Mother of missing toddler near Shiprock gets five-year prison sentence in his death

The defendant faced a maximum sentence of eight years in prison

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
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.
  • Tonya Mae Dale was sentenced during an Oct. 25 hearing in Albuquerque federal court, according to court documents.
  • Dale pleaded guilty to involuntarily manslaughter during a March 24 hearing in federal court as part of a plea agreement.
  • She was initially indicted on Sept. 25, 2019, by a grand jury on two counts of child abuse, including a count related to the death of a child under the age of 18.

FARMINGTON — Tonya Mae Dale has received a five-year prison sentence for her conviction tied to the death of her toddler, who went missing near Shiprock in Summer of 2019.

Dale was sentenced during an Oct. 25 hearing in Albuquerque federal court, according to court documents.

Her sentencing closes out a court case filed weeks after her 21-month-old son Kyron Kelewood was found deceased on June 28, 2019, after an exhaustive search was conducted to locate the toddler.

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Dale pleaded guilty to involuntarily manslaughter during a March 24 hearing in federal court as part of a plea agreement.

By pleading guilty to involuntarily manslaughter, she faced a maximum prison sentence of eight years.

She was initially indicted on Sept. 25, 2019, by a grand jury on two counts of child abuse, including a count related to the death of a child under the age of 18, according to The Daily Times archive.

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

The mother could have faced 18 years in a federal prison if convicted of those two child abuse charges.

Dale wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Kea Riggs in anticipation of the sentencing hearing.

The mother wrote she wanted Kelewood’s father and the court to know she is truly sorry for the pain and sorrow that she caused.

Dale wrote her son died because she made wrong decisions that day and would accept the punishment for her actions.

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“If I would’ve made better choice, my son would’ve still been here alive,” Dale wrote in her letter.

She also stated she wants to be a better parent for her five children, asking Judge Riggs to show compassion and mercy in the judgement.

The incident started when Dale got the vehicle she was driving stuck in the area north of Shiprock on the night of June 26, 2019.

She admitted to driving while intoxicated on alcohol and methamphetamine with Kelewood, an unidentified baby and an unidentified man.

More:Body of missing Shiprock toddler located by search teams

Navajo Police Deputy Chief Daryl Noon, center, talks about the search for Kyron Kelewood during a debriefing after the toddler's body was found in an area north of Shiprock on June 28.

Dale left the vehicle with the two children on the morning of June 27, 2019, to find help. She left the two children by an empty water tank as she continued to seek help.

By the time she found help and took first responders to the water tank, the toddler had wandered off.

His body was found around 11:15 a.m. on June 28, 2019, more than two miles southwest of the vehicle. He died from exposure.

An exhaustive search involving teams of volunteers along with state, county, tribal and area law enforcement agencies was conducted to find the toddler.

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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Mother of missing toddler near Shiprock pleads not guilty to federal child abuse charges