• John Lodgepole pleaded guilty to beating Michealene Warren to death in Nenahnezad
• Prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez gave him a plea deal of six to eight years and asked a judge to sentence him to seven
• His sentencing has been indefinitely postponed
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After giving John Lodgepole, 22, a plea deal of six to eight years for staving in the head of a woman, and then beating her ankles with a cane, federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez is asking a judge to sentence him to seven years in prison.
In a largely boilerplate sentencing memorandum filed on Feb. 26, 2021, Ruiz-Velez wrote that a presentence investigation report put Lodgepole’s sentencing guideline at 6 1/2 to 8 years, with an offense level of 26 and a criminal history category of III. He was indicted Oct. 9, 2019, on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, after initially being charged with murder.
Ruiz-Velez gave Lodgepole, of Fruitland, a plea of six to eight years on Nov. 3, 2020. One paragraph addresses Lodgepole as a person, as Ruiz-Velez wrote that he had a significant criminal history for only being 22, that he was on probation when he killed Michaelene Warren, 43, and he has a history of violence and substance abuse.
On June 11, 2020, jail guards found 11 Suboxone strips in his incoming mail and his substance abuse appears to have followed him into jail, she wrote.
Ruiz-Velez wrote Lodgepole’s killing of Warren as “extremely violent” and “heinous conduct.” Quoting from the sentencing investigation, she wrote that Warren’s parents are “emotionally hurting from what occurred.”
Lodgepole had been set to be sentenced on April 14 in front of District Judge James Parker, but that hearing was cancelled on April 2. Parker can still, technically, reject Lodgepole’s binding plea deal at sentencing. The reasons behind the plea deal are unknown, as are the reasons why he was indicted on a charge of voluntary manslaughter.
No reason is listed and no new hearing has been set.
Lodgepole wrote in the plea deal that he punched Warren in the head and face 10 times because she called him names and threatened him. After throwing her to the ground, he took a cinderblock and “smashed the back of her head” in Nenahnezad.
“When I noticed that Jane Doe was still breathing, I took the block, placed it under her feet and used a cane to strike her ankles for approximately five or six times,” Lodgepole wrote in the plea deal.
Warren, 43, was a friend of Lodgepole’s mother. Warren’s obituary contains no information about her.
Read more about the incident in the case write-up.
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- Suspect: John Lodgepole
- Victim: Michaelene Warren, 43, Navajo Nation tribal member
- Charges: Voluntary manslaughter
- Date of incident: Aug. 1, 2019
- Type of incident: Beating
- Status: Guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter, pending sentencing
- Sentence: 6-8 years per binding plea deal
- Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office
- Prosecutor: Raquel Ruiz-Velez
- Defense attorney: Melissa Morris
- Investigating Agency: FBI
- Location: Nenahnezad (Fruitland), San Juan county, Navajo Nation, NM
- County: San Juan
- Suspect race: Native American (Navajo Nation)
- Victim race: Native American (Navajo Nation)
- Federal district case number: 19-cr-03599
- Federal magistrate case number: 19-mj-02388
- Plea judge (magistrate): Steven Yarbrough
- Sentencing judge (district): James Parker
- Pathologist: Lori Proe, Karen Zeigler