Mother of toddler found dead near Shiprock pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter

The woman faces up to eight years in federal prison

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Tonya May Dale, 28, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the death of her toddler Kyron Kelewood during a March 24 hearing in Albuquerque federal court.
  • Dale was indicted on Sept. 25, 2019, on two counts of child abuse, which included a charge of death of a child under the age of 18.
  • Multiple agencies including state, county and local law enforcement agencies assisted in the search.

FARMINGTON — A Sanostee woman has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the death of her toddler, Kyron Kelewood. His body was found north of Shiprock following an exhaustive search by teams of volunteers in the summer of 2019.

Tonya May Dale, 28, pleaded guilty during a March 24 hearing in Albuquerque federal court as part of a plea agreement between the prosecution and Dale's attorney.

Dale was indicted on Sept. 25, 2019, for two counts of child abuse, which included a charge of the death of a child under the age of 18. She initially plead not guilty to those two charges.

More:Search continues for missing 21-month-old in Shiprock

Tonya Mae Dale

The defendant pleaded guilty to the involuntary death of 21-month-old Kelewood, who was found deceased on the morning of June 28, 2019.

The disappearance of the child led the Navajo Division of Public Safety and federal agencies to conduct an exhaustive search in the area north of Shiprock starting on June 27, 2019.

Multiple agencies including state, county and local law enforcement agencies assisted in the search.

Dale wrote in the plea agreement about the events which led to the death of her child, who died from exposure.

She was driving while intoxicated on methamphetamine and alcohol on June 26, 2019, with her two children sleeping in the vehicle, including an unidentified baby.

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The operations command center for search and rescue coordination for one-year-old Kyron Kelewood at Horseshoe Canyon is seen in this photo on June 28, 2019.

An unidentified man was also in the vehicle but not mentioned by Dale in her plea agreement.

“I made a wrong turn down a dirt road and then went off the road,” Dale wrote in the plea agreement.

The vehicle got stuck and she had a weak cell phone signal.

Dale wrote that they slept in the car and she left on the morning of June 27, 2019, with the two children to get help.

She left the two children by an empty water tank after deciding she should go alone to get help.

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One-year-old Kyron Kelewood, who went missing on June 27, 2019 and was found deceased on June 28, 2019.

Dale located some people about an hour or two later who called for help. When she took first responders to the water tank, Kelewood had wandered off.

It was around 11:15 a.m. on June 28, 2019, that Kelewood’s body was found more than two miles southwest of the vehicle.

Dale faces a maximum sentence of eight years in a federal prison at a future sentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

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

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