John Lodgepole sentenced to 7 years for brutal beating death of Michaelene Warren

• 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

See the case write-up here or past stories on this case

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.

District Judge Kea Riggs sentenced Lodgepole, 22, to seven years in prison for killing Michealene Warren, 43, of Nenahnezad, during a virtual hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021.

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.

Ruiz-Velez asked for seven years in prison while, according to the minutes, Lodgepole’s attorney, Melissa Morris, asked for six years.

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.

Emery Garcia, 37, of San Felipe, will spend 5 years in person after he attacked his two teenage sons with a piece of wood. Judge James Browning 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.

Israfil Madriaga, 23, of Albuquerque, will spend 15 years in prison for the attempted bank robbery of a gas station where he shot a man, who survived. Riggs sentenced him.

Continue reading “John Lodgepole sentenced to 7 years for brutal beating death of Michaelene Warren”

Troy Livingston sentencing delayed to September for beating death of girlfriend

• Judge William Johnson moved the sentencing hearing for Troy Livingston twice, once to August, and now September, without giving a reason
• Livingston pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for beating to death Tyler Lamebear, his girlfriend

See the case write-up or more stories about the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The families of the 19-year-old woman whom Troy Livingston beat to death will have to wait until Sept. 9, 2021 at the earliest to see him sentenced for her brutal death.

Troy Livingston

Livingston, 20, of Breadsprings, pleaded guilty on Aug. 4, 2020, to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Lamebear’s beating death on April 6, 2019. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Livingston’s sentencing was initially set for Nov. 12, 2020, but was then moved repeatedly.  His defense attorney, Theresa Duncan, last asked on April 26, 2021, that his sentencing hearing, set for May 17, 2021 at the time, be moved for three weeks because she was unable to “collect substantial information” relevant to sentencing, she could call witnesses and she wasn’t able to get any of that done during the pandemic.

Complicating matters was that most of the witnesses, like Livingston, live on the Navajo Nation, particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

Judge William Johnson granted Duncan’s request, moving Livingston’s sentencing to July 19. On June 17, he moved the sentencing hearing again, this time to Aug. 23, including the deadlines. He gave no reasoning, according to the docket.

Johnson then moved the sentencing hearing again on July 28, to Sept. 8. Again, he gave no reason. However, in the case of Allister Quintana where he is also the sentencing judge, he wrote on the docket he has an “extended unavailability” as the reason to push out Quintana’s sentencing hearing to September.

According to the plea deal signed by prosecutor David Cowen, Livingston will be entitled to a two-level reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines, although where that puts his sentence is unknown pending the outcome of a pre-sentence report.

According to the plea, Livingston admitted to beating Lamebear with his hands, feet and a metal flashlight causing severe head, face and body injuries.

Although Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing took the plea, she deferred final acceptance until the sentencing hearing in front of Johnson.

For more details on the incident, see the case write-up or see past coverage of this case

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Over a year after guilty plea, Allister Quintana’s sentencing moved to September 2021

• Judge William Johnson moved the sentencing because he has an “extended unavailability”
• Nine previous sentencing hearings have been vacated and Co-defendant Andrew Bettelyoun still hasn’t been sentenced
• Quintana pleaded guilty in January 2020 to second-degree murder

See the case write-up or previous stories on this case

DULCE, N.M. — Over a year and a half after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for torturing his cousin and then leaving him in a closet to die, Allister Quintana still has not been sentenced and won’t be until Sept. 2, 2021, at the earliest, although his case could be delayed further.

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

Although Quintana’s attorney, Ray Twohig has filed seven previous motions to extend deadlines in the case, it is the “extended unavailability” of Judge William Johnson that is responsible for the latest delay.

At Twohig’s request, Johnson previously pushed sentencing to June 25, 2021, but on May 26, he put a notice on the docket extending the deadlines further. Twohig has until Aug. 5, to file a sentencing memorandum and prosecutor Joseph Spindle has until Aug. 19 to respond.

Because of his “extended unavailability,” he reset the sentencing hearing to Sept. 2, 2021, at 11 a.m. in the Cimarron Courtroom. It is not clear if any of the hearing will be available virtually.

Twohig’s previous motions to extend the deadlines have been due to reports by a psychologist being delayed and complicated communication with his client over Zoom, and with the psychologist, a result of the pandemic.

Quintana, 26, of Dulce, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder on Jan. 22, 2020. His codefendant, Andrew Bettelyoun, 25, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping a year prior, on Jan. 30, 2019.

Quintana and Bettelyoun admitted to torturing Travis Howland, 28, before binding his hands and feet and leaving him, naked, in a closet to die on Feb. 2, 2018 in Quintana’s house, according to court records. (Details are in the case write-up.)

