Ashlynne Mike's father thanks the community
Gary Mike says he has been in contact with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye about developing an emergency alert system on the reservation
LOWER FRUITLAND — In his first statement to the media since the murder of his daughter, Ashlynne Mike's father expressed appreciation for the support his family has received.
"I’d like to thank all the people who helped my family in our most trying time," Gary Mike said in a press conference this evening at the San Juan Chapter house in Lower Fruitland.
He said he was grateful for the law enforcement personnel and volunteers who devoted time to searching for the 11-year-old after her disappearance May 2.
Reading from a written statement, Mike said his family remains thankful for the support they have received from communities across the country and the world.
"Without these individuals, my heart would be empty. Their help with prayers, well wishes and donations brings to my heart a joy I haven’t felt for some time. ... I thank you from the depths of my heart," he said.
At the same time, Mike said the family would like privacy as they grieve.
"This is our time for mourning, and we would like to do it privately," he said.
It has been more than a week since Ashlynne and her brother, Ian, 9, were allegedly kidnapped. Ashlynne’s body was discovered May 3 near the Shiprock pinnacle. Tom Begaye Jr. has been charged in connection to the kidnapping and murder of Ashlynne.
Mike said his family lost "an innocent child" who will not see her 12th birthday or celebrate milestones, such as attending high school prom, college, falling in love and getting married.
Still, he said, the family takes solace in the moments they experienced with Ashlynne.
"Our hurt in losing Ashlynne is still there. Yet, our love for her will live forever," Mike said.
He also shared insight into one of his last moments with his daughter.
"The last words I heard from her before she boarded her school bus was, 'I love you, Dad.' I had to yell back to her, 'I love you, too,'" he said.
At the end of his brief remarks, Mike again called on parents to love and protect their children.
"I implore you to love your children, protect them all and teach them to be safe," he said.
He said that his own son, Ian, is staying with the children's mother, Pamela Foster, outside the state.
"For his mental health, I believe, that he should be away from here," Mike said, adding the family is seeking counseling for Ian.
Mike also said the family had no connection with Begaye before the death of Ashlynne.
Mike said he has been in contact with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye about developing a system similar to Amber Alert on the reservation.
"I’m sure that any system on the Navajo reservation may have deterred what I went through," Mike said. "If we had that alert sooner, who knows, we could’ve still had Ashlynne. I can never tell you what that would have done."
On Monday, President Begaye announced the creation of a taskforce to develop and implement an system to notify communities about abductions and other emergencies on the Navajo Nation.
In a press release from the president's office, the tribe’s Director of Telecommunications M. Theresa Hopkins said her office met with wire and wireless carriers to assess resources and infrastructure to develop an alert system.
The taskforce is working to get a system in place within 60 days, the press release states.
Earlier in the week, Mike spoke at a special meeting at the San Juan Chapter at which members considered a pair of resolutions to curb fraudulent activities associated with his daughter’s name and prevent the president’s office from conducting healing ceremonies in connection to the girl's death.
Chapter members approved both measures on Tuesday.
San Juan Chapter President Rick Nez said the resolutions were delivered to the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President on Wednesday.
Also delivered to the office was a letter from chapter officials asking the office to respect the Mike family by allowing them to have a traditional ceremony before any healing ceremony is scheduled.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.