Farmington murder suspect sentenced to 10 years in prison for stabbing

Man pleaded guilty to three felony charges

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Raheem Benally, 25, was sentenced to 10 years in prison during a Nov. 13 hearing in Aztec District Court.
  • Benally plead guilty to stabbing 37-year-old Farmington resident Philbert Vanwinkle to death on Dec. 12.
  • Benally signed off on a plea agreement on Oct. 2.

FARMINGTON — A Farmington man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to fatally stabbing one man, and stabbing another man in the neck during a separate incident.

Raheem Benally, 25, was sentenced on Nov. 13 during a hearing in front of District Court Judge Daylene Marsh in Aztec District Court, according to San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien.

The plea agreement filed on Oct. 2 stated Benally pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated battery and battery up on a peace officer across three criminal cases.

Benally plead guilty to stabbing 37-year-old Farmington resident Philbert Vanwinkle to death on Dec. 12, 2018, in the roadway just east of the Pizza Hut restaurant at 2710 E. 20th St., according to The Daily Times archives.

He also pleaded guilty to stabbing a man on Aug. 20, 2018, during an argument at Brookhaven Park East at 721 W. Apache St., according to The Daily Times archives.

Raheem Benally

Sentenced to 20 years, will serve less

Christian Hatfield, Benally's attorney, said it was not an unexpected final sentence and he respected the judgement of the court.

Judge Marsh used the sentencing recommendations in the plea/disposition agreement when sentencing Benally.

Benally was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended.

The prosecution agreed in the plea agreement to Benally receiving no less than one year but not more than 10 years in the New Mexico Department of Corrections.

The prosecution recommended battery on a police officer and aggravated battery convictions be served at the same time. It also recommended with the murder conviction be served consecutively with the aggravated battery conviction.

A basic sentence for aggravated battery is three years and 15 years for second-degree murder.

O'Brien stated the prosecution had evidentiary concerns, as they had witnesses who believed Vanwinkle was the initial aggressor.

The DNA evidence was not conclusive. Benally's blood was found on the knife, but not Vanwinkle's, O'Brien said.

O'Brien said Benally could have been possibly convicted of manslaughter if it went to a jury trial, limiting the sentence to six years.

Witness saw fight, found body

One witness told a Farmington Police Department detective he saw two men who appeared to be fighting in the roadway.

When he returned to the area, he found the victim not breathing and with heavy blood loss in the middle of Brothers Avenue.

A person of interest interviewed stated Vanwinkle and Benally were intoxicated and got in a fight inside an apartment before he pushed them out of the apartment. This occurred before the fatal stabbing.

A blood trail from the crime scene led to a residence in the 2600 block of East 23rd Street, where they found a relative of Benally's.

Benally had showed up to the residence bleeding from the hand, and he was driven to Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock.

Benally was taken into custody on the night of Dec. 13 after an extradition warrant was approved.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at

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