Suspect: John Lodgepole
Victim: M.W., female, YOB 1975, Navajo Nation tribal member
Charges: Voluntary manslaughter
Date of incident: Aug. 1, 2019
Type of incident: Beating
Investigating Agency: FBI
Location: Nenahnezad, San Juan county, Navajo Nation, NM
Federal district case number: 19-cr-03599
Federal magistrate case number: 19-mj-02388
Prosecutor: Raquel Ruiz-Velez
On Aug. 1, 2019, John Lodgepole allegedly went to the house of a woman he knew in Nenahnezad, near Fruitland, and became verbally abusive toward her and another woman. Later that night he allegedly came back, threw the victim, M.W. (YOB: 1975) to the ground and kicked her in the head multiple times. Investigators found a bloody bat near the scene, according to an affidavit for a criminal complaint.
San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies found Lodgepole in the parking lot of a chapter house across the street from the house, covered in blood. He was initially charged with murder, according to the complaint. The case was sealed, despite Lodgepole’s arrest, according to the court docket.
The case was continued three times — on Oct. 30, 2019; Jan. 13, 2020 and March 10, 2020. It is still pending, according to the docket.
San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies responded on Aug. 1, 2019, to a house south of the Chapter House in Nenahnezad, after the owner called 911, Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Jordan Spaeth wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint.
The homeowner, identified by her initials of E.L., told deputies she was drinking with the victim, identified in court documents as M.W. (YOB: 1975) or Jane Doe, when John Lodgepole threw M.W. to the ground and started kicking her in the head, he wrote.
“Lodgepole then fled the residence and E.L. contacted 911,” Spaeth wrote. “Deputies were notified a short time after arrival that Jane Doe was pronounced dead at the scene by Emergency Medical Personnel.”
Deputies found Lodgepole in the parking lot of the chapter house. He was covered in blood, he wrote.
Deputies detained him and Navajo Police officers arrested him when they arrived on scene, he wrote.
When investigators spoke to E.L., she said Lodgepole arrived at the house earlier that night and was verbally abusive toward her and M.W. As the night went on, he threw M.W. to the ground and kicked her in the head.
Outside the house, investigators found a bloody metal baseball bat and shoe prints near where M.W.’s body was found and resembled the soles of Lodgepole’s shoes.
The field investigator with the Office of the Medical Investigator found three wounds to M.W.’s head, including one that likely fractured her skull.
Spaeth charged Lodgepole with murder.
The complaint for his arrest, and the entire case, appears to have been sealed until Oct. 24, 2019, the day before he was arraigned on the indicted charge of voluntary manslaughter, a downgrade from murder.
On Oct. 25, 2019, in Albuquerque, federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones ordered Lodgepole held without bail and on Oct. 28, Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa arraigned him. Lodgepole pleaded not guilty and his lawyer, Melissa Morris, waived a detention hearing.
Nothing in the court record indicates why Lodgepole would have been arrested, and held without bail, without being arraigned or assigned an attorney, or why the case would have been sealed, even though he was arrested.
Since the arraignment, Lodgepole’s case has been continued three times. Once on Oct. 30, 2019, once on Jan. 13, 2020 and once on March 10, 2020.
According to Morris’ third motion for a continuance, filed March 6, plea negotiations have not begun in the case. It is still pending.
According to the docket, a call of the calendar is set for May 21, 2020.
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