Old emotions stirred for people who remember 40-year-old crime

Updated: 07/23/2014 7:06 PM | Created: 07/23/2014 6:35 PM
By: Devin Neeley, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It has been four decades since three high school boys beat and killed three Navajo men, dumping their bodies at Choke Cherry Canyon in Farmington, but the pain is still very real.

"People were hurt inside and out," resident Francis Mitchell said.

The district attorney in that case also wanted to try the boys as adults, but a judge refused and sentenced them to a reform school. After the sentence was handed down, there were marches and protests through the streets of downtown Farmington.

The anger even sparked a showdown between protestors who were not allowed a protest permit and a parade, which did have a permit. Thirty people were arrested that day.

"People didn't really understand how it could have happened that way to as nice of a person and spill it out all over," Mitchell said.

Mitchell is a well-known figure in the local Navajo community. He remembers the anger, the marches and protests.

"Hostility and a lot of bad feelings," he said.

And now after these recent killings, those feelings are back.

"It brings that same feeling to you from what had happened previous," he added.

But Mitchell does see steps toward improvement these last 40 years.

"To a degree I would say yes. I would say yes, people are beginning to understand, but not really to a point where they want to put that into action," he said.

Mitchell sighed and chose his words carefully, but continued.

"I think through education. Living here in Farmington, learn about us, my culture, I do understand your culture, and I hope I am speaking the right language to say that, not only will the language make the difference, but our action," he said.

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