Cold Cases of the Desert Southwest: Lewis 'Mucaw' Jefferson

Mucaw Cold Case Full Story
YUMA, Ariz. -

Lewis 'Mucaw' Jefferson was found dead on a local railroad track on November 26, 2008. His family has been searching for answers since despite detectives declaring the case undetermined. His family still considers the case cold.

Mucaw's grandfather, Preston J. Arrow-Weed, remembers the day he got the news, "The vice president came early in the morning, the sun had not come up yet, it was still dark. It was rainy though. He said he had bad news, and he told me your grandson was run over by the train."

Mucaw and his family are members of the Quechan tribe. His grandfather has been skeptical of the case since they initially deemed it a suicide.

"I asked them how did he die, he said suicide. Suicide? I said how did you determine that?" Arrow-Weed says.

Although initial investigations declared the death a suicide, it eventually changed to undetermined. Autopsy reports say Mucaw died of blunt force trauma and a fractured neck. One of his legs was amputated by the train.

His mother, Penelope Lewis, say she believes Mucaw was already dead when he was laid on those tracks. He was found with a black eye and fractured ribs. She says she had a bad feeling about his death from the beginning.

Mucaw, along with a small part of the tribe was against the building of the Quechan casino. To protest the construction he walked in the 'Longest Walk', singing tradition tribal songs he learned from his grandfather.

"He walked clear across the country, singing tribal songs and protesting the building on the sacred sight, and of course a lot of people weren't too happy about that," Arrow-Weed says, "It was an FBI matter, but instead they turned it over the the county, they should have known they're jurisdiction."

The Imperial County Sheriff's Office (ICSO) is assigned to the case, however, a field investigation report from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) shows Mucaw's body was found in Arizona, approximately 13 feet south of the boundary line. His family is concerned about the chain of custody regarding jurisdiction, saying his body was found within the reservation boundaries, making the FBI responsible for the case.

Mucaw's mother says, "My reason for doing this is I am hoping someone who saw something will come forward, its been eight years."


December 2, 2016

Mucaw's family believes the jurisdiction in this case was misguided from the beginning. The ICSO says the majority of their maps show his body was found in California. They also confirmed ICSO has been on the case since the beginning, but had reached out to other agencies for possible insight on the case.

They determined Mucaw's case as an accidental death, but they are not considering it a closed. Their investigation on Mucaw's death took years as rumors and gossip poured out of the Quechan Indian Reservation. ICSO, Lieutenant Scott Sheppard, says they followed up with every single rumor and lead.

Sergeant Jorge Cabanillas with ICSO's Investigative Unit says, "We did a multitude of interviews with people. People who had last seen him, people who were relatives. We tried to get as much background on him as possible."

He adds "There was no evidence to make us think his death was a homicide. There's no evidence that pointed to foul play."

Although they are no longer actively investigating the case, ICSO assures if they get any additional information, they will follow up.

If you have any information about the death of Lewis 'Mucaw' Jefferson, contact the ICSO (442) 265-2220.


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