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New Mexico man charged in connection to missing Native American woman

Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 06, 2023

Almost two years after her disappearance, a federal grand jury has indicted a New Mexico man in connection with the disappearance of a Native American woman.

Ella Mae Begay’s case gained national attention and awareness toward the issue of violence against indigenous women.

“It’s just a repeat of pain over and over every day if somebody’s missing,” said Seraphine Warren, Begay’s niece. “It just hurts.”

The indictment alleges that 23-year-old Preston Tolth assaulted the 62-year-old on Jun. 15, 2021. Federal investigators believe Tolth took Begay’s truck across state lines “with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury.”

“To lose someone to this act of violence, it’s the worst thing you can ever imagine,” said Begay’s son, Gerald.

Tolth faces assault and carjacking charges. There’s still no word on where Begay could be.

“She said that word: ‘My condolences.’ It hit me really hard, because now I know that we won’t get to see her,” said Warren.

Warren helped Begay’s story make national news when she walked from the Navajo Nation to Washington D.C. to spark awareness.

“I think the only reason why we’re seeing a development in this case is because of [the family’s] undying efforts to keep the case fresh and top of mind for people in the public,” said Michelle Brown, chair of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Relatives Utah.

Both Warren and Gerald Begay left Thursday evening to drive to Arizona for Tolth’s detention hearing.

Gerald Begay told FOX 13 News that he refuses to believe his mother is gone until he sees evidence or a homicide charge.

“I want closure. That’s the bottom line. I want to bring my mother home so we know that she’s home. I don’t want to leave her out there,” he said.

Tolth faces up to 35 years in jail.

According to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Relatives Utah, indigenous people are ten times more likely to be victims of violence.