Navajo Nation Girl Assaulted, Killed After Man Kidnapped Her While She Was Playing

Tom Begaye Jr. left the 11-year-old child to die in the desert after “repeatedly hitting her on the head and face with a tire iron.”

Ashlynne Mike school photo. She is wearing a blue and white t shirt in front of a purple background.

11-year-old Ashlynne Mike

Photo by: Central Consolidated School District

Central Consolidated School District

11-year-old Ashlynne Mike

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A man sentenced in 2017 to life in prison without the possibility of parole in connection to the abduction, sexual assault and murder of an 11-year-old Navajo girl in New Mexico recently lost his appeal to plead guilty to a lesser charge with a reduced prison sentence.

On May 2, 2016, Ashlynne Mike and her 9-year-old brother, Ian, were playing together on the Navajo Indian Reservation in San Juan County when Tom Begaye Jr. — a man they didn’t know — drove up in a van and offered them a ride home, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint.

Ian later told police that the two accepted because his sister had hurt her foot. The man then drove the pair down a remote road near Shiprock Monument, pulled over and walked with Ashlynne toward a hill while her brother stayed in the van.

“Begaye sexually assaulted the victim before killing her by strangling her and repeatedly hitting her on the head and face with a tire iron,” federal prosecutors said in a news release. “Begaye then returned to his van, directed the victim’s brother to get out of the van, and drove away, leaving the child behind.”

A motorist found Ian walking on a road that evening. Family located Ashlynne’s body the following day.

Law enforcement managed to track down the van Begaye was driving, and Ian identified him as the kidnapper.

According to the complaint, Begaye admitted to abducting the siblings and bludgeoning Ashlynne. The elementary school student, he said, was still moving when he left her in the desert.

On Aug. 1, 2017, Begaye pleaded guilty to six charges filed against him, including felony murder, aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death, and kidnapping of a minor.

Nearly two years later, in June 2019, Begaye filed motions from prison requesting he be allowed to plead to lesser charges, claiming he didn’t understand the law or his rights and that his defense lawyer was incompetent, the Associated Press reported.

In August 2020, however, a judge denied Begaye’s petition to the court, ruling the convicted killer made his request eight months past the filing deadline and failed to provide reasons showing why his federal public defender was ineffective.

“The Navajo people cherish our little young ones, and so this case was so extreme and so shocking to us all,” Director Jesse Delmar of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety said after Ashlynne’s death.

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