A federal judge unsealed an indictment on Tuesday against a New Mexico man connected to the 2021 disappearance of Ella Mae Begay, a Diné woman whose case made national headlines and helped raise awareness of missing women in Indian Country. 

Preston Tolth, 23, was indicted by a grand jury on assault and carjacking charges related to Begay’s disappearance. Federal prosecutors alleged that Tolth assaulted Begay, stole her truck and drove it across state lines. He is scheduled to be arraigned in front of a federal magistrate on Friday. 

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“This indictment is an important first step in determining the truth about what happened to an elderly victim on the Navajo Nation,” U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino said in a statement.

Begay was last seen on Monday, June 14, 2021 near her home in Sweetwater, Ariz. driving a Silver 2005 Ford F-150. She was reported missing the next day. Three days after her disappearance, Tolth was arrested on Navajo Nation for a separate crime and identified a person of interest. 

In June 2022, exactly one year after Begay disappeared, her niece, Seraphine Warren began walking from Begay’s home in Sweetwater to Washington D.C. to meet Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in order to bring awareness to the situation. As her walk stretched on for five months, it brought attention and national media coverage to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people.  

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