Nation man

Harrison Davis: Unidentified child — 7-1-2018

 

Summary

On July 1, 2018, Harrison Davis allegedly drunkenly crashed his car, which lead to the death of a child, although when the child died is not clear. On Nov. 25, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted him on a charge of child endangerment resulting in death, according to court records. His case is pending.

Incident

Gallup. Photo by Wolfgang Staudt/Flickr

According to the indictment, Davis is a Native American who was allegedly driving while intoxicated with a boy, age unlisted, and that driving while drunk caused the boy’s death. The crash happened on July 1, 2018.

It is not clear from court documents if the boy died immediately following the crash or later on.

According to a motion to continue filed on Jan. 6, 2020, by public defender Sylvia Baiz, the crash happened “in a remote area near Gallup.”

Case is pending

The grand jury indicted Harrison Davis on the single count on Nov. 25, 2019, although the case was not entered into the federal court system until Dec. 3, 2019. He was arrested a week later, on Dec. 11, 2019, by Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Brad Simons, according to an arrest warrant.

Davis was initially ordered detained on Dec. 12, 2019, in federal court in Albuquerque following a request by prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall, according to a minute sheet.

Davis was arraigned a day later on Dec. 13, 2019, pleaded not guilty to the charge. A different federal prosecutor, David Cowen, did not object to the recommendations of the pretrial services officer and the judge adopted them, according to court minutes.

The minutes sheet does not list what those conditions are. The order releasing him states he can only travel in New Mexico, he can talk to his family but not about the case, he may not use alcohol and he must participate in any outpatient programs ordered by pretrial services. Federal District Court Judge Karen Molzen ordered him released to the custody of his wife, Juanita Davis, and allowed to live in their home near Gallup, according to a minute sheet.

According to the court docket, the case was continued twice, once in January and once in March, and is now set for a tentative trial of June 8, 2020, on the trailing docket.

Davis is being federally charged with a state crime, which is a first-degree felony in New Mexico law.

According to the federal statute, if found guilty, Davis would face the same penalties as he would in New Mexico.

See the case documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud.