Conviction in murder of Navajo woman Jamie Yazzie
PHOENIX (AP) — The boyfriend of a Navajo woman whose case became emblematic of an international movement launched to draw attention to an epidemic of missing and slain Indigenous women has been convicted of first-degree murder in her death.
Tre C. James, 31, was convicted Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix of domestic abuse and in the fatal shooting of Jamie Yazzie. The jury also found James guilty of several acts of domestic violence committed against three former intimate and dating partners.
James is scheduled to be sentenced in late January.
Yazzie was 32 and the mother of three sons when she went missing in the summer of 2019 from her community of Pinon on the Navajo Nation. Despite a high-profile search, her remains were not found until November 2021 on the neighboring Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona.
Many of Yazzie's friends and family members, including her mother, father, grandmother and other relatives, attended all seven days of the trial.
"This family has been very active in advocating," said their attorney, Darlene Gomez. "This is a huge case for Indian Country. It's so unusual for these cases to get to trial, and then to get convictions."
The Albuquerque-based attorney said she was especially pleased the local U.S. Attorney's Office acknowledged Yazzie's family and underscored the importance of investigating and prosecuting such crimes.
"Vindicating the rights of missing and murdered Indigenous persons requires all the energy and compassion we have," U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino said in a statement about the conviction. "That means not only investigation and prosecution of tough cases but also community engagement, cultural competence, and active listening to next of kin and other family members."
Yazzie's case gained attention through the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women grassroots movement that draws attention to widespread violence against Indigenous women and girls in the United States and Canada.
The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs characterizes the violence against Indigenous women as a crisis.
Women from Native American and Alaska Native communities have long suffered high rates of assault, abduction and murder. A 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice found that more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women — 84% — have experienced violence in their lifetimes, including 56% who have experienced sexual violence.