Navajo Man Gets 35 Years for Brutal Rape and Murder of 18-Year-Old Kayenta Woman

Sankey Jim Reid of Kayenta was sentenced to 35 years in a federal prison last week for the brutal rape and murder of his friend's 18-year-old girlfriend.

As New Times reported last year, an FBI investigation showed Reid, 31, raped Nix anally in April 2014 after driving her to a dark road south of the Navajo Nation town, then suffocated her before running over her body with his car.

However, as a plea deal Reid signed with the government in January states, Reid had only tried to suffocate her. She was killed by "crushing injuries to the head and body," an autopsy later found.

See also: -Kayenta Man Confesses to Rape and Suffocation-Murder of Woman, 18, Says FBI

The plea agreement with the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office didn't require Reid to admit to the rape, even though he'd previously confessed to the violent act. The document states that "They had been drinking together but the victim eventually tried to escape. Sanky [sic] Reid then tried to suffocate her to quiet her. He then put her in front of his car and ran her over a number of times to make it look an accident. He then dumped body down by road."

Reid pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder in the deal, which was approved last week by Arizona U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes.

Public Defender Jon Sands wrote in a sentencing memorandum earlier this week that Reid should receive no more than 25 years in prison, arguing that the attack wasn't premeditated and that both Nix and Reid were drunk. She had a .22 BAC, he wrote, and Reid's intoxication level was likely at least as high.

Before the murder, the investigation showed, Nix's boyfriend stole some of Nix's belongings to sell for his meth habit. He told her they'd been stolen by some gang members at the small town's skate park, and they went to Reid's house to ask him to help.

Reid played Good Samaritan for a time, calling police and going with Nix and her boyfriend to the skate park to look for the fictional gang members. They talked to a Navajo Nation police officer at the park, then went back to Reid's house. Nix and Reid soon left the home in Reid's car, allegedly to return to the park and talk to police again, and the boyfriend stayed behind because he was too drunk.

The boyfriend called police about 4 a.m. to report that Nix was missing -- and that her bloody underwear had been found in Reid's Nissan Murano. The vehicle was owned by the longtime girlfriend of Reid who's mother to their five children.

Reid later confessed that he and Nix stopped out on the rural road and smoked some cigarettes. She'd been drinking peach schnapps heavily all evening and passed out in the Murano. He pulled down her pants and raped her anally, he told the FBI.

Nix was found to have significant injuries to her anus and rectum, and an FBI agent told Reid during an interrogation that Nix must have suffered extreme pain from the sexual attack. Reid confessed that she'd woken up screaming.

He explained to the FBI that he didn't want her running off and telling people what had happened, so he put a hand over her mouth and tried to suffocate her. It's unclear whether he knew Nix was still alive when he ran over her multiple times.

The murder rocked the tiny Navajo town in northeast Arizona of 5,200, which in the recent past has been the location of extreme violence. In 2012, two men and two women were murdered in three separate incidents within a 12-hour period.

An October blog post by Donna Schindler, a New Zealand psychiatrist who specializes in indigenous people and works on the Navajo Nation, wrote that Nix's murder affected Kayenta the most out of four homicides that occurred there in 2014. She identified Nix as a senior at Monument Valley High School who had worked as a babysitter in the past for Reid's children. Lisa Charley, Nix's mother and a longtime worker with the Indian Health Services Clinic in Kayenta, lost a 26-year-old nephew to a shooting death that occurred just weeks after Nix's slaying, Schindler wrote.

This week, Reid filed an appeal in the case with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.