On the morning of December 1, 2012, in the season of Shalako, Zuñi Police were notified that Ernesto Cata, a 12 year-old member of the Zuñi Pueblo, and his best friend, 14 year-old Navajo George Bowlegs, were missing. Cata’s body was found the next morning, the victim of an apparent homicide
The initial investigation established that on the evening of November 30, Cata went for his daily run in the hills near the pueblo, in training for his role in the upcoming Shalako ritual as Shulawitsi, the Little Fire God, a physically demanding position requiring the boy to dance continuously for several hours during the ceremonies. According to what Bowlegs, prior to his disappearance, told his friend, Chance Oxford, he had gone to join Cata at the conclusion of his run on the 30th when he saw a kachina, or Zuñi spirit being, where Cata was supposed to meet him, and he fled in terror. Shortly thereafter, Cata’s body, his head nearly severed by a blow from a large and very sharp weapon, was discovered in a shallow grave nearby.
The investigation was soon joined by Lieutenant Jo/Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Police Department, who was assigned to find Bowlegs; Agent Chris O’Malley of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who was involved because the federal government has jurisdiction over homicides committed in Indian Country; and, Agent Pat Baker of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, who suspected Cata’s murder was connected with an ongoing investigation of a possible Mexican heroin smuggling operation at a nearby commune known as “Jason’s Fleece.”
After an extensive search, Lt. Leaphorn finally found George Bowlegs at Shalako during the early morning hours of December 7. Before s/he could apprehend him in the crowds, however, Bowlegs was shot dead in an alleyway by an unknown assailant. Two days later, federal agents raided Jason’s Fleece, discovering not only a quantity of Mexican heroin, but also a machete stained with blood matching Cata’s, the handgun with which Bowlegs was shot, and a top plume from a Zuñi kachina.
Oxford and another resident of Jason’s Fleece, Aaron “Tex” Halsey, were arrested for possession of heroin, and Halsey for the murders of Cata and Bowlegs. Oxford has entered a plea in the possession case in exchange for her/his testimony in the Halsey murder trial. The possession charge against Halsey is still pending.
In Halsey’s trial for the murders of Cata and Bowlegs, the prosecution will call Chance Oxford, Rabbi Isador/a Inglestein, and Agent Chris O’Malley. The defense will call Lt. Jo/e Leaphorn, who believes that Halsey is being framed by the DEA for murders actually committed by Professor Chester Reynolds, who has since disappeared, to cover up a fraudulent anthropological dig; Tristan Isaacs, Professor Reynolds’ assistant at the dig; and, as an adverse witness, Agent Pat Baker.
Both the prosecution and the defense are ready to proceed in the matter of United States of America vs. Aaron Halsey.
WRITTEN BY: Karl Johnson, Esq., Robert Hyde, Esq., Anthony Little, Esq. and Michelle Giger.