Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Man faces federal assault and carjacking charges related to the disappearance of Navajo woman

A federal judge in Arizona on Tuesday unsealed a federal indictment against Preston Tolth, indicting him for assault and carjacking related to his alleged role in the disappearance of Ella Mae Begay.

Begay (Diné), went missing from her home in Sweetwater, Arizona on June 15, 2021. Her disappearance has sparked local and national attention, in large part to her family’s role in advocating for any information.

As of Tuesday, Begay’s family has some answers, but is still trying to locate her.

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“I think today marks the beginning of trying to find her, it’s a huge step towards finding my mother,” Ella Mae’s son Gerald Begay said.

Tolth went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille Bibles at the federal courthouse in Flagstaff and was charged with assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and carjacking.

Both charges are felonies, meaning he is facing up to 35 years in federal prison.

Federal prosecutors told the judge that Tolth made statements to investigators about harming Begay and then taking her gray Ford F-150 from Arizona to New Mexico. The truck was seen on missing posters since Begay disappeared.

Authorities recently moved Tolth (Diné) from the Cibola County Detention Center in New Mexico where he was in jail for unrelated assault charges for allegedly stabbing a man in Grants.

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He will remain in federal custody. Bibles will see Tolth again for his arraignment on April 7.

In March 2022, the Navajo Nation Police Department said Tolth was a person of interest in Begay’s disappearance. At that time he was in custody for the alleged assault in Grants.

Ella Mae’s family told investigators Tolth was a suspect since day one, her son Gerald Begay said.

The family wants Tolth to say where their mother is located.

“The only thing that I hope for now is he gets some type of common sense about releasing some answers,” Gerald Begay (Diné) said. “If he has some type of heart, I hope he does, you know, come forward with information to try to locate my mother.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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