“Skull Found in Arizona Preserve Identified as Jerole Tsinnijinnie, Missing Native American Man”

By | August 14, 2023



The skull found by a hiker in an Arizona preserve has been identified as that of Jerole Tsinnijinnie, a Native American man who had been missing for over three years. The case is still under investigation as authorities search for answers regarding his cause of death. Tsinnijinnie’s family wonders if he was killed at the park or elsewhere and questions why his case wasn’t given more attention earlier. Phoenix police are treating the case as a homicide. Norman Transcript reported

Authorities have positively identified a skull found in an Arizona preserve as belonging to Jerole Tsinnijinnie, a Native American man who had been missing for over three years. The discovery was made by a hiker at South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix, but the circumstances surrounding his death are still under investigation. Tsinnijinnie’s family had no knowledge of his whereabouts until DNA testing confirmed the match between the skull and their missing loved one. The police are treating the case as a homicide.

Despite being an avid hiker, there are doubts as to whether Tsinnijinnie was killed in the park or elsewhere. His sister, Kaylene Tsinnijinnie, questions whether he would still be alive if the police had given his case more attention from the beginning. The family took matters into their own hands and conducted an independent search, including checking homeless shelters and encampments.

Kaylene Tsinnijinnie expressed frustration at the lack of support from investigators, stating, “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 further details.

It was Tsinnijinnie’s sister who contacted investigators after seeing a composite sketch based on the skull, enquiring whether it depicted her brother. Initially, authorities believed the victim was a white or Hispanic male in his 20s, providing a description of his clothing. However, Tsinnijinnie was Diné, a term used by Navajo tribal members to refer to themselves.

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, has noted that tribal agencies often collaborate closely with families of missing individuals, while federal agencies have been hesitant to share information on investigations. The U.S. government has committed to allocating more resources for these cases, with a special commission conducting field hearings across multiple states to address the concerning rates of disappearances and killings among Native Americans.


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