Although Bettelyoun was supposed to be sentenced in May 2019, court records do not indicate that he was ever sentenced and he does not appear to be in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Continue reading “Over a year after guilty plea, Allister Quintana’s sentencing moved to September 2021”

Allister Quintana’s sentencing moved, for the seventh time, to June 25, 2021

• The sentencing was moved after Allister Quintana‘s attorney filed his seventh motion to extend deadlines
• Quintana pleaded guilty in January 2020 to second-degree murder
• Previous sentencing hearings had been set for had been set for, in 2020, April, June, July, August, October, and in 2021, January, February, March, and April.

• Co-defendant Andrew Bettelyoun still hasn’t been sentenced

See the case write-up or previous stories on this case

DULCE, N.M. — Allister Quintana’s sentencing for the second-degree murder of his cousin in 2018 has been put off again, this time until June 25, 2021, after his attorney filed his seventh unopposed motion to extend deadlines.

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

Quintana’s attorney, Ray Twohig, wrote in a motion to extend the deadlines to file a sentencing memorandum on March 29, 2021, that his talks with his client “have yielded further information which has required that counsel seek additional research, investigation and expert assistance.”

Twohig wrote that previous requests to push out sentencing were partially a result of reports being delayed and complicated communication with his client over Zoom, a result of the pandemic.

Previous motions to extend dealt with delays and issues with a psychological evaluation.

Judge William Johnson set Quintana’s sentencing for 1:30 p.m., June 25, 2021.

Quintana, 26, of Dulce, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder on Jan. 22, 2020. His codefendant, Andrew Bettelyoun, 25, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping a year prior, on Jan. 30, 2019.

Quintana and Bettelyoun admitted to torturing Travis Howland, 28, before binding his hands and feet and leaving him, naked, in a closet to die on Feb. 2, 2018 in Quintana’s house, according to court records. (Details are in the case write-up.)

Although Bettelyoun was supposed to be sentenced in May 2019, court records do not indicate that he was ever sentenced and he does not appear to be in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons.

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See all the documents for Allister Quintana or Andrew Bettelyoun on Google Drive. View the case files of Allister Quintana or Andrew Bettelyoun on Document Cloud.

Continue reading “Allister Quintana’s sentencing moved, for the seventh time, to June 25, 2021”

Prosecutor asks for seven years for John Lodgepole in brutal beating death of Michaelene Warren

• 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

See the case write-up here or past stories on this case

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.

While Ruiz-Velez submitted a sentencing memorandum, Lodgepole’s attorney, Melissa Morris, does not appear to have filed one, according to the docket.

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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See the case documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud.

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Competency raised for Larrison Hunch, charged for 2020 Gallup motel beating death

• The prosecution and defense agreed to send Larrison Hunch to a mental hospital until he is competent
• Hunch is charged with second-degree murder for the beating death of Alvin Adakai, 62

Read the case write-up

GALLUP, N.M. — A Mentmore man charged with second-degree murder for a motel beating death in 2020 had his case stayed, March 9, 2021, after his attorney raised the question of competency.

Mug shot of Larrison Hunch
Larrison Hunch

Attorney Todd Farkas raised the issue of Larrison Hunch‘s competency on March 1, before District Judge Robert Aragon stayed the case on March 9, according to the docket.

Farkas said during a hearing on March 5, 2021, that a neuropsychologist told him she did not believe Hunch, 45, was competent to stand trial, according to audio logs.

During a subsequent hearing on March 29, 2021, prosecutor John Bernitz asked the judge to send Hunch to the mental hospital in Las Vegas for a second evaluation and Farkas said they already reached an agreement on the evaluation, according to the audio logs.

According to the docket, Hunch was sent to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas to “attain competency to stand trial.”

No new court dates have been set.

Hunch has been in custody since May 20, 2020, when he was arrested.

On June 2, 2020, Hunch was bound over to district court on charges of second-degree murder, robbery and tampering with evidence.

Hunch waived his right to a preliminary hearing or the presentation of the case to a grand jury on the condition that prosecutors dismiss, with prejudice, the charge of first-degree murder.

District Judge Robert Aragon arraigned him in district court on June 16, 2020 and he pleaded not guilty.

The incident

Read more about the incident and witness interviews in the case write-up

Gallup Det. Andrew Thayer wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant for Hunch that he was called out to the Lariat Lodge in Gallup where Alvin Adakai, 62, of Manuelito, had been found dead, on May 17, 2020.

At 10:28 a.m., when the manager Hitendrakumar Patel went to check the room, Adakai was lying on the floor in between the two beds. After grabbing his arm and receiving no response, he called police. Office of the Medical Investigator Field Investigator Harolynn Yazzie told Thayer that Adakai’s death was suspicious but the pathologist who conducted the autopsy would contact him with more information, he wrote.

