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U.S. Attorney’s office charges Zuni man with murder

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ALBUQUERQUE — A Zuni man made an initial appearance on his indictment related to the murder of a member of the Navajo Nation on April 26.

Labar Tsethlikai is considered the prime suspect in a series of crimes targeting Native American men in Gallup, Zuni, and Albuquerque.

Tsethlikai, 51, an enrolled member of the Zuni Pueblo, is charged with murdering a Navajo man on Jan. 18.  The victim was found deceased the next morning in a remote area of the Zuni Reservation on Route 7, approximately 300 yards eastbound of State Highway 602.

Prior to the murder, the victim was last seen along East Highway 66 in Gallup.

According to court records, Tsethlikai is linked to a string of murders, kidnappings, robberies, sexual abuses, and assaults, in both Indian Country and the Albuquerque Metropolitan Area between May 2023 and April 2024. Through the investigation, 10 other potential victims have been identified, with seven crimes occurring within Indian Country, one crime involving the victim being transported from Indian Country to Albuquerque, and three crimes occurring in the Albuquerque area. One other victim is believed to have died after being kidnapped.

Investigators tied Tsethlikai to the crimes through a common modus operandi, victim statements, video surveillance, EBT records, DNA analysis, and advanced cellular phone tracking.  This comprehensive evidence placed Tsethlikai around each victim, including the Navajo man, during the relevant time periods.

The FBI continues to investigate Tsethlikai’s involvement in crimes against other victims. Anyone who has reason to believe they or someone they know may be a victim, or have information about Tsethlikai, call the FBI at (505) 889-1300 or submit tips online at tips.fbi.gov.

Tsethlikai is approximately five feet and seven inches tall, and weighs about 180 pounds. He is heavyset, has short brown hair, brown eyes, and wears glasses. He sometimes wears a gold bracelet. He is from Zuni, but travels extensively around New Mexico, including Gallup, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe.

He is believed to work in the Native American jewelry industry and may be a Zuni jewelry artist. He drives a gold/brown Chevy Silverado, single cab truck, with dual exhaust, bearing license plate number WNMU0043.

If convicted of the Jan. 18 murder, Tsethlikai faces up to life in prison followed by five years of supervised release.

The Gallup Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Albuquerque Field Office investigated this case with assistance from the Albuquerque Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit and Air Support Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew J. McGinley, Mark A. Probasco, and Eliot Neal prosecuted the case.

This case is part of the Department of Justice’s Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Regional Outreach Program, which aims to aid in the prevention and response to missing or murdered Indigenous people through the resolution of MMIP cases and communication, coordination, and collaboration with federal, tribal, state, and local partners.  The Department views this work as a priority for its law enforcement components.  Through the MMIP Regional Outreach Program, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify MMIP cases and issues in tribal communities and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. This prosecution upholds the Department’s mission to the unwavering pursuit of justice on behalf of Indigenous victims and their families.

Staff Reports