RENO, Nev. — A Nevada man was arrested on December 15, 2020, for allegedly murdering an indigenous woman on the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, announced U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich for the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse of the FBI.
Michael Burciaga, 33, was charged with second degree murder within Indian Country. Burciaga made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge William G. Cobb, who scheduled a jury trial for February 22, 2021.
“Native Americans face particularly high rates of violence, including intimate partner violence. To increase public safety at tribal communities within Nevada, our office helped launch the MMIP Initiative last year,” said U.S. Attorney Trutanich. “Because combatting domestic violence is a top priority, our prosecutors were able to work with our law enforcement partners to take swift action here — filing preliminary charges within hours — and we have continued to coordinate in the investigation of this case.”
“The FBI stands strongly with our tribal partners in our joint commitment to hold those responsible to justice,” said Special Agent in Charge Rouse. “Violent crimes, such as this horrendous act, will never go unchallenged.”
According to allegations in the criminal complaint, Burciaga stabbed the victim with multiple knives during a domestic violence incident. Shortly after midnight on December 15, Pyramid Lake Police Department officers responded to an emergency call at a house in Nixon, Nevada. Officers located the victim — a registered member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe — in the master bathroom. Officers then located a man, later identified as Burciaga, outside the residence.
As alleged, officers observed a laceration on Burciaga’s hand and rendered first aid, during which Burciaga told officers in sum and substance: “I already know what happened, and I know what I did, which is why I slit my wrist.” After officers bandaged his hand, Burciaga was transported by ambulance to a hospital. While in transit, Burciaga told officers that the victim was pregnant with his child.
If convicted, Burciaga faces a statutory maximum sentenced of life imprisonment. The sentencing of a defendant will be determined by the Court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
A complaint contains merely allegations, and every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The FBI and Pyramid Lake Police Department are investigating the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Penelope Brady.
In November 2019, the Department of Justice launched the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative, a national strategy to address missing and murdered Native Americans. The MMIP Initiative includes the deployment of the FBI’s most advanced response capabilities when needed, improved data collection and analysis, and training to support local response efforts. The District of Nevada was one of the first 11 U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide where an MMIP Coordinator was assigned, working closely with federal, tribal, state and local agencies to develop common protocols and procedure for responding to reports of missing or murdered indigenous people.