Tohatchi man pleads guilty to murder charge

Dennison Hale admitted to killing his wife last year at the family's home in Hogback, according to the plea agreement

Joshua Kellogg
Dennison Hale

FARMINGTON — A Tohatchi man has pleaded guilty in federal court to second-degree murder in the slaying of his wife last year.

Dennison Hale, 44, admitted in federal court in Albuquerque on Tuesday that he killed Kayleen Hale on Feb. 20, 2016, by striking her twice in the head with a crowbar at the family's home in Hogback, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Hale was indicted on a first-degree murder charge last year on March 23. He could be sentenced up to 20 years in federal prison, followed by an undetermined period of supervised release, according to the press release.

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According to the plea agreement, Hale said he struck his wife twice because he was angry she had been texting with another man.

Kayleen Hale was transported by helicopter to San Juan Regional Medical Center and was pronounced dead just before 8 a.m. Feb. 20, 2016, according to the criminal complaint.

Witnesses told police the couple attended a dance on the evening of Feb. 19, 2016, and returned to the hogan east of the Flowing Water Navajo Casino in Hogback at about 3 a.m., according to court documents.

At one point, Kayleen Hale left the hogan to retrieve her phone, and her husband immediately followed her, court documents state. Shortly after, witnesses — including the couple's son, Denny Hale — said they heard her scream, according to court documents.

The witnesses left the hogan and saw Dennison Hale flee the scene, punching Denny Hale in the face as he left, according to the criminal complaint. One of the witnesses then went inside the house and found Kayleen Hale on the ground, the complaint states.

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Denny Hale told The Daily Times in April that he was working to repair the family's home. At the time, he was replacing siding on the home and repairing windows knocked out by his father on the night of the murder.

With the help of friends in the community, he was also raising money through a GoFundMe page to pay for additional repairs, including replacing the electrical wiring and purchasing new kitchen fixtures.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.