Suspect in murder of Farmington resident Cecilia Finona pleads guilty, faces 33 years

John R. Moses
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The man accused of the 2019 murder of Farmington resident and U.S. Army veteran Cecelia B. Finona pled guilty to federal murder and kidnapping charges and faces 33 years behind bars, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Eleventh Judicial District Attorney Rick Tedrow announced on Sept. 8.

Jerry Jay pled guilty to charges of first-degree kidnapping and second-degree murder, according to a news release from the Office of the Attorney General.

The release said that Jay will be sentenced after he undergoes a forensic evaluation.

“As we continue to fight for justice and help bring closure to Cecelia’s family, New Mexico still has a long way to go in helping Indigenous families impacted by violent crime,” said Attorney General Balderas.

Finona disappeared on May 31, 2019, and was the subject of a search effort. Finona served 31 years in the Army, retiring as a master sergeant, according to The Daily Times archives.

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Cecelia B. Finona

Jay was a person of interest in the investigation based on evidence found at Finona's home. He was arrested on separate charges on June 5, 2019, by the Sparks Police Department in Nevada, according to The Daily Times archives.

“Jay struck Ms. Finona, a 59-year-old Army veteran of Navajo descent, on the head with a blunt object after an argument,” the news release said. “He then put her in the backseat of her truck and fled New Mexico. Ms. Finona bled to death in her truck as Jay drove through Arizona, Nevada, and California.”

Jay was also accused of theft for allegedly financing his getaway by using Finona’s credit cards.

Authorities say Jay drove to Nevada and hid Finona’s body in a culvert near Las Vegas, in Clark County, Nevada.

Finona’s remains were found on Feb. 23, 2021, and identified through DNA testing, according to the Daily Times archives.

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Members of the Navajo Hopi Honor Riders proceed onto U.S. Highway 491 in Shiprock to help escort family members of U.S. Army veteran Cecelia B. Finona after her remains arrive in Albuquerque on July 19, 2021.

A motorcade assisted by law enforcement agencies carrying family members brought Finona’s body back to San Juan County after it arrived in Albuquerque on July 19, 2021.

“My office is gratified that we could help this family find justice for the tragic murder of their loved one,” said District Attorney Tedrow. “I also appreciate the work of the Attorney General’s office in shining a spotlight on these cases, which are too often forgotten or overlooked.”

The complicated case was “spearheaded by the Farmington Police Department with cooperation from the Sparks (Nevada) Police Department, Washoe County (Nevada) Sheriff's Office, and the Las Vegas (Nevada) Police Metropolitan Department," the news release said.

Assistant Attorneys General Mark Probasco and Jesse Pecoraro from the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and Assistant District Attorneys Theresa Walker and Ian Jump from the Eleventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case, the release said.

Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or via email at jmoses@daily-times.com.

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