Clues Found In Navajo's Vision

Newspaper article from the Arizona Republic, Friday, January 9, 1998
Front Page

Medicine man, officer agree on details of death

Up on the Navajo Reservation last month, a medicine man held a ceremony for a grieving mother, Carolyn Clah.

He told her he had a vision about her son's mysterious death in Phoenix, which police said might have been a suicide.

Also last month, Phoenix police homicide Det. Gary McWilliams came across a key lead in the case of Kamanuel Clah.

The 16-year-old was found Dec. 14, lying dead from a gunshot wound on the banks of the Arizona Canal near 23rd Avenue.

Somehow, the medicine man and the cop - worlds apart in geography and culture - came up with the same conclusions.

Kamanuel did not commit suicide, they both said.

And, McWilliams said, they both came up with virtually identical descriptions of two likely suspects.

"I don't know how the medicine man did what he did," said McWilliams, who stressed that he'd shared his information with no one outside his unit.

"But it was pretty amazing."

Clah, with whom Kamanuel was living in Phoenix, could not be reached for comment Thursday. But Kamanuel's father, Tony Tsosie, said the boy had planned to spend the Christmas holiday with him in Dinnehotso.

Tsosie said the youngster wanted to live with him while attending a reservation high school. He described his son as a "happy and energetic" boy who loved sports.

The teen also was "a pretty innocent young man who had spent most of his life on the reservation, and whose universe was expanding," McWilliams said.

McWilliams said Kamanuel had been dazzled when he went to a Phoenix car show and saw his first low-rider, the detective said. He "wrote down that he would love to have his picture taken with him standing beside a low-rider."

Instead, a hearbroken Clah took her boy's body back to the reservation and arranged to see a medicine man.

Authorities on Navajo culture say medicine men are called "diagnosticians," "hand tremblers" or "crystal gazers."

They carry the special power of asking the Holy People, such as the wind, the sky, the stars and the Earth for help to find solutions.

During the 1993 hantavirus outbreak in the Four Corners region, for example, medicine men played a role in helping epidemiologists identify what was then called a silent killer.

The medicine man told Clah that her son did not die alone.

A young Indian man with hair closely cut on the sides and longer on top was at the scene, he said, as was a young Indian woman with long, reddish, curly hair.

The medicine man said the killer would be filled with remorse soon after the new year and would want to come forward.

Clah called McWilliams, who was still working the frustrating case.

McWilliams had checked out a black and white lithograph found on Kamanuel's body, and learned the boy had bought it at Chris-Town Mall the day before his death.

Then McWilliams learned that on the evening he died Kamanuel had dined at Filiberto's Mexican Food restaurant at 2240 W. Indian School Road.

When the detective interviewed restaurant employees, McWilliams said, they told him Kamanuel had not been alone that night.

They said he'd been with an Indian man with hair cut short on the sides and longer on top and an Indian woman with long, red, curly hair.

McWilliams said he hadn't shared that information with Clah or anyone else outside the homicide bureau.

The detective said when he talked with Clah, she told him she had faith in the powers of the medicine man.

"She said to me, 'This is a real Navajo medicine man, from the old ways,' and she said she had a lot of faith in him," McWilliams said.

McWilliams said he is not ready yet to release all the information detectives gathered at the crime scene, or even everything that came from the medicine man's vision.

"We will say this," be said. "The medicine man gave the mother a description of what he believes happened and who was responsible. It works very well with evidence we have gathered and conclusions we've reached in our investigations."

"Now we hope he is right about the person wanting to come forward, wanting to talk about what happened."

Kamanuel's parents and relatives are still deep in their grief.

"I cried. I went through a lot of grief," Tsosie said, "He was my son. I had dreams for him. He would finish high school, go to college and make a good living for himself."

Kamanuel's aunt, Geneva Smith, said, "We want the case to be solved. We don't know why and how he was killed. If we don't know, we'll never find peace."