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Tooele woman searching for answers after Navajo aunt mysteriously disappears

Posted at 12:57 AM, Sep 21, 2021

Hand-woven rugs in Seraphine Warren's Tooele home depict gray mountains and the red mesas of Monument Valley. The farm scenes feature grazing cows and sheep, alongside people and covered wagons.

The phrase, "Bless our Home," graces the bottom of each tapestry.

Warren's aunt, Ella Mae Begay, created the rich textiles. Begay made her living as a professional weaver, selling her creations in Arizona.

"She was very talented as far as actually putting action into her rugs," Warren said, as both small rugs sat in her lap.

The niece now holds on to those woven squares, to remind her of Begay.

"It’s just getting harder to have any more hope that she’s still alive," Warren said. Begay, Warren explained, disappeared from her Sweetwater, Arizona home in the middle of the night between June 14 and 15.

Warren described how it was completely uncharacteristic for the 62-year old, who mostly stayed home during the pandemic. Begay didn't let people inside her house because of COVID-19, Warren said.

The family believes something happened in the early hours of June 15, leading to the disappearance of Begay and her truck.

The Navajo Police Department Shiprock Police District and the FBI launched a search and classified Begay's disappearance as a homicide. Navajo Police Captain Leonard Redhorse gave video updates in June and July, explaining search efforts for Begay in the Navajo Nation.

"Today our focus was in Thoreau, New Mexico, where we did make contact with our person of interest," Capt. Redhorse says, in a video posted June 18. He identified that person of interest as Preston Tolth. Soon after, Navajo Police said Tolth was arrested on charges unrelated to Begay's disappearnce.

Fox 13 reached out to the Navajo Police Department Shiprock District but was unable to speak with someone about the case. There are no further updates about Tolth or Begay posted on the department's Facebook page. Eventually, the search stopped.

Warren talked about how she and her family launched their own search for her aunt. She drove from Tooele down to the Navajo Nation every single weekend. Warren ended up taking more than a month off of work for the search.

They received leads from people in the Navajo Nation community. At one point, their search efforts led them to Montezuma Creek in southeast Utah.

Three months later, they still don't have answers.

"I just want to find her," Warren said, through tears as she looked down at the woven rugs. "We just need closure of some sort... and I’m trying to do whatever I can to get help."

In July, Warren said she walked more than 150 miles starting from Begay's home to raise awareness for her missing aunt as well as other missing murdered indigenous women. She shared how she met with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez to discuss the issue.

Next week is Ella Mae's birthday. She would have turned 63 years old.

Warren is planning another 150-mile walk to again raise awareness and send a message.

"We can’t just leave them out there," she said, tears streaming down her face. "We have to find them."

Warren wants people to know Begay and other indigenous women and children are missing with no one being held accountable.

She wants people to know each of those lives matter.

And Warren wants people to know that they deserve to be found.

"I can’t show her respect while she’s laying out there, when I know what talent she has, and what she meant to us," Warren said, as she cried. "I cannot, not bring her home."

A family friend has organized a GoFundMe to help increase the cash reward for information in Begay's disappearance.