Navajo Girl Ashlynne Mike Was Assaulted, Bludgeoned, And Left To Die In The Desert

The man accused of killing 11-year-old Navajo girl Ashlynne Mike appeared in court Wednesday, and as a result, disturbing details about the crime have emerged.

Tom Begaye, 27, told the court that he abducted Ashlynne Monday afternoon with the intention of having sex with her. In a remote spot near Shiprock Pinnacle in New Mexico, he stripped the girl naked, molested her, then struck her twice in the head with a tire iron, the Associated Press reported.

When he left, Mike was bloodied and still moving. The girl was found, dead and still naked, on Tuesday.

Begaye now faces charges of murder and kidnapping as the Navajo community tries to make sense of the heinous crime, in which he allegedly kidnapped Ashlynne’s brother as well. In the wake of her death, the tribe, which doesn’t have its own Amber Alert system, is trying to determine what it can do to make its community safer.

On Wednesday, a tipster told a Navajo criminal investigator that he spotted Begaye’s van outside a sweat lodge near Shiprock. Soon afterward, he was arrested and confessed to his crimes.

Sher Brown knows both Ashlynne and Begaye. She said the suspect regularly participated in sweat lodge ceremonies, which are for spiritual cleansing. He was active in cultural and religious life on the reservation.

“How can a man of that nature who did what he did go into a sweat lodge after?”

The spot where Ashlynne Mike was taken — near a small rusted bridge — is now decorated with purple and pink balloons and flowers in honor of the little girl, the Farmington Daily Times reported. Her mother said she played there after school while waiting for her siblings. That’s where she was on Monday, playing in an irrigation canal with her younger brother and cousin Ian Mike.

They were quarter-mile from home and had just been dropped off by the school bus.

Begaye allegedly approached the children in his van and asked offered them a ride and a trip to the movies. Ian said no, as did Ashlynne’s older sister. But Ashlynne was lured in (she’d hurt her foot while playing) and her brother, who is 9, didn’t want her to go alone, CBS News reported. He hopped into the van with her.

Begaye reportedly told police that he drove the children to a remote area along a dirt road. At this point, Ashlynne begged to go home, but her abductor just led her further away. Now alone with the child, he assaulted and bludgeoned her.

Hours later, he left Mike there, apparently still alive, and drove off, leaving her brother behind. Another media account indicated that he’d escaped.

With the man gone, the boy tried to find Ashlynne but had to give up when it got dark. He ran for help, spotting headlights on a road in the distance, and was rescued by a passing motorist. That person brought the child to police.

The Navajo community mobilized to find Ashlynne Mike, and the next morning found her body near the Shiprock Pinnacle.

The suspect now faces life in prison if convicted on the murder charge. He has no criminal record except a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana on April 15. A public defender hasn’t yet been appointed for him and he remains in federal custody.

Little is known about Begaye, except that both his parents are dead and he has a brother; his mother, Agnes, was active in the local church and taught at several schools on the reservation.

In the wake of Ashlynne Mike’s death, some are questioning the response of law enforcement in the remote parts of the Navajo Nation; critically, the tribe doesn’t have an Amber Alert system. The alert for Mike was raised until hours after her disappearance, and the president of the nation’s San Juan Chapter, Rick Nez, said an earlier notification could’ve saved her life.

[Photo by Mary Hudetz/AP Images]