“Jerole Tsinnijinnie: Native American Man’s Skull Found, Death Under Investigation”

By | August 13, 2023



The skull found in an Arizona preserve has been identified as that of Jerole Tsinnijinnie, a missing Native American man. The case is being investigated as a homicide, and his family wonders if he was killed there or elsewhere. The family had to conduct their own search to find answers. Authorities initially believed the victim was a white or Hispanic male, but Tsinnijinnie was Diné, a member of the Navajo tribe. The case highlights the issue of missing Native Americans, with Maricopa and Navajo counties in Arizona having the highest number of cases. The U.S. government has pledged more resources to address this issue. KYMA reported

An image depicting the skull found at the South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona has been released. The authorities have confirmed that the skull belongs to Jerole Tsinnijinnie, a Native American man who had been missing for over three years. While the case is still under investigation, both the police and Tsinnijinnie’s family are searching for answers regarding the circumstances of his death.

Tsinnijinnie’s family only discovered his whereabouts last month when DNA testing matched his identity to the skull discovered in January. The Arizona Republic reported that the police are treating the case as a homicide. Despite Tsinnijinnie being an enthusiastic hiker, his family questions whether he was killed at the park or elsewhere. Kaylene Tsinnijinnie, his sister, wonders if her brother would still be alive had the police given his case more attention from the beginning.

The family had to conduct their own independent search, which involved scouring homeless shelters and encampments. Kaylene Tsinnijinnie expressed her frustration, stating, “We had to do everything on our own… Nobody had this ability to think, to believe us that he was a great person. But he was worth looking for. He was worth finding. He was worth asking questions for.”

Phoenix police spokesperson Sgt. Robert Scherer confirmed that the investigation is ongoing but declined to provide specific details about the case. It was Tsinnijinnie’s sister who contacted investigators after they released a composite sketch based on the skull, inquiring whether the illustration was of her brother.

Initially, authorities believed that the victim was a white or Hispanic male in his twenties and provided details about his clothing. However, Tsinnijinnie was Diné, a term used by Navajo tribal members to refer to themselves. Kaylene Tsinnijinnie described her younger brother as a devoted father who loved Batman and online gaming. He went missing just a few months before the birth of his youngest child.


According to data from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, Maricopa and Navajo counties in Arizona have the highest number of missing Native Americans. Phillip Francisco, a former Navajo Nation police chief, noted that tribal agencies are more likely to collaborate closely with the families of missing individuals, while federal agencies have been hesitant to provide information on investigations in the past.

In response to the alarming rate of disappearances and killings among Native Americans, the U.S. government has pledged additional resources for investigations and prosecutions. A special commission recently concluded a series of field hearings in multiple states to address the issue and develop recommendations for improving coordination across jurisdictions.

The 2020 National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics report revealed that there were 9,575 missing Native American persons..

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