CRIME

MMIW Task Force aims to solve, prevent murders and disappearances of indigenous people

Oct 15, 2022, 4:59 PM | Updated: 5:20 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Many important meetings happen at the Urban Indian Center in Salt Lake City. However, the one that happened Saturday morning is equally important.

“We have an issue in Utah that the murdered and missing indigenous people of our state are not being recognized, nor are their cases being addressed,” said Yolanda Francisco-Nez.

Francisco-Nez is a member of the Utah Task Force for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

She said there are at least 34 open cases in the state at the moment.

“Salt Lake City and the state of Utah are in the top ten for murdered and missing indigenous women and girls,” she said. “That is significant.”

The big question is why? Why are there so many cases? That is exactly why this task force was formed to figure this out.

They have heard and found many similar stories.

“For instance, the scenario is that when a non-native person attends a pow-wow on a tribal reservation, recruits a young woman to come to the city, buys them clothes, buys them shoes, maybe even gives them a car, and solicits them and then traffics them here on the streets of our city,” said Francisco-Nez. “We know that this is happening.”

When it comes time to investigate or prosecute in this scenario, this task force feels justice isn’t always served.

“Tribal nations cannot prosecute non-native people,” said Francisco-Nez. “Even at the most, at the most, the Navajo Nation, when they prosecute someone, can only put them in jail for up to three years maximum.”

The task force hopes things will change by raising awareness of these concerns.

Families of those indigenous people who have been murdered, both women and men, know how challenging and slow justice can be.

Martha Murray’s family lives in Fort Duchesne. She attended Saturday’s Task Force meeting to tell the stories of three of her family members she said were murdered.

In one case, she said her aunt was murdered by her aunt’s boyfriend. She said it took a lot of fighting to get the police involved.

In another case more than 15 years ago, police say Murray’s nephew shot and killed himself after a police chase.

However, the family said the evidence doesn’t point to that, and a trial in the case is scheduled to begin in a federal courtroom later this month.

“I’m excited to see that there is a task force that’s helping to be a voice for families. To get where we can’t get,” said Murray. “A lot of families have done their own legwork to investigate what happened, and this task force can help to be our voice.”

Michelle Brown, who lives in American Fork and is a member of the Navajo Nation, told the Task Force she got involved in Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls after one of her family members was murdered.

“It can be a painful subject to talk about. Even when her body was found, justice doesn’t necessarily land where it should,” said Brown. “I do think that the fact there is the task force, and they were allowed to form and gain funding to even do this is showing there is some progress that’s being made.”

It is slow progress, but it is happening. One meeting at a time.

“Let’s figure out what is going on, and let’s fix it,” said Francisco-Nez. “So, we are continuing to remain hopeful.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Crime

A married couple was found dead in an American Fork home on Thursday....

Michael Houck

American Fork police rule married couple deaths as murder-suicide

Police have released the identities of the married couple found dead in American Fork Thursday and are ruling it was a murder-suicide. 

51 minutes ago

1 of 6Medina Reyes, Jorge Rafael SO#426266 Mug2021.jpg Jorge Rafael Medina-Reyes, 21, believed to b...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Second man pleads guilty to kidnapping, murder of Kearns woman in 2021

A second man has pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murdering Nicole Solario-Romero, a woman whose abduction near her Kearns home in 2021 was caught on a doorbell camera.

3 hours ago

Ten people have been shot, 2 fatally, following an active shooter incident at Mad Butcher Grocery i...

Zoe Sottile and Justin Lear, CNN

Three dead, 10 wounded, in Arkansas grocery store shooting, authorities say

Three people were killed and 10 wounded in a shooting at a grocery store in Fordyce, Arkansas, the Arkansas State Police said in a news conference Friday.

3 hours ago

A screenshot of a light-colored, newer model Ford Explorer SUV involved in a hit-and-run crash near...

Josh Ellis

Salt Lake City police searching for hit-and-run driver

Police are asking for community help to identify the occupants of an SUV that hit and ran over a 41-year-old woman.

7 hours ago

Odin Meacham, a 30-year-old man from Duchesne County, was found guilty Monday on assaulting officer...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Utah man convicted of assaulting law enforcement at US Capitol on Jan. 6

A man from Utah has been found guilty of seven felonies for actions at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

21 hours ago

Officials obtained video footage from Orem Recreation Center, and needs help identifying this suspe...

Carlysle Price and Brianna Chavez. KSL TV

Police working to identify Orem Recreation Center sexual assault suspect

Officials reported a man sexually assaulted someone at The Orem Recreation Center Wednesday afternoon. Police said they need help identifying the suspect.

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

MMIW Task Force aims to solve, prevent murders and disappearances of indigenous people