New Mexico duo indicted for kidnapping and murder in Indian Country

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, and Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office, announced today that Gilbert John, Jr., 33, of Brimhall, New Mexico, and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, and Kendra K. Panteah, 34, of Zuni, New Mexico, and an enrolled member of the Zuni Pueblo, have been arraigned in federal court. John was arraigned on March 30, charged with second degree murder in Indian Country. Panteah was arraigned on July 23, charged with kidnapping in Indian Country resulting in death. Pending trial, John will remain in custody and Panteah was conditionally released to a halfway house. A trial date has not been 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, passengers in the car allegedly beat John Doe and put him in the trunk of the car. The group then travelled to Pinehill and then Gallup, New Mexico, when Panteah allegedly called John because she didn’t know what to do.

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 John Doe still in the trunk. Eventually, they stopped the car near Bass Lake where John Doe regained consciousness. John Doe was able to open the trunk and got out, and Gilbert John then allegedly stabbed John Doe with a machete and knife. Gilbert John and Panteah then allegedly put John Doe back in the trunk and sat on it to prevent John Doe from getting out until John Doe stopped moving.

John 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, doused it, and set it alight.

The alleged offenses took place on the Navajo Nation and John Doe is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation.

An indictment is only an allegation. A defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, John and Panteah face life in prison.

The Gallup Resident Agency of the FBI’s Albuquerque Field Office investigated this case with assistance from the Navajo Nation Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Alexander F. Flores is prosecuting the case.

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