That same day, pathologist Satish Chundru told Thayer Adakai’s death was a homicide and his neck bones were fractured.

Larrison Hunch’s girlfriend, Kerry Norton, told police that Hunch beat Adakai after he fell off of the bed during the night and after they had been drinking. Hunch was arrested on May 20 and denied hurting Adakai, according to court records.

On May 20, Thayer and Gonzales interrogated Hunch after he signed a Miranda rights waiver, Thayer wrote.

Hunch said Adakai appeared to be suffering from the coronavirus, he appeared weak and he probably died from it, Thayer wrote. Adakai did not look like anything happened to him when they left his motel room in the morning. He denied saying he “manhandled” Adakai.

Thayer and Gonzales left to retrieve the recording and when they came back, Hunch said he wanted a lawyer.

Detectives charged Hunch with an open count of murder, robbery and tampering with evidence.

View the court documents on Document Cloud or read the case write-up

Continue reading “Competency raised for Larrison Hunch, charged for 2020 Gallup motel beating death”

Sentencing delayed again for Allister Quintana in Dulce torture killing

• Sentencing had been set for March 5, 2021
• Co-defendant Andrew Bettelyoun still hasn’t been sentenced

See the case write-up or previous stories on this case

Update: Sentencing has been tentatively moved to June 25, 2021.

DULCE, N.M. — Allister Quintana‘s sentencing has been moved yet again, this time to March 2021, although a lack of required court filings appear to indicate the sentencing hearing will be pushed out further.

District Judge William Johnson moved the sentencing hearing to March 5, 2021, after Quintana’s attorney, Ray Twohig, requested an extension of deadlines on Dec. 15, as he continues to wait for a psychological evaluation, made more complicated by the restrictions on in-person visits created by the pandemic. The motion to extend deadlines is Twohig’s fifth in the case.

Problems completing Quintana’s evaluation have been the reason behind many of the previous requested continuances.

Twohig wrote that the evaluation also brings up issues that “require further exploration.”

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

Twohig’s sentencing memorandum was supposed to be filed by Dec. 30, 2020, although no memorandum appears in the court record.

Quintana, 26, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder on Jan. 22, 2020. His codefendant, Andrew Bettelyoun, 25, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping a year prior, on Jan. 30, 2019.

Quintana and Bettelyoun admitted to torturing Travis Howland, 28, before binding his hands and feet and leaving him, naked, in a closet to die on Feb. 2, 2018 in Quintana’s house, according to court records. (Details are in the case write-up.)

Although Bettelyoun was supposed to be sentenced in May 2019, court records do not indicate that he was ever sentenced and he does not appear to be in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons.

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See all the documents for Allister Quintana or Andrew Bettelyoun on Google Drive. View the case files of Allister Quintana or Andrew Bettelyoun on Document Cloud.

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John Lodgepole to be sentenced in April for brutal killing of woman in Nenahnezad

John Lodgepole beat Michaelene Warren and staved in her head with a cinderblock
• When he saw she was still alive, he propped up her legs and beat her ankles with a cane
• Prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez gave him a plea deal of six to eight years

See the case write-up here or past stories on this case

Update: On April 2, 2021, the sentencing date was vacated. No reason was given and no new sentencing date has been set.

Albuquerque, N.M. — A sentencing hearing has been tentatively set for John Lodgepole, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for beating Michaelene Warren, staving in her head with a cinderblock and, after he saw she was still alive, beating her ankles with a cane.

Lodgepole, 21, of Fruitland, is tentatively set to be sentenced at 3 p.m., April 14, 2021, by District Judge James Parker, according to a hearing notice. The hearing will be held virtually, via Zoom. No courtroom is listed on the hearing notice, entered on Feb. 10, 2021.

Lodgepole pleaded guilty to a single count of voluntary manslaughter, on Nov. 3, 2020, for Warren’s brutal beating death, on Aug. 1, 2019, in Nenahnezad. He signed a binding plea deal that set his sentence at just six to eight years. The deal was proffered by federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez. The sentencing judge, Parker, can still reject it.

A view from the Indian Service Route 36 near Nenahnezad. Photo by Gene Selkov/Flickr.

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.”

Warren, 43, was a friend of Lodgepole’s mother.

“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,” according to the plea deal.

The reasons behind the plea deal are unknown. He was indicted Oct. 9, 2019, on a charge of voluntary manslaughter.

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Fruitland man to receive 6-8 years for woman’s beating death

John Lodgepole’s plea sets his sentence at 6 to 8 years
• Lodgepole wrote he punched a woman in the head 10 times, then threw her to the ground
• While she was on the ground, he grabbed a cinderblock and smashed the back of her head
• When he saw she was still breathing, he propped up her legs and beat her ankles with a cane
• Federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez proffered the binding plea deal

See the case write-up here or past stories on this case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Fruitland man who staved in a woman’s head with a cinderblock, then beat her ankles with a cane after he saw she was still alive, will be sentenced to 6 to 8 years for the killing, after he pleaded guilty on Nov. 3, 2020.

