FBI is searching for suspect who allegedly kidnapped 13-year-old girl from Kirtland rodeo

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — What initially started as a search for a missing 13-year-old autistic girl from a Kirtland rodeo grounds has now transformed into a federal investigation as the FBI is searching for an unknown male suspect accused of kidnapping the girl.

The FBI at 1:47 p.m. on Sept. 15, issued a news release seeking the man who allegedly kidnapped 13-year-old Kaylani Benallie on the night of Sept. 14. 

The accused is described as a Native American man in his 30s or 40s who is about six feet tall with short brown hair and no facial hair, according to the news release. 

The man was last seen around 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 14 at the Broken Horn Arena/RV Park on County Road 6100 in Kirtland, where Benallie was last seen walking to a restroom.

He could be driving a dark colored, four-door pickup truck with a "4x4" emblem, bed cover and silver rims. 

The girl was found alive at a trading post in Red Valley, Ariz. around 7:30 to 7:45 a.m. on Sept. 15, according to the FBI.

San Juan County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Kristi Hughes told The Daily Times that Benallie was found with minor injuries and has been released to her family.

"Law enforcement is actively searching for this suspect, but we need the public's help to bring this perpetrator to justice," said FBI Special Agent Raul Bujanda in the news release. 

The Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety is also assisting in the investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 505-889-1300 or file an online report at tips.fbi.gov.

Searchers went into the night

New Mexico State Police issued a Brittany Alert for Benallie at 10:52 p.m. on Sept. 14, on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office.

A Brittany alert is a notification for someone who is missing and endangered who has diagnosed with a developmental disability, according to the state police website.

The Sheriff's Office on Tuesday night deployed its helicopter and its deputies to actively search the area. At 3:22 a.m. Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office issued its first update.

Kaylani Benallie, 13, was reported missing around 10:52 p.m. on Sept. 14. She was last seen around 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 14 walking to a restroom at a rodeo arena in the area of 656 County Road 6100 near Kirtland.

“Kaylani is still missing,” the Facebook post stated. "A Brittany alert was sent out by NMSP just before 11pm. She is able to communicate clearly and will respond to her name. We continue to urge the public to be on the lookout and call 911 with any information.”

A 7 a.m. Wednesday social media post said teams were scheduled to set out in daylight.

Social media posts overnight on the Sheriff's Facebook page indicated that members of the public joined the search effort.

“Kaylani has still not been found,” the Sheriff's Office posted at 6:45 a.m. via Facebook. “A daylight search is scheduled to begin at 7am.”

The Sheriff’s Office at 7:37 a.m. on Sept. 15 announced Benallie has been located alive, according to the agency’s Facebook page.

State police cannot use emergency alert system for Brittany Alerts

The Daily Times asked the New Mexico State Police why the emergency alert system was not used for the Brittany Alert, like the emergency messages pushed to cellphones when an Amber Alert is issued. 

A state police spokesperson said in a statement law enforcement agencies investigate every missing, endangered person case as if it's an Amber Alert but are not allowed by federal guidelines to issue an emergency alert to cellphones for a Brittany Alert.

There are only three types of alerts which can be issued through a cellphone emergency alert: Presidential Alerts, Amber Alerts and imminent threat emergencies alerts, according to state police.

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.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e