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New Mexico man sentenced in murder of Army veteran girlfriend whose remains were found 2 years later in Nevada desert

CBS News podcast: "Missing Justice"
"Missing Justice" highlights unsolved deaths, missing people cases in Indigenous communities 05:45

A New Mexico man was sentenced to 33 years in prison Thursday for the 2019 murder of his girlfriend, a retired U.S. Army veteran whose remains were found nearly two years later in the Nevada desert.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office said 61-year-old Jerry Jay of Farmington was sentenced after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and kidnapping.

They said it was the first case prosecuted under the murdered and missing indigenous person bill passed last year.

Missing Navajo Woman
This undated photo provided by the Farmington (N.M.) Police Department shows Cecilia Finona, 59. / AP

Prosecutors said Cecilia Finona, a 59-year-old Farmington resident of Navajo descent, was reported missing by her family in June 2019.

Her remains were found in February 2021 in a remote desert culvert just outside of Las Vegas and identified through DNA testing.

Finona's family says she retired in 2019 as an Army master sergeant after 31 years of service and Jay was her boyfriend.

Authorities said Jay struck Finona on the head with a blunt object after an argument on May 31, 2019 and he put the victim in the backseat of her truck.

Finona bled to death as Jay drove through Arizona, Nevada and California, using her debit card along the way to pay for new truck tires and gas before dumping the body, according to prosecutors.

They said Jay was later arrested for stealing the debit card and allegedly told a jailmate that he had killed Finona.

Jay "not only killed in cold blood but took every step on his power to try to get away with it," said Mark Probasco, deputy director of prosecutions of the attorney general's office.

Financial records plus video and forensic evidence connected Jay to the murder, authorities said. Probasco also noted there were "blood tracks" on a driveway linking Jay to the crime.

"Jerry Jay took a bright light from the world in 2019 and for that, he received the sentence that he deserves," New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said after the sentencing. "I thank our prosecution team along with the San Juan County prosecutors for their dedication to this case and to Cecilia."

Steven Barber, Finona's brother, told KOAT-TV that He moved into his sister's home in January.

"Sometimes I talk to her," Barber said. " I go through the door and say, 'Good morning, sister. How are you doing?' I think she's still here. That's what I think. It gives me comfort, [especially] knowing that she's not out there anymore."

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