John Lodgepole, 21, was initially charged with murder and then indicted on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, which brings a maximum sentence of 15 years, down from the maximum sentences of life for first- and second-degree murder.

Federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez‘s offered plea deal states Lodgepole can only be sentenced to 6 to 8 years in prison for the brutal beating death of his mother’s friend in Nenahnezad, if it is ultimately accepted by a federal district court judge. If accepted, the binding plea agreement controls the sentence range.

Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough accepted the plea, although he deferred final acceptance until sentencing in front of a district court judge, according to a plea minutes sheet.

Lodgepole wrote in a plea deal that he punched his mother’s friend in the head and face 10 times because she called him names and threatened him. He then threw her to the ground and then he took a cinderblock and “smashed the back of her head.” She is identified in court documents as M.W. (YOB: 1975).

“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,” according to the plea deal.

No sentencing date has been set.

The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the plea makes no mention of the 6 to 8 year sentence.

Federal agents originally charged Lodgepole with murder after San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies found him covered in blood in the parking lot of the Chapter House, across the street from where he beat the woman to death, on Aug. 1, 2019.

His case remained sealed, despite his arrest, until 15 days after a grand jury indicted him on a charge of voluntary manslaughter on Oct. 9, 2019.

The incident

FBI Agent Jordan Spaeth wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint that Lodgepole’s mother, identified as E.L., told deputies she was drinking with the victim when her son threw M.W. to the ground and started kicking her in the head.

Earlier in the night, Lodgepole had been verbally abusive toward her and M.W., before he fatally attacked her, Spaeth wrote.

Outside the house, investigators found a bloody metal baseball bat and shoe prints near where M.W.’s body was found and resembled the soles of Lodgepole’s shoes.

A request for the autopsy report is pending.

Why voluntary manslaughter?

The federal charge of voluntary manslaughter is defined as the unlawful killing of someone without malice and “upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” It is a downgrade from first- and second-degree murder.

According to the indictment, Lodgepole killed M.W. “upon a sudden quarrel and heat of passion, and therefore without malice.”

Lodgepole was initially charged with murder by Spaeth.

According to federal law, first-degree murder is done with “malice aforethought” and is “every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing.”

A view from the Indian Service Route 36 near Nenahnezad. Photo by Gene Selkov/Flickr. CC-BY

First-degree murder is also when someone dies “as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children.” In the murder statute, torture is defined as the crime of torture, except without the requirement that the torturer is doing so “under the color of law.” Under that definition, torture is an act “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.”

In the plea deal, Lodgepole said he took the cinderblock that he used to bash the back of M.W.’s head in with, put it under the legs and beat her ankles with a cane after he saw she was still breathing.

According to federal sentencing guidelines, a judge can increase a sentence beyond the sentencing guidelines if the perpetrator’s behavior was “unusually heinous, cruel, brutal, or degrading to the victim.”

“Examples of extreme conduct include torture of a victim, gratuitous infliction of injury, or prolonging of pain or humiliation,” the guidelines state.

How the grand jury that indicted Lodgepole reached the conclusion that voluntary manslaughter was the appropriate charge is a mystery as grand juries are secret. The prosecutor’s signature on the indictment is inscrutable, although Ruiz-Velez is the only attorney listed on the docket.

However, multiple articles articulate how grand juries will follow the lead of the prosecutor presenting the case to them. In the case of Breonna Taylor, a grand juror said that homicide charges were never even presented to them.

University of Dayton Law Professor Susan Brenner wrote in a 1996 article that “the federal grand jury has become little more than a rubber stamp, indiscriminately authorizing prosecutorial decisions.”

A 2017 article in the Harvard Law Review that has no listed author opines that the failure to indict the officers who allegedly killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., “merely drew public attention to flaws” that have been there the whole time.

“The complete prosecutorial control over the grand jury — particularly over the flow of information and grand jury procedure — solidifies the grand jury’s dependence on the prosecutor,” the anonymous author wrote.

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Man set to plea in Nenahnezad beating death

• A change of plea hearing is set for Nov. 3, 2020
John Lodgepole was initially charged with murder for kicking a woman in the head, killing her, before he was indicted on a charge of voluntary manslaughter

See the case write-up here or past stories on this case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 21-year-old Fruitland man, accused of kicking a woman in the head and killing her in Nenahnezad, is set to plead on Nov. 3, 2020.

John Lodgepole‘s case is set for a change of plea hearing at 10 a.m., Nov. 3, 2020, according to a court docket.

