• Judge Kea Riggs sentenced John Lodgepole to seven years in prison
• Lodgepole faced a sentence range of six to eight years under a plea offered by prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez
• Riggs could have rejected the plea deal for Lodgepole’s brutal beating death of Michealene Warren in Nenahnezad
• Without a plea, Lodgepole faced a maximum sentence of 10 years
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — John Lodgepole will spend seven years in prison for beating a woman, smashing in her head with a cinderblock and then beating her ankles with a cane after he realized she was still alive.
Lodgepole pleaded guilty on Nov. 3, 2020, to one count of voluntary manslaughter, with a sentence range of six to eight years. Riggs could have rejected the plea given to Lodgepole by prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez. Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough presided over the plea hearing, but deferred final acceptance to the sentencing hearing in front of a district court judge, Riggs.
Lodgepole will spend an additional three years on supervised probation after he is released from prison.
In a largely boilerplate sentencing memorandum Ruiz-Velez filed on Feb. 26, 2021, she 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. Lodgepole was on probation for an unspecified crime when he killed Warren and had a history of violence and substance abuse. Corrections officers also found 12 Suboxone strips in his incoming mail while he was awaiting trial.
The reasons behind the plea deal are unknown, as are the reasons why he was indicted on a charge of voluntary manslaughter. According to the plea deal, Warren provoked Lodgepole by calling him names and threatening him at his mother’s house in Nenahnezad. Police also noted a bloody bat at the scene, but it is not mentioned in his plea deal.
He was initially charged with murder on Aug. 1, 2019 and then indicted on the voluntary manslaughter charge on Oct. 9, 2019. However, his case remain sealed until Oct. 24, 2019, for unknown reasons.
According to the sentencing minutes, Lodgepole addressed the judge, as did Warren’s sister, Miracle Yellowman. What she said is not memorialized in the minutes. His entire sentencing hearing took just 27 minutes. Lodgepole did not physically appear for his hearing.
A restitution hearing is set for 9:30 a.m., Nov. 16, 2021 in Albuquerque.
Warren was a friend of Lodgepole’s mother. Warren’s obituary contains no information about her.
For more details on Lodgepole’s brutal killing of Warren, please see the case write up.
Is John Lodgepole’s sentence fair?
While Lodgepole faced a maximum sentence of eight years, under his plea for beating a woman until she fell to the ground, smashing in her head with a cinderblock and then, when he saw she was still alive, propping up her ankles with the same cinderblock and beating her ankles, he faired far better than a man sentenced just four days prior, Quentin Veneno.
Here’s how Lodgepole’s sentence compares with other recent federal sentencings, per press releases from the U.S. Attorney’s website:
Quentin Veneno Jr., 35, of Dulce, received a 9-year, 7-month sentence after being convicted of domestic assault by a habitual offender and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. That sentence is almost two years more than what Lodgepole, on probation at the time he killed Warren, received. Riggs sentenced him.
Joe Maldonado, 43, of Albuquerque, will spend 10 years in prison, three more than Lodgepole, for selling 30 grams of heroin and 139 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover agent while carrying a pistol. Judge Judith Herrera sentenced him.
Arturo Muñoz, 67, of Phoenix, will spend 8 years in prison, one more than Lodgepole, after officers searched his vehicle and found 2.17 kilograms of methamphetamine. His co-defendant, Ricardo Osornio, received a 5-year sentence. Judge Kenneth Gonzales sentenced Muñoz.
Ismael Valdez, 38, of Las Cruces, will spend 12 years in prison for attempted coercion and enticement of a child, which was actually an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl. Judge David Nuffer sentenced him.
- 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
- Sentence: 7 years (6-8 year range 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): Kea Riggs (initially James Parker)
- Pathologist: Lori Proe, Karen Zeigler