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

Police respond to a deadly shooting in Bountiful. (John Wilson, KSL TV)...

Josh Ellis

One man dead after shooting in Bountiful

Bountiful police say one man was shot and killed early Thursday morning. No arrests have been made in connection to the shooting.

2 hours ago

fences and buildings with an inmate walking on a snowy sidewalk...

Daniella Rivera

New Prison, New Problems: Inside the effort to staff Utah’s new $1 billion prison facility

Utah's new prison cost taxpayers more than a $ 1 billion, yet a scathing audit shows the new facility has been unsafe and still isn't being used as intended. After being granted unprecedented access, the KSL Investigators go inside the new prison for a look at what's being done to fix its new problems.

9 hours ago

A 36-year-old man is accused of threatening police with a gun in downtown Salt lake City on Feb. 28...

Mary Culbertson

Man accused of threatening police with gun in downtown Salt Lake

A man is accused of threatening police with a gun in downtown Salt Lake City.

13 hours ago

FILE PHOTO...

Michael Houck

Shooting near Naples Elementary School forces lockdown, two victims hospitalized

A man and a woman were shot in a home in Naples, forcing the nearby Naples Elementary School to lockdown Wednesday afternoon.

14 hours ago

A West Jordan nanny is behind bars, accused of seriously injuring a baby....

Garna Mejia

West Jordan woman arrested, accused of seriously injuring the baby she nannied

A West Jordan nanny is behind bars, accused of seriously injuring a baby.

14 hours ago

FILE - U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., a member of the House Freedom Caucus, speaks during a new...

Colleen Slevin and Jesse Bedayn, Associated Press

Rep. Lauren Boebert’s son arrested in connection with string of vehicle break-ins, police say

The oldest son of U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has been arrested in connection with a recent string of vehicle break-ins and property thefts.

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

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.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

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