PHOENIX — The FBI is now offering a $5,000 reward in the disappearance of Ella Mae Begay who has been missing from the Navajo Nation since June 2021.
Begay was reported missing on June 15, after her truck was seen driving away from her home early in the morning, according to the FBI. Her truck, a 2005 silver or gray Ford F-150 is believed to have gone toward New Mexico.
Begay's niece, Seraphine Warren, began walking from the Navajo Nation to Washington D.C. on the anniversary of Begay's disappearance earlier this year.
"I couldn't just wait for answers," Warren said.
The goal of her walking was to raise awareness for her aunt's case, and other missing or murdered indigenous people across the U.S.
"It's been over a year," Warren said. "So I'm just feeling like it's headed that way again, where they won't have any success and finding anybody."
Since Begay's disappearance, Warren has organized search parties, dissatisfied with the investigation.
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Now, with the FBI offering a reward, Warren said she hopes it can help.
"That would mean a lot for us to maybe get a little closer to getting answers for my aunt," Warren said.
Warren said she wonders if the reward will be enough for people to come forward.
"I know that a lot of people would want the reward to help with the lead, but I feel like their life is more important to them to not take the money and jeopardize their life," Warren said.
On hearing the new reward in Begay's case, Rep. Greg Stanton (D), told 12News in an emailed statement:
“The crisis of missing Indigenous women is an enduring tragedy, and the federal government must do more to solve this epidemic. I’m encouraged that the FBI is stepping up its efforts to investigate Ella Mae Begay’s disappearance, and am hopeful this reward and renewed public attention will help solve her case.”
While on her walk, Warren said she heard so many stories of Indigenous people gone missing.
"Every day it just seems like there's somebody missing again, and it's getting frustrating not just only for me now it's a lot of families that have experienced it," Warren said. "I think I lost hope a lot of times because of the amount of time a lot of these families are waiting for justice and, and missing loved ones and some of the cases have been closed and just knowing that unfairness of how these cases are being treated."
In Arizona, a statewide study committee in partnership with ASU researchers found 160 indigenous women and girls in Arizona were known to be murdered between 1976 and 2018.
However, the study notes many of those homicides go unreported.
The state's committee is now expanding to investigate violence against all indigenous people, not just women.
The FBI is asking those who know where Ella Mae Begay is or about the details and circumstances surrounding her disappearance that could help lead to identifying, arresting or convicting whoever is responsible for her disappearance, is asked to contact the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office at (623) 466-1999 or call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).
"I really would just like for her to come back safely," Warren said.
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