Judge rejects plea over brutal murder of Yavapai Apache man

Dwayne Beauty, left, and Mario Chagolla

A federal judge rejected a plea agreement in connection with the brutal murder of a member of the Yavapai-Apache Nation of Arizona.

Dwayne Beauty was 40 years old when he was killed on the reservation in June 2013. He had been stabbed to death and his body was dismembered and burned. His torso was never recovered.

Mario Chagolla Jr., who is non-Indian, was charged with first-degree murder after evidence connected him to the crime. But as part of a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office, he only admitted to voluntary manslaughter.

Federal prosecutors recommended a 10-year sentence for Chagolla. In a memorandum, they argued that pursuing the murder case was "problematic" due to conflicting information about the incident and the roles of other people who were at the scene of the crime back in 2013. At least two others admitted some involvement but they have not been charged.

"As noted above, the government’s case against Mr. Chagolla was based on the inconsistent, conflicting, and often nonsensical statements of two witnesses," the memo stated. "Both of the witnesses were extremely intoxicated at the time, both had reasons for wanting Beauty dead, and both admitted involvement in Beauty’s death and the aftermath. There was a substantial and legitimate question about whether the government could prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Chagolla’s plea and acceptance of responsibility allowed this case to resolve, at least as to him."

Judge Diane Humetewa, however, refused to accept the plea agreement at a hearing on September 17. Although a written account of her decision does not appear in federal court records, an attorney for Chagolla said she believed the 10-year sentence was too lenient, the Associated Press reported.

A trial is now scheduled for November 10 but a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office told the AP that it's possible that another deal could be reached. Voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Humetewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, is the first Native American woman on the federal bench.

Get the Story:
Judge rejects plea in homicide, saying sentence too lenient (AP 9/21)
Chagolla plea deal throw out; jury trial set (The Verde Independent 9/19)

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