FARMINGTON — Five people have been indicted on felony murder and other charges in connection to a Shiprock woman's death.
A grand jury indicted Patrick Benally, 26, Justin Benally, 26, Mariah Benally, 21, Scott Thompson, 27, and Lasheena Jacquez, 27, on felony murder, kidnapping and aiding and abetting charges earlier this month.
Patrick and Justin Benally, who are twin brothers, were arraigned in federal court on the charges Thursday morning, and the other three defendants are still at the San Juan County jail on state charges.
Thompson, Jacquez and Mariah Benally, who is not related to Patrick and Justin Benally, will soon be transferred to federal custody and arraigned, said Elizabeth Martinez, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Mexico.
An indictment means a U.S. attorney presented the evidence to a grand jury, and the jury agreed the accused probably committed the crime, according to the Federal Judicial Center.
A group of suspects can each be charged with first-degree felony murder if they killed a person while committing a violent felony.
The defendants in this case are accused of kidnapping and killing a woman on Oct. 23.
Though federal law enforcement officials have not identified the woman, Farmington police records identify the victim as Gabrielle Joe. The 28-year-old mother was the subject of a Farmington police missing person investigation until her remains were found on Dec. 10 near County Road 7100 south of Farmington.
The indictment against the three Benallys, Jacquez and Thompson states Joe's "death occurred as a consequence of, and while the defendants were engaged in and attempting to kidnap" her.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for defendants convicted of first-degree murder to be sentenced to life in prison, Martinez said.
According to the criminal complaint, the five suspects, Joe, Jonnie Eaglefeather and another unidentified witness were at a Farmington home on Oct. 23. Although she was originally charged in the complaint, all charges against Eaglefeather have been dismissed.
The group smoked and injected methamphetamine, and Patrick Benally ordered the group to tie up Joe so she wouldn't bring a rival drug dealer to the home to rob Thompson, according to court documents.
Thompson and Patrick Benally allegedly tied her up and loaded her into Jacquez's green Ford Expedition. From there, they purchased gas and drove to the top of a mesa near County Road 7100, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Vanessa Bassett.
There, Joe was stripped naked.
Patrick Benally allegedly offered Justin Benally a kitchen knife, but he didn't take it. Jacquez allegedly took the knife and started to stab the woman in the neck and back until the knife bent, according to the criminal complaint.
Justin Benally then allegedly took the knife and cut the woman's throat, and the group tossed Joe's body off the cliff, threw rocks on top of her and left her to die, according to the affidavit.
She "was still making sounds similar to those like a sheep when it is slaughtered as the rocks fell on her," the unidentified witness told the FBI agent.
FBI agents and San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputies located Joe's body on Dec. 10 near where she was killed, according to a Farmington police report.
The discovery was made after the unidentified witness, who was an inmate in the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, came forward on Dec. 9 with information about the location of Joe's body, according to Farmington police.
Patrick and Justin Benally were arrested Dec. 17. Chief Magistrate Judge Karen B. Molzen ordered them to be detained. Patrick Benally was wanted by the FBI for an unrelated case where he is accused of shooting a woman in the face in Upper Fruitland.
Thompson, Mariah Benally and Jacquez were arrested by San Juan County deputies in November in connection to an unrelated robbery case. They are detained at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center on those charges and haven't been arraigned in district court.
On Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Niki Tapia-Brito filed a motion asking for the judge to order San Juan County to surrender Thompson, Mariah Benally and Jacquez to the United States Marshals service until the federal prosecution is complete.Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.