FBI uncovers new lead in murder of New Mexico musician ‘taken’ from motel, mom says

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Federal investigators have uncovered a new lead in the cold case murder of a New Mexico musician who vanished from a motel recording session under suspicious circumstances, his mother says.

Zachariah Shorty was last seen alive on July 21, 2020, at the Journey Inn in Farmington, New Mexico, a close-knit town in the northwestern part of the state on the edge of the Navajo Nation.

He was a 23-year-old musician and had gone to the motel to record with a group of four other people.

The exact circumstances of how he left are unclear. His mother, Evangeline “Vangie” Randall-Shorty, received a phone call from one of his friends around 11 p.m. The caller told her that her son went outside to smoke a cigarette and never returned.

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But when Randall-Shorty called her son’s phone, the same friend answered.

“[She] answered it and said Zach left his phone,” she told Fox News Digital. “I asked if he was back. She said, ‘no.’ Zach never leaves his phone.”

Randall-Shorty had gone to the motel around 7 that night to drop off a pizza for her son.

One of the last things he told her was “I’m going to finish this track.”

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He was missing for four days before investigators found his remains in a field on the Navajo Reservation. He suffered gunshot wounds before his killer or killers left him there.

“I say ‘taken’ because he was found in Nenahnezad, in a field, on a dirt road,” his mother said. 

That’s 13 miles from where he was last seen in Farmington, and you’d have to pass his home in Kirtland to get there.

Although later this month will mark four years since the slaying, Randall-Shorty said investigators have given her a new glimmer of hope for justice.

“I got a call from the FBI, that they had a new lead,” she told Fox News Digital. “I’m just hoping and praying that that is the lead that we need to solve Zach’s case.”

They asked her if she recognized a couple of names, she said. She did. 

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“After the update from them (the FBI), I did get another tip, and I passed the information to them as well,” she said. “The same names keep coming up.”

The FBI declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing investigation. But Randall-Shorty and her lawyer are hopeful that investigators will bring her son’s killer to justice.

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“In this case, there were witnesses in that hotel room that were with him prior to him going missing,” said Darlene Gomez, the attorney representing Shorty’s mother pro bono. “The family has provided many, many leads. There’s a body that was found. It’s a small community. These are generally the precursors for a case being solved.”

Gomez, who operates a nonprofit dedicated to solving missing and murder cases involving indigenous women and their relatives, MMIWR, said that businesses up and down the street had surveillance cameras, too.

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But as the case dragged on, several witnesses died, she said.

The FBI has jurisdiction because Shorty’s remains were discovered on tribal land.

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There is a $10,000 reward offered for information that cracks the case and leads to a conviction.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 505-889-1300 or go to tips.fbi.gov.

Fox News’ Peter Petroff contributed to this report.