Shiprock on the New Mexico portion of the Navajo Nation. Photo: Anita Ritenour
Law | National

Navajo Nation citizen sentenced to life in prison for murdering 11-year-old girl

A citizen of the Navajo Nation was sentenced to life in federal prison after pleading guilty for the murder of an 11-year-old girl.

Tom Begaye, Jr, 28, admitted he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered Ashlynne Mike on the New Mexico portion of the reservation in May 2016. He will not be eligible for parole.

“The Navajo Nation mourned when we learned of the vicious murder of Ashlynne Mike. The Nation has carried this pain ever since," President Russell Begaye said in a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Today, as we learn that her murderer has pleaded guilty to the six charges against him, we have taken one-step forward in healing. We know the pain will be lifelong for Ashlynne’s parents and immediate family.”

Ashlynne's death highlighted the lack of an AMBER Alert system on the reservation. The tribe had to send out an alert through law enforcement in New Mexico.

“The Navajo Nation is taking every step necessary to strengthen our laws and emergency response communication system," Begaye said. "We are furthering the implementation of an Amber Alert System to protect our children from horrendous crimes such as this one."

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) introduced S.772, the AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act, to ensure tribes are eligible for AMBER Alert grants. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved the bill at a business meeting on June 13 but it has not yet come up for consideration on the Senate floor.

Read More on the Story:
Suspect in killing of Navajo girl pleads guilty to murder (AP 8/1)
Begaye pleads guilty in Ashlynne Mike killing (The Farmington Daily-Times 8/1)
Man pleads guilty in Navajo Nation girl’s murder (KRQE 8/1)

Related Stories:
Navajo citizen scheduled for change of plea hearing for death of 11-yo girl (July 31, 2017)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approves two bills at meeting (June 14, 2017)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs considers two bills at meeting (June 12, 2017)
Donald Trump's surprise FBI firing upends Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (May 10, 2017)
Witness list for Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on two bills (May 8, 2017)
Senate panel takes up bill to bring AMBER Alert funding to tribes (April 28, 2017)
Bill brings funding for AMBER Alert systems to Indian Country (April 18, 2017)
Effort builds for missing and murdered Native women and girls (June 29, 2016)
Editorial: End the cycle of violence against Native women and girls (May 16, 2016)
Navajo Nation family warns of efforts to capitalize on girl's death (May 11, 2016)
Kevin Washburn: Empower tribes to prosecute reservation crime (May 11, 2016)
Large crowd gathers to say goodbye to 11-year-old Navajo Nation girl (May 6, 2016)
Leader of Navajo Nation Council criticizes coverage of girl's death (May 5, 2016)
Navajo Nation in shock after arrest made in 11-year-old girl's death (May 4, 2016)