Suspect faces second-degree murder, other charges

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FARMINGTON — The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is looking for a female suspect wanted in connection to a homicide that occurred last year in the Crouch Mesa area.

Kehadja Keams, 23, of Window Rock, Arizona, was charged Tuesday and accused of second-degree murder, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and larceny, according to court documents.

Keams is accused of battering 76-year-old Gilbert Benavidez, of Bloomfield, on April 4 and stealing his vehicle, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

A family member told a detective for the San Juan County Sheriff's Office on Aug. 4 that Benavidez had died due to an infection stemming from his head injuries.

Detectives for the Sheriff's Office interviewed Keams Monday at the McKinley County Adult Detention Center in Gallup.

She was arrested on a warrant for charges including unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and two counts of larceny, according to court records.

After making her first appearance Monday afternoon in Gallup Magistrate Court, Keams was released on an unsecured appearance bond.

Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln of the Sheriff's Office said Keams was not in custody, but a warrant had been issued for her arrest. 

During the interview, Keams told detectives Benavidez picked her up while she was walking on an unknown road on April 4 and asked if she wanted to drink alcohol with him.

She said they went to his house after purchasing beer and proceeded to drink the beer. She added she also had a couple of shots of alcohol.

Keams claimed Benavidez started to kiss her on her neck, saying he wanted to have sex, but she refused.

As the couple started to walk toward the bedroom, Keams told police she "snapped" and hit Gilbert with a screwdriver or a drill near the laundry area, according to the affidavit.

She added she could not remember what object she used because she was intoxicated.

Keams is accused of taking Benavidez's 2014 white Buick Verano and leaving the area, later ditching the vehicle on the Navajo reservation.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on County Road 5581 around 7:42 p.m. on April 4 in the Crouch Mesa area on reports of a man found unconscious and bleeding from his head.

Benavidez's daughter-in-law, Desiraye Benavidez, went to the residence after receiving a call asking if anyone had heard from Gilbert, she told detectives.

Gilbert's wife, Donna Benavidez, later arrived at the residence and let Desiraye into the house, where they found Gilbert lying on the floor, according to court documents.

Gilbert was transported to the San Juan Regional Medical Center for treatment.

Several items, including Gilbert's cell phone and vehicle, were noticed to be missing.

The vehicle was found abandoned on April 5 on a dirt road in between New Mexico highways 371 and 491 northwest of White Rock.

A search warrant was obtained for Gilbert's cell phone records, which showed a person identifying as Kay was sending and receiving text messages in the hours and days after the battery.

As part of the investigation, a fingerprint belonging to Keams and a major DNA profile of an unknown female were found on an alcohol "shooter" found in Gilbert's residence, according to court documents.

During the interview Monday, detectives executed a search warrant to swab the inside of Keams' cheeks for a comparison of the DNA profile found in Gilbert's residence.

Anyone with information about Keams' whereabouts is encouraged to call San Juan County Crime Stoppers at 505-334-8477 or nonemergency dispatch at 505-334-6622.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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