WASHINGTON, D.C. (11/30/12) – This morning in federal court, Jasper Fernandez, 38, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Bloomfield, New Mexico, entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder under a plea agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that Fernandez was arrested on February 22, 2012, on a criminal complaint charging him with the November 4, 2011 murder of Vernita Jose, a 36-year-old Navajo woman. He subsequently was indicted on a second-degree murder charge on March 13, 2012. Fernandez has been in federal custody since his arrest.
During today’s plea hearing, Fernandez admitted that he murdered Ms. Jose at a remote location in the Navajo Indian Reservation on the night of November 4, 2011. Fernandez’s plea agreement states that he killed the victim during the course of an argument by forcibly holding the victim’s head against the inside of the car until she stopped breathing. The murder occurred shortly after Fernandez left a party where he had been drinking alcohol.
After burying the victim’s remains, Fernandez attempted to conceal the murder by driving the victim’s vehicle to an apartment complex in Farmington, New Mexico, located near her residence. Fernandez also took steps to establish an alibi by sending text messages to the victim’s phone. Court records reflect that the victim was reported missing as of November 4, 2011, and that her murder was revealed when her remains were discovered on December 16, 2011.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Fernandez will be sentenced to a prison term of eight to 10 years, to be followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Fernandez remains in custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
The case was investigated by the Albuquerque and Farmington Offices of the FBI, the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety, and San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers.
Information provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
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