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Naschitti man sentenced for kidnapping, killing Gallup man

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A federal judge handed down a 30-year prison sentence on May 17 to a Naschitti man who pleaded guilty to conspiring to kidnap a victim who was lured to a location in Gallup under the false pretense of meeting up with a woman. The victim was then beaten and stabbed to death.

According to court records, on Sept. 16, 2021, Elias Viola, 32, and his then-girlfriend, Shannon Etsitty, devised a plan to lure the victim to a location under the guise of a meetup with Etsitty. Viola sent a text message from Etsitty’s phone propositioning the victim, who agreed to meet.

Etsitty reportedly picked the victim up from his residence and drove him to a location where Viola and another man attacked the victim  in the vehicle, beating him with a baseball bat and stabbing him with a screwdriver. The group then hid the man’s body under nearby brush before returning hours later to move the body to a field near Etsitty’s mother’s house.

On Sept. 23, 2021, after a weeklong community search, the victim’s body was found by an unrelated civilian. The Office of the Medical Investigator determined the man’s manner of death was homicide caused by multiple injuries.

Investigators reviewed the victim’s text messages and determined Etsitty was the last person with whom he communicated. They also determined that shortly after those communications, she and Viola were involved in a single-vehicle crash near the victim’s apartment. However, the crash site was several miles from the location the victim’s body was found. Investigators returned to the crash site and found one of the victim’s black shoes, which matched one found near his body.

Police executed search warrants for Etsitty and Viola’s cellphone and Facebook records. After reviewing messages and confirming Viola was in the area where the victim’s missing shoe was found, police tried to find the vehicle involved in the crash. On Nov. 16, 2021, the FBI located the car in a tow yard.

On Nov. 30, 2021, the FBI executed a search warrant on the vehicle. The backseat was missing and the front-passenger seat, trunk, and the area beneath the backseat showed signs of blood staining. On April 1, 2022, FBI agents executed a search warrant at Viola’s home. Inside, agents located the missing backseat from the vehicle. Through forensic testing, agents determined the blood to be the victim’s.

When Viola was interviewed by agents, he admitted to attacking the victim. Viola pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping on Sept. 18.

Upon his release from prison, Viola will be subject to five years of supervised release.

There is no parole in the federal system.

Etsitty also pleaded guilty to conspiring to kidnap the victim. Her sentencing has not yet occurred.

The Gallup Resident Agency of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office investigated this case with assistance from the Navajo Nation Police Department and the Navajo Department of Criminal Investigations, the Gallup Police Department and the McKinley County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Jones is prosecuting the case.