Lodgepole was first arrested, and charged with murder, on Aug. 1, 2019, the night he allegedly kicked a woman in the head repeatedly, killing her. His case remained sealed, despite his arrest, until 15 days after a grand jury indicted him on a charge of voluntary manslaughter on Oct. 9, 2019.

A view from the Indian Service Route 36 near Nenahnezad. Photo by Gene Selkov/Flickr.

The indictment alleged he killed the woman “upon a sudden quarrel and heat of passion, and therefore without malice, unlawfully.” She is only identified by the initials M.W. and her year of birth, 1975. She is identified as a Navajo Nation member.

The change of plea hearing will be conducted through Zoom and in front of Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough.

Lodgepole has previously pleaded no contest in a state case to two counts of battery on a healthcare worker, where he was to receive a conditional discharge after finishing probation. After he was arrested and charged with murder, he admitted to a probation violation and was sentenced to 319 days in prison, according to state court documents.

The incident

San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies responded on Aug. 1, 2019, to a house south of the Chapter House in Nenahnezad, after the owner called 911, Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Jordan Spaeth wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint.

The homeowner, identified by her initials of E.L., told deputies she was drinking with the victim, M.W., when Lodgepole threw M.W. to the ground and started kicking her in the head, he wrote.

When investigators spoke to E.L., she said Lodgepole arrived at the house earlier that night and was verbally abusive toward her and M.W. As the night went on, he threw M.W. to the ground and kicked her in the head, he wrote.

“Lodgepole then fled the residence and E.L. contacted 911,” Spaeth wrote. “Deputies were notified a short time after arrival that Jane Doe was pronounced dead at the scene by Emergency Medical Personnel.”

Deputies found Lodgepole in the parking lot of the chapter house. He was covered in blood. They detained him and Navajo Police officers arrested him when they arrived on scene, he wrote.

Outside the house, investigators found a bloody metal baseball bat and shoe prints near where M.W.’s body was found and resembled the soles of Lodgepole’s shoes, he wrote.

The field investigator with the Office of the Medical Investigator found three wounds to M.W.’s head, including one that likely fractured her skull, he wrote.

Spaeth charged Lodgepole with murder.

Continue reading “Man set to plea in Nenahnezad beating death”

Sentencing set for Breadsprings man who beat girlfriend to death

Troy Livingston pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder
• He beat to death Tyler Lamebear, his girlfriend

Update: Sentencing has been continued to Sept. 9, 2021.

See the case write-up or more stories about the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Troy Livingston is set to be sentenced on Nov. 12, 2020, after he pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder for beating his 19-year-old girlfriend to death.

A notice on the docket states the sentencing will be at 9:30 a.m. in the Cimarron courtroom in front of District Judge William Johnson.

The docket and notice do not state if the hearing will be in person, virtual, a combination of the two or if that has not been decided yet.

Livingston, 20, of Breadsprings, pleaded guilty on Aug. 4, 2020, to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Tyler Lamebear’s beating death on April 6, 2019. Livingston is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life.

According to the plea deal signed by prosecutor David Cowen, Livingston will be entitled to a two-level reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines, although where that puts his sentence is unknown pending the outcome of a pre-sentence report.

According to the plea, Livingston admitted to beating Lamebear with his hands, feet and a metal flashlight causing severe head, face and body injuries.

Although Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing took the plea, she deferred final acceptance until the sentencing hearing in front of Johnson.

It appears from the docket that the pre-sentence report may have been filed because entry 50 from the docket is missing, pre-sentence reports are not public and a sentencing date has been set.

What federal probation officers think his sentencing range should be has not been entered into the court docket yet. It is usually revealed either through a prosecution or defense sentencing memorandum.

A federal grand jury previously indicted Livingston on a charge of first-degree murder on Jan. 29, 2020.

Sentencing guidelines

The base offense level, per the sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder, is 38. The plea deal provides Livingston with a two-level reduction for pleading guilty, putting the base level at 36.

According to the federal sentencing table, with little or no criminal history, that puts Livingston’s proposed sentence, sans any increases or decreases, at 16 to 20 years. At a base offense level of 38, the range increases to 20 to 24 years.

According to New Mexico and federal court records, Livingston has one past criminal case, for intoxicated driving and child endangerment from March 2019. Prosecutors dismissed that the case at the magistrate level, without prejudice, on May 8, 2019 in a form dismissal and wrote that Livingston was in federal custody for “an alleged capital offense.” Past arrests or convictions in tribal court are unknown. His addresses are listed as Church Rock and Vanderwagen in state court documents.

Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.
Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43. Sentence ranges are in months. Second-degree murder has a base level of 38 (sentence range of 20 to 24 years) and the plea deal means a two-level reduction, to 36, creating a sentence range of 16 to 20 years.

