View Full Version : Mitchell Becomes first Native American on Federal Death Row

09-17-2003, 11:48 PM
Everything about this situation is so sad. :( The crime, and the punishment.

Mitchell sentenced to death
By Jim Snyder/The Daily Times
Sep 17, 2003, 10:17

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Becomes first Native American on Federal Death Row

PHOENIX — A Navajo man who killed and dismembered the bodies of a Navajo woman and her granddaughter then used their stolen pickup truck to commit an armed robbery was sentenced to death Monday.

Lezmond Mitchell, 21, of Round Valley, Ariz., was sentenced by Judge Mary Murguia in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, said Harriet Bernick, spokeswoman for the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Phoenix.

A federal grand jury found Mitchell guilty May 8 of the brutal homicides of Navajos Alyce R. Slim, 63, and her granddaughter Tiffany Lee, 9, both of Ft. Defiance, Ariz.

Slim had picked up Mitchell hitchhiking. Police at the time said Slim and Lee died Oct. 28, 2001, from multiple stab wounds inflicted by Mitchell. Their stabbed, mutilated bodies were found in a shallow grave Nov. 5, 2001, in a wooded area near Tsaile, Ariz.

Mitchell is believed to be the first Native American to receive the federal death penalty since it was reinstated in 1994, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincent Kirby said. Kirby prosecuted the case.

He was convicted of two counts of premeditated first-degree murder; two counts of felony first-degree murder based on a robbery; one count of first-degree murder based on kidnapping; one count of carjacking resulting in death; one count of kidnapping; two counts of robbery and two counts of using a weapon during the robbery of the Red Rock, Ariz., Trading Post.

Native Americans throughout the country’s 500-plus tribes are exempt from the federal death penalty because of their federal status except in certain situations. The highest federal sentence they can normally receive for first-degree murder is life without parole.

The Navajo Nation has no agreement with the federal government to allow the death penalty for any tribal member convicted of first-degree murder in federal court.

Federal Code states, however, if a carjacking is involved going across state lines resulting in a first-degree murder conviction, the federal death penalty can be sought without consulting the tribe. This happened in Mitchell’s case.

The Navajo Nation will not protest the death sentence despite Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. opposing the federal death penalty for tribal members.

Shirley “does not want to interfere in the judicial process,” Shirley’s spokeswoman Deana Jackson said Tuesday when informed by The Daily Times about the sentencing.

She added, “Unfortunately it is a brother of the Navajo Nation. Unfortunately the victims are not with us as well.”

Jackson said Monday, “He (Shirley) is not in support of the death penalty.” She added he supports long-term incarceration instead.

She added Shirley was misquoted by The Associated Press earlier this year when he stated he supported the death penalty for Navajos convicted of the most serious crimes.

Following the homicides of Slim and Lee — Mitchell and two others donned Halloween masks and carried a shotgun and pistols into the Red Valley Trading Post Oct. 31, 2001. They used Slim’s pickup truck during their robbery of cash and gasoline.

Shiprock Police said a man walked up to clerk Charlott Yazzie, who was mopping the floor, and hit her on the side of the head with a rifle butt.

“The robber told Yazzie to cooperate or she’d be shot,” then Shiprock Police Lt. Clarence Hawthorne said.

Clerk Kimberly Allen was also assaulted by the men. One held a pistol to her head while ordering her to turn on the gas pumps. Yazzie and Allen were then tied up and locked in a back office.

“The two are lucky to be alive,” Navajo Criminal Investigations Chief Ivan Tsosie said at the time.

Mitchell abandoned the pickup truck and tried unsuccessfully to burn it on U.S. 191 south of Wheatfields Lake. Navajo Police found the truck Nov. 1, 2001, on Navajo Route 12.

“It didn’t burn because the windows were rolled up,” Navajo Police said.

Mitchell was not charged in the related deaths of David K. Begay, 47, of Round Rock, and Gesbert Sam, 30, of Piñon, Ariz., Bernick said.

Their bodies were found Nov. 3 in a shallow grave along U.S. 191 a mile southwest of the Round Rock Trading Post, just 25 miles from where Slim and Lee’s bodies were found.

“It’s a different case but some of the same players are involved,” Bernick said.

Johnny Orsinger, 17 at the time, was arrested with Mitchell for the armed robberies during predawn raids Nov. 5 and 6 at their residences in Round Valley by Navajo Police, Navajo criminal investigators and members of the Strategic Reaction Team.

The others arrested were Teddy Orsinger, 35, Gregory Nakai, 18, Jimmy Nakai, 23 and a second juvenile.

Orsinger is being tried Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix for the Begay and Sam homicides. He will escape the federal death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time, Bernick added.

Jim Snyder: