Man faces murder charge in federal court

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — An 18-year-old man has been charged in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico with murder on allegations he killed a Navajo man in Sanostee.

Zachariah Nez

Zachariah Nez was arrested Wednesday after the body of a deceased male, identified as John Doe 1 in the criminal complaint, was found Tuesday morning.

According to the complaint released today, a criminal investigator with the Navajo Department of Criminal Investigations in Shiprock notified the FBI about the deceased man. The criminal investigator reported the man had been found near the community’s old school with apparent injuries to his face.

Law enforcement officials located a rock next to the body, according to the complaint. The complaint states the rock "had pointed edges" and "a red substance on a large portion" of its surface.

According the complaint, the criminal investigator spoke to a witness, identified as John Doe 2, who stated he saw Nez and John Doe 1 walking away from John Doe 2's house toward the old school between 7 and 8 p.m. Monday. The criminal investigator was told that Nez and John Doe 1 had been at John Doe 2's house for several hours and had been drinking.

In a separate interview with a witness identified as Jane Doe 2, the female showed the criminal investigator a text message from Nez. Nez wrote to Jane Doe 2 that he had killed John Doe 1, the complaint states.

Jane Doe 2 further stated that Nez arrived at her house on Monday at approximately 8 p.m.

The female said Nez appeared to be "shaky," so she asked him what was wrong. According to the complaint, Nez said he did not know, but he had hit John Doe 1 with a rock.

Nez told Jane Doe 2 that he had been drinking "a gallon" with John Doe 1, and they had walked away from John Doe 2's residence.

The criminal investigator spoke to a second female witness, identified as "Jane Doe 3," who said she overheard a conversation between Nez and Jane Doe 2, according to the complaint.

Jane Doe 3 stated she heard Nez say he used a rock to kill a man, but he did not say the person's name, the complaint states.

Nez made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Paul Briones in Farmington on Thursday and a preliminary hearing is scheduled Monday in federal court in Albuquerque, according to court records.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.