FARMINGTON — Federal prosecutors have made plea offers to five individuals accused of felony murder in connection to the death of Shiprock resident Gabrielle Joe.
Prosecutors and attorneys representing the defendants — Patrick Benally, 26; Justin Benally, 26; Mariah Benally, 21; Scott Thompson, 27; and Lasheena Jacquez, 27 - jointly filed a motion last week in federal court requesting the deadline for pretrial motions be extended, according to court records.
The request was made so the attorneys could review the voluminous amount of evidence entered into the court record, including 1,300 pages of documents and numerous video and audio recordings.
Several defendants also requested additional time to review their plea offers in light of the extensive evidence. The plea offers are set to expire on Friday, court records state, and a trial date is set for Nov. 17.
Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said it is the department's policy not to comment on matters that are not on the public record. She said she could not confirm negotiations were ongoing nor discuss the nature of those negotiations.
According to the criminal complaint, an FBI agent was notified on Dec. 9 that the Farmington Police Department was looking for a missing person, identified through Farmington police records as Joe, a 28-year-old mother who was reported missing in mid-November.
Police told the agent an unidentified witness had come forward and said Joe was murdered. On Dec. 10, the witness took police to an area near County Road 7100 in south Farmington, where the body was found.
The witness told detectives that she, Joe and the five accused were using methamphetamines at a residence in Farmington on Oct. 23.
She told police that at one point Justin Benally became afraid Joe would bring a rival drug dealer to the residence. Patrick and Justin Benally, who are twin brothers, allegedly tied Joe up and took her phone, the complaint states.
The witness told detectives that Joe was put into the trunk of Jacquez's vehicle and the accused drove her to a mesa near County Road 7100.
She was then stripped, stabbed multiple times by Jacquez and had her throat slit by Justin Benally, the complaint states.
The witness told detectives Joe was kicked into the ravine but made sounds "similar to those like a sheep" as the group began kicking rocks down upon her.
An autopsy performed by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator determined Joe was stabbed 16 times in the arm, back and head, the complaint states.
An offender can be charged with felony murder if he participates in a felony act that results in a person's death, even if the death was unintentional.