 

The killing

On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston’s mother, Gertrude Livingston, identified in charging documents as G.L., was at home when her son and his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, came home to her Rodeo Road home in Breadsprings, FBI Agent Monty Waldron wrote in a statement of probable cause for Livingston’s arrest.

At 3 a.m., Livingston and Lamebear were arguing and Gertrude Livingston could “sense tension” between them. She then heard crying, which she believed was from her son hitting Lamebear. He ordered his mother out of the bedroom and she complied, Waldron wrote.

When she heard more crying, she went into the bedroom and saw her son allegedly stomping his girlfriend with his foot and described the girlfriend as being in a ball, her arms and hands around her head, he wrote.

“Again LIVINGSTON told G.L. to get out, so G.L. left the house,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON locked the door behind G.L. From outside, G.L. could hear screaming, thumping and banging.”

When it was quiet, the mother went back into the house and heard wheezing from inside the bedroom door. At some point, she called the Navajo Police Department to report a violent “dispute,”  Waldron wrote.

Officers found Lamebear lying on the floor, covered in blood, badly beaten. They asked her who beat her and she responded, “Troy did this to me.” Livingston was lying on the bed next to his 2-1/2-year-old toddler, who was not harmed, he wrote.

Medics transported Lamebear to the Gallup Indian Medical Center. She either died at the hospital or before she arrived, he wrote.

Livingston told FBI Agent David Loos and Navajo Criminal Investigator Ben Yazzie, during an interrogation, that he “took it too far, way too far.” He was angry Lamebear admitted to having sex with his friend. He also admitted to using a flashlight to beat her, Waldron wrote.

According to the autopsy report by Lori Proe, Lamebear had multiple “bruises, scrapes and skin tears of the face and scalp” and many of them had a distinctive shape, like that of a flashlight. Her nose was broken and there was bleeding in the deep tissues of her scalp and bleeding over the surface of her brain, which was swollen, “a change that can occur when the organ is damaged and/or deprived of oxygen.”

Multiple ribs were broken and she was bleeding in her chest and what would be a bite mark on her left shoulder, Proe wrote.

According to a deputy field investigation by Harolynn Yazzie, she was covered in dried blood and her clothing was soaked in blood.

For more details on the incident, see the case write-up

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Larrison Hunch: Alvin Adakai — 5-16-2020

Summary

Alvin Adakai was found dead in his motel room on May 17, 2020.

Larrison Hunch’s girlfriend, Kerry Norton, told police that Hunch beat Adakai after he fell off of the bed during the night and after they had been drinking. Hunch was arrested on May 20 and denied hurting Adakai, according to court records.

On June 2, 2020, he was bound over to district court on charges of second-degree murder, robbery and tampering with evidence after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing or grand jury presentment on the condition that prosecutors dismiss, with prejudice, a charge of first-degree murder.

District Judge Louis De Pauli Jr. ordered Hunch held without bail on June 4, 2020, after his attorney, Todd Farkas, agreed and said he had nowhere to place him, according to court records.

On March 9, 2021, his case was stayed after his attorney raised the question of competency and on March 29, he was ordered to be sent to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas to be treated until he attains competency.

The incident

Det. Andrew Thayer wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant for Hunch that he was called out to the Lariat Lodge in Gallup where Alvin Adakai, 62, of Manuelito, had been found dead, on May 17, 2020.

Mug shot of Larrison Hunch
Larrison Hunch

At 10:28 a.m., when the manager Hitendrakumar Patel went to check the room, Adakai was lying on the floor in between the two beds. After grabbing his arm and receiving no response, he called police, Thayer wrote.

Officer Jared Albert called medics who declared Adakai dead at the scene, he wrote.

Thayer wrote that Adakai had several wounds including scabs, bruises and blood on his farms, face, legs, chest and side and dried blood on his hands and face.

“There was a dark discoloration of his skin from his chest cavity going up towards his neck and a discoloration of his skin the side of his body,” Thayer wrote. “Several dark spots were viewed on his neck.”

Office of the Medical Investigator Field Investigator Harolynn Yazzie told Thayer that Adakai’s death was suspicious but the pathologist who conducted the autopsy would contact him with more information, he wrote.

Thayer spoke to Hunch, who said he met Adakai with Kerry Norton and Adakai offered to rent a room so they could drink together and at some point during the night, Hunch tried to make ramen noodles for him, but he refused, and only drank during the night. Norton, 56, was Hunch’s girlfriend.

Hunch allegedly told Thayer that when the three went to sleep, Adakai took the bed nearest the door and during the night, rolled off the bed and Hunch put him back on the bed and when it happened a second time, Adakai told him he was more comfortable on the floor, Thayer wrote.

At 7 a.m., when they woke up, they went to get food and Adakai was still alive and appeared fine, he wrote.

