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Man from Gallup pleads guilty to second-degree murder in Indian Country

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Darrell Desiderio, 44, of Gallup, New Mexico, and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, pleaded guilty on July 26 in federal court to second-degree murder in Indian Country. Desiderio will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

According to Desiderio’s plea agreement and other court records, on June 7, 2018, Desiderio and a co-defendant, Ervin Yazzie, conspired to kidnap a victim, identified as John Doe, and take the victim’s truck. Yazzie pleaded guilty on Feb. 3, 2020.

Yazzie admitted to luring the victim to Desiderio to assist Desiderio in acquiring a vehicle. Under the pretense that Desiderio “knew some women who would want to ‘party,’” Yazzie and the victim picked up Desiderio and drove north of Gallup to a remote area. Desiderio ordered the victim to pull over and pressed a knife to the victim’s throat. During a struggle for the keys to the vehicle, Desiderio stabbed the victim in the neck and continued to stab him. The victim died as a result of the wounds inflicted by Desiderio. The murder occurred in McKinley County, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation.

By the terms of the plea agreement, Desiderio faces 20 to 30 years in prison.

The Gallup Resident Agency of the FBI’s Albuquerque Field Office investigated this case with assistance from the Navajo Police Department, Gallup Police Department, McKinley County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Spindle is prosecuting the case.