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Missing Brenda Schmalfeldt
Details of Disappearance Schmalfeldt was last seen leaving the Zodies Bar in the 3000 block of Flamingo Road near Eastern Avenue in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 13, 2007. She had been drinking there and the bartender cut her off. She walked out of the bar with an acquaintance, Raven Navajo, at 3:00 p.m. Photographs of Navajo are posted with this case summary. Navajo is transgender; although biologically male, she lives as a female. Her birth name was Michael Scott Harmon.
Less than a week after Schmalfeldt's disappearance, Navajo went to police and confessed she had killed her. Navajo stated the two of them went to Navajo's residence to watch movies, then Navajo accused Schmalfeldt of stealing money and they had an argument that escalated into a fight.
Navajo said she beat Schmalfeldt to death, then stole $580 from the dead woman's purse. She said she was drunk at the time and "blacked out" after hitting Schmalfeldt the first time, and did not realize she had killed her until she woke up later and saw the corpse. She kept Schmalfeldt's body for several days before putting the remains in a dumpster behind the Clark County Education Association in the 4200 block of McLeod Drive.
Authorities found Schmalfeldt's blood in Navajo's garage, on the hood of Navajo's 1996 Chrysler Sebring and in the dumpster. Schmalfeldt's jewelry was also located in Navajo's apartment.
Navajo was charged with murder and robbery and investigators began a search for Schmalfeldt's body, which is believed to be in the Apex Landfill. An extensive search of the landfill failed to turn up any evidence, however, and police eventually stopped looking.
In October 2007, Navajo attempted to plead guilty to first-degree murder. Prosecutors had offered to let her plead to second-degree murder instead, but Navajo insisted she wanted the harshest possible punishment. The presiding judge refused to accept Navajo's plea, ruling that there was insufficient evidence of premeditiation to prove first-degree murder, so Navajo went to trial.
Her attorney conceded she had caused Schmalfeldt's death, but argued that it was an accident. In February 2008, Navajo was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to ten years to life in prison. Three of the jurors said they had wanted to convict her of a lesser offense such as manslaughter, but they didn't have the option.
Schmalfelt was a regular customer at Zodies Bar prior to her disappearance. She is originally from Iowa. At the time of her disappearance, she was employed as a cocktail waitress at the New York-New York and had three pet dogs. Foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
Investigating Agency / Department