Prosecution: Cover-up attempted


Brenda Schmalfeldt spent the last day of her life drinking with Raven Navajo at their favorite watering hole, Zodies Bar, before going to Navajo's apartment to watch movies.

A roommate recalled seeing Navajo that Saturday in January 2007 consoling the 45-year-old Schmalfeldt, who was having boyfriend trouble.

The affection between the friends didn't last. Authorities say Navajo, 43, beat Schmalfeldt to death that day. After driving around with the body in the trunk for several days, Navajo put it in a Dumpster, they contend. The body hasn't been recovered.

Navajo, a biological man who identifies himself as a woman, is now on trial for murder.

"This is not a case of who did this. This is a case of what happened," said Kristine Kuzemka, an attorney representing Navajo.

Navajo acknowledged killing Schmalfeldt, telling authorities that the cocktail waitress at New York-New York had tried to steal gambling winnings, according to a Las Vegas police report.

County prosecutor David Stanton said that Navajo tried to cover up the slaying by washing Schmalfeldt's splattered blood off the walls and floor of his garage. He said Navajo even tried to use charcoal briquettes to soak up blood from the garage floor.

At trial Thursday, Stanton displayed a photo of Navajo's garage in normal light. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

Stanton next showed the jury a photo of the same garage that was illuminated by a fluorescent light that uncovers previously hidden blood stains and human tissue. The photo showed glowing splatters of blood on the walls and floor.

Kuzemka, however, said that Navajo had taken full responsibility for Schmalfeldt's death. After Schmalfeldt went missing, rumors began among the crowd at Zodies Bar, on Flamingo Road near Pecos Road, that Schmalfeldt's boyfriend was responsible for her disappearance.

Navajo gave a statement to police about the killing when he learned another man might be blamed for Schmalfeldt's disappearance.

"She (Navajo) did not want an innocent man to be held for what she did," Kuzemka said.

On the first day of the murder trial, Navajo had changed out of the navy blue jailhouse uniform and county-issued orange slippers, wearing women's clothing instead, including a long-sleeve black sweater, dark slacks and silver shoes.

During the trial, one of Navajo's transgender former roommates, 48-year-old Mari Rosenberger, testified about seeing Navajo and Schmalfeldt together on that Saturday, Jan. 13, 2007. Rosenberger, who has long blond hair and wore women's clothing on the stand, said Navajo appeared to be drunk but wasn't aggressive or angry.

Rosenberger testified about seeing Navajo comforting Schmalfeldt, who appeared distraught over boyfriend problems.

Rosenberger several hours later found Navajo on their couch. Rosenberger said Navajo appeared disoriented and was confused about what time it was.

After Navajo told police he had gotten rid of Schmalfeldt's body in a trash bin near Zodies Bar, police searched the area but couldn't find the body.

Authorities then searched for 21/2 days at the landfill at Apex, northeast of Las Vegas. Authorities searched an area about the size of two football fields and dug 40 feet down but still couldn't find Schmalfeldt's remains.

The trial is scheduled to resume today.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or (702) 380-1039.

 

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