Suspect in killing of Navajo girl expected to change plea

A suspect is expected to change his plea in the kidnapping, sexual assault and killing of an 11-year-old girl in a remote part of the largest American Indian reservation that prompted an effort to expand the Amber Alert system into tribal communities across the U.S.

More than a year after the May 2016 death of Ashlynne Mike in Navajo Nation, Tom Begaye is scheduled to attend a change-of-plea hearing Tuesday in an Albuquerque federal court. It’s not known if his lawyers and federal prosecutors have struck a deal.

Begaye previously pleaded not guilty to murder, sexual abuse and other charges.

Begaye is from the small Navajo Nation town of Waterflow near the unincorporated agricultural community of Lower Fruitland, where Mike lived with her father and siblings, according to the FBI.

Begaye lured Mike and her brother into his van, authorities say. The girl’s brother told police the man took them deep into the desert and then walked off with the girl and a tire iron in hand before returning alone.

Begaye told investigators he sexually assaulted the girl and hit her twice in the head with a crowbar, and that she was still moving when he left her in the desert, according to court documents. Her body was later found in the remote area.

The younger brother was able to escape.

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