WHITERIVER—A man has been charged with two murders on the White Mountain Apache Tribe reservation, one was of Crystala Manzo whose body was discovered August 14 in a partially burned residence there. A second body, that of a male, was found in the home as well; he has been identified only as R.C. in court filings. They both had been shot in the head; a suspect is in custody.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) seeks charges against Jacob Ray Bravo, age unknown, for two counts of murder, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, and two counts of using a firearm to commit an act of violence under the U.S. criminal code. The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Prescott branch. Bravo is currently in custody of the McKinley County Adult Detention Center in Gallup, New Mexico. He is presumed by law to be innocent.
According to court records, WMAT fire and police responded to an address in the 300 block of West Horseshoe Drive in Whiteriver to put out a fire on the morning of August 14. There they discovered two bodies in the kitchen area. “They were obviously deceased. Both victims were lying on their stomachs and were wrapped in a blue tarp,” stated the BIA agent who was called in to investigate. WMAT police recognized the male, R.C., from “previous encounters,” stated the report. In fact, records show that Bravo and R.C. had contact with the WMAT police two days before the murder—details of the prior contact are unknown. R.C. had been shot in the right side of the head; Ms. Manzo suffered “blunt force trauma” to her mouth, believed to have been caused by the butt of a rifle stock. She had been shot in the head as well.
Investigators began to process the scene but had to quickly leave because the fire flared up again in the attic and began spreading rapidly. They resumed the effort the next day after the fire was completely extinguished. They found an empty box of .22 caliber long rifle ammunition, an empty .22 bullet casing, a live round and a plastic bottle of lighter fluid. A fire investigator concluded that the fire was set intentionally, stated the report. The bodies were removed by a “local mortuary company,” it said.
Investigators learned that suspect Bravo had been renting out the house from a person identified only as L.T. who reportedly owns the home and lives out of state. Apparently the deceased R.C. lived there with Bravo.
Agents discovered that Manzo had text-messaged the reported owner of the house, L.T., the morning of August 14. The texts said that Manzo was at the home with Bravo, “and two other individuals were at the house with her,” according to the agent. It is unknown whether authorities have identified the two other persons or their whereabouts. Manzo’s final text sent at 4:43 a.m. that morning was “Jacob is up now.”
According to an affidavit filed with the court, an eyewitness has come forward, a person who was with Bravo and saw what happened. According to that witness, she went to Bravo’s home to give him a ride somewhere and returned him to the home. Once back there, it appeared that R.C. was in some kind of medical distress, having a seizure. This angered Bravo and he demanded to know what had happened to R.C. He then reportedly grabbed a rifle and smashed Manzo in the mouth with it. By that time, the witness said that R.C had begun to stand up when, “without saying a word” shot R.C. in the head and then shot Manzo where she was lying, killing them both. A later autopsy found a bullet and bullet fragments in the heads of the victims.
The witness, who said she “stood there in shock,” watched Bravo wrap the bodies in a tarp and drag them to the kitchen area. Bravo then told the witness to take him to the Apache Service Station to buy gasoline to torch the place, and that he would he cut the heads off the bodies. Turns out that the service station didn’t sell gas cans, and at that point, the witness found an excuse to leave and dropped Bravo back at the scene. Bravo reportedly warned the witness that if she said anything to anyone, the same thing would happen to her as what happened to R.C. and Ms. Manzo.
It is suspected that someone, maybe Bravo, found some lighter fluid to carry out his plan. It is not known where he was apprehended. He reportedly was held in the WMAT Detention Center, but then transported to Gallup on an unrelated matter, the details of which are not yet known. The identity of the others persons mentioned in the report as being at the home that morning, or whether they are suspects is not known yet, either. There is no court date scheduled yet in Arizona for Bravo.