New Mexico duo indicted for kidnapping, murder in Indian Country

Stock photo

Stock photo

GALLUP, N.M. — Alexander Uballez, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, and Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office, announced June 27, 2022 that Gilbert John, Jr., 33, of Brimhall, New Mexico, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, and Kendra K. Panteah, 34, of the Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico, and an enrolled member of Zuni Pueblo, were arraigned in federal court, according to a press release.

John was arraigned March 30, and charged with second degree murder. Panteah was arraigned July 23, and charged with kidnapping, resulting in death. Pending trial, John will remain in custody and Panteah was conditionally released to a halfway house. A trial date has yet to be scheduled.

According to the indictment and other court records, in July 2019, the victim, identified in court records as John Doe, traveled with Panteah and two other people to Witch Wells, Arizona, and back to New Mexico. At some point, the passengers in the car allegedly beat the victim and put him in the trunk of the car. The group then traveled to Pinehill — part of the Ramah Navajo Indian Reservation — and then Gallup, New Mexico, when Panteah allegedly called John for assistance.

Panteah allegedly travelled to Gilbert John’s apartment and told him what happened. The two then allegedly drove from Gallup into the Navajo Nation and drove around for a day with the victim still in the trunk. Eventually, they stopped the car near Bass Lake where the victim regained consciousness. The victim was able to open the trunk and get out, and Gilbert John then allegedly stabbed the victim with a machete and knife. Gilbert John and Panteah then allegedly put the victim back in the trunk and sat on it to prevent him from getting out until the victim stopped moving.

John then drove the car to a residence in Standing Rock, New Mexico. While allegedly attempting to remove the car’s tracker, John disabled the car and could not repair it. The car was left at the residence for about 10 days before John allegedly returned and towed the car down Pipeline Road where he drove it into a canyon. He then allegedly went to Gallup for gasoline, returned to the car and set it on fire, according to the release.

The alleged offenses took place on the Navajo Nation and the victim is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, according to the news release.

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