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WHITE MESA, San Juan County — A member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in southern Utah has been charged with murder after investigators say he stole and then crashed a vehicle with a 5-year-old girl inside, killing her.
Qwana McCook, 28, of White Mesa, was charged by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court with kidnapping while within Indian Country, robbery while within Indian Country, and two counts of murder within Indian Country, both first-degree felonies, according to newly unsealed court documents.
On May 8, a woman was at a home in the Ute Mountain Ute reservation in White Mesa in San Juan County preparing to leave in her truck. She placed her two children in the vehicle and started the truck to let it warm up, and then returned inside the home to say goodbye to her sister.
The woman's 8-year-old son then ran into the house and said "the guys are taking the truck," according to charging documents.
When the woman returned outside, she saw McCook in the driver's seat and another man, later identified as Augustice Yellow, 22, in the passenger seat.
Investigators say the woman ran to McCook "to prevent him from taking the truck with her children inside." She asked him what he was doing and said that her daughter was in the vehicle, according to court records.
McCook then hit the woman in the face, and she fell to the ground as she tried to stop him, the charges state.
The woman's 5-year-old daughter — identified only as "Lilly" and "L.P." — remained inside the truck as the men drove off in it, according to investigators, and its whereabouts remained unknown for about 2½ hours.
"Surrounding counties were notified of the situation by dispatch and an Amber Alert was being prepared to be issued. At approximately 9:46 a.m., dispatch received a call of a rollover of a truck near Cahone Mesa on the Navajo Nation," charges state.
Police found the site where the stolen truck had crashed, ejecting the 5-year-old. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to court documents. McCook and Yellow were still in the truck, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
San Juan County sheriff's deputies, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Patrol and Investigations, Navajo Nation Patrol and Investigations, and the Utah Highway Patrol investigated the incident.
A potential motive for the robbery of the truck was not released in court documents. Investigators also did not disclose whether the family of the victim knew the men who took the truck.
One of the murder counts says McCook killed the child while also committing a kidnapping and the second murder count says he killed the girl while also committing a robbery.
Yellow, who investigators say was with McCook in the truck, was also charged in U.S. District Court with kidnapping. Police say Yellow failed to notify law enforcement, committed an "affirmative act to conceal the kidnapping" and put gas in the kidnapper's vehicle. Yellow has consented to a judge to plead guilty to the charge, according to court documents.
McCook remains in custody pending trial, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.