After being told about the suspicious nature of the death, Thayer went back to talk to Hunch again.

“Larrison started off by apologizing to Affiant stating ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I didn’t mean to,'” Thayer wrote. “When asked about why he was apologizing, Larrison said he didn’t mean to give Adakai alcohol.”

Hunch appeared to be under the influence of alcohol so Thayer stopped questioning him. Thayer went to the dumpster at the motel and found a torn-up shirt in the trash. Hunch said it was his and that “sometimes I get rowdy,” Thayer wrote.

That same day, pathologist Satish Chundru told Thayer Adakai’s death was a homicide and his neck bones were fractured. Thayer went back and retrieved the bloody shirt, along with Det. Tasheena Wilson, and then spoke to Hunch again, who apologized again, for giving Adakai alcohol. Thayer had Hunch blow into a portable alcohol breath test machine, which showed a level of 0.14.

Thayer reviewed the surveillance footage and found four women, renting a nearby room, went to Adakai’s room the night he was last seen alive. All four were drunk and not interviewed, although Vernita Jackson told Thayer she thought he was sleeping and she just kicked his foot. The other three women were Alita Baker, Virginia Boyd and Rose Cadman, Thayer wrote.

While police “transported” Boyd to the Gallup Police Department “for an interview,” she asked Officer Brandon Salazar about her phone, Thayer wrote

“Because yesterday when we were in the room Larrison was almost like confessing to what happened in there that room,” she said, according to Thayer. “It’s all on the phone. Yeah. I recorded him yeah.”

On May 20, 2020, Gonzales interviewed Boyd who said she was in her motel room on May 19 when Norton and Hunch came over to visit and that she recorded Hunch talking about beating Adakai.

Det. Philamina Chischilly listened to the recording and said Hunch admitted to “manhandling” Adakai but Hunch blamed Boyd and Jackson for manhandling him because they helped him get alcohol.

Kerry Norton interview

Thayer wrote he “interviewed” Norton on May 20 and she appeared sober. After reading her Miranda rights to her, she agreed to speak to him and Gonzales. Although she was read her Miranda rights, it is not clear if she was in custody.

He wrote that she said that they were together on May 16 and had been staying in room 19 and checked out at 10 a.m. She got into an argument with Hunch and Patel told Hunch to leave. Hunch went to go panhandle and Kerry saw Adakai, staying in room 15, and he invited her in, and then Hunch when he came back.

“Larrison, Adakai and Kerry were consuming vodka and malted beer,” Thayer wrote. “According to Kerry, Adakai gave Larrison his Visa debit card to purchase more alcohol.”

Hunch went to Albertson’s and bought three bottles of whiskey, which they all started drinking at 3 p.m.

“Kerry insisted no one came to room 15 until approximately 0700 hours on May 17, 2020,” Thayer wrote. “Kerry fell asleep while drinking Black Velvet. However, during the middle of the night, Kerry said she heard a loud noise.”

She saw Adakai was on the floor and Hunch picked him up and put him back on the bed. When this happened a second time, Hunch became “very angry.”

Thayer wrote that Norton said:

“Larrison began punching Adakai. Initially, Kerry minimized the violence and said Larrison hit Adakai about three times. As the interview progressed, Kerry admitted that she was very afraid of Larrison. Indeed, Kerry had a history of being a victim of multiple domestic violence crimes, including violence so severe that she was medivaced from Gallup to Flagstaff because of the severity of the injuries inflicted upon her by Larrison. On November 24, 2019, October 13, 2019, July 24, 2019, April 1, 2019, February 16, 2019, January 6, 2019, November 18, 2018 and August 17, 2018, the Gallup police department caused the Eleventh Judicial District Attorney’s office to file a variety of felony and domestic violence charges against Larrison Hunch. Kerry Norton refused to cooperate with law enforcement concerning these charges. Kerry Norton described many of the facts concerning these felony and domestic violence crimes and then, after being shown photographs taken by Affiant of Alvin Adakai’s deceased body, admitted that Larrison hit Alvin Adakai at least seven times over the course of ten minutes.”

Gonzales and Thayer then “confronted” Norton with the recording of Hunch saying he “manhandled” Adakai. Norton responded that Hunch began hitting Adakai after he fell off the bed the second time and that she did nothing to stop him because she is scared of him. She said Hunch took money from Adakai’s pants pocket after beating him and before they left and buried his debit card, Thayer wrote.

Larrison Hunch interrogation

On May 20, Thayer and Gonzales interrogated Hunch after he signed a Miranda rights waiver, Thayer wrote.

Hunch said Adakai appeared to be suffering from the coronavirus, he appeared weak and he probably died from it, Thayer wrote. Adakai did not look like anything happened to him when they left his motel room in the morning. He denied saying he “manhandled” Adakai.

Thayer and Gonzales left to retrieve the recording and when they came back, Hunch said he wanted a lawyer.

Detectives charged Hunch with an open count of murder, robbery and tampering with evidence.

Held without bail

Prosecutors filed a motion to hold Hunch without bail after he was arrested. District Judge Louis De Pauli Jr. ordered Hunch held without bail on June 4, 2020, after his attorney, Todd Farkas, agreed and said he had nowhere to place him, according to court records.

Bound over

On June 2, 2020, Hunch was bound over to district court on charges of second-degree murder, robbery and tampering with evidence.

Hunch waived his right to a preliminary hearing or the presentation of the case to a grand jury on the condition that prosecutors dismiss, with prejudice, the charge of first-degree murder.

District Judge Robert Aragon arraigned him on June 16, 2020 and he pleaded not guilty.

Since then, there has been one motion to continue a trial setting that had been set for Oct. 2, 2020.

In the audio logs from a hearing on the motion to continue, on Oct. 5, 2020, Farkas said he has multiple homicide cases going to trial. Prosecutor John Bernitz said they will be able to work out a plea deal and will notify the judge when its ready.

No new court dates have been set.

Case stayed for competency

Hunch’s case was ordered stayed on March 9, 2021, after Farkas raised the question of his competency on March 1.

Farkas said during a hearing on March 5, 2021, that a neuropsychologist told him she did not believe Hunch, 45, was competent to stand trial, according to audio logs.

During a subsequent hearing on March 29, 2021, prosecutor John Bernitz asked the judge to send Hunch to the mental hospital in Las Vegas for a second evaluation and Farkas said they already reached an agreement on the evaluation, according to the audio logs.

According to the docket, Hunch was sent to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas to “attain competency to stand trial.”

No new court dates have been set.

Alvin Adakai

According to his obituary, Alvin Adakai was the father to twin girls and he fluently spoke Navajo.

Born the son of Fred and Lenita Adakai of Manuelito, he was the 11th of 13 children. He was raised in Manuelito and attended the Indian boarding school in Theoreau until he went to Gallup High School, where he ran track and field and played football, according to his obituary.

He went to the Haskell Indian Nations University, where he obtained an associate’s degree in liberal arts in 1986.

“He returned to Manuelito and worked as a Chapter Manager from 1988 to 1994,” according to his obituary. “He believed in obtaining an education and instilled this importance in his girls. Alvin is survived by his twin daughters Elvina Lynn Adakai and Delvina Dee Adakai both of Albuquerque, NM and three grandchildren.”

View the court documents on Document Cloud.

 

Past stories

Competency raised for Larrison Hunch, charged for 2020 Gallup motel beating death

John Lodgepole: Michaelene Warren — 8-1-2019

 

Summary

On Aug. 1, 2019, John Lodgepole allegedly went to the house of a woman he knew in Nenahnezad, near Fruitland, and became verbally abusive toward her and Michaelene Warren, 43. Later that night he allegedly came back, threw the Warren to the ground and kicked her in the head multiple times. He staved the back of her head in with a cinderblock and beat her ankles with a cane, according to the plea deal. Investigators found a bloody bat near the scene, according to an affidavit for a criminal complaint.

San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies found Lodgepole in the parking lot of a chapter house across the street from the house, covered in blood. He was initially charged with murder, according to the complaint. The case was sealed, despite Lodgepole’s arrest, according to the court docket.

On Oct. 9, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Lodgepole on a charge of voluntary manslaughter and he was arraigned on Oct. 25. The case was unsealed a day earlier.

On Nov. 3, 2020, Lodgepole pleaded guilty to a single count of voluntary manslaughter. The plea deal sets his sentence at 6 to 8 years, if District Judge James Parker accepts it at sentencing. Sentencing was set for 3 p.m., April 14, 2021. That date was vacated on April 2, with no reason listed, and no new hearing has has been set.

(Note: This story has been updated to reflect the victim’s name)

The incident

San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies responded on Aug. 1, 2019, to a house south of the Chapter House in Nenahnezad, after the owner called 911, Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Jordan Spaeth wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint.

A view from the Indian Service Route 36 near Nenahnezad. Photo by Gene Selkov/Flickr.

The homeowner, identified by her initials of E.L., told deputies she was drinking with the Michaelene Warren, identified in court documents as M.W. (YOB: 1975) or Jane Doe, when John Lodgepole threw Warren to the ground and started kicking her in the head, he wrote.

“Lodgepole then fled the residence and E.L. contacted 911,” Spaeth wrote. “Deputies were notified a short time after arrival that Jane Doe was pronounced dead at the scene by Emergency Medical Personnel.”

Deputies found Lodgepole in the parking lot of the chapter house. He was covered in blood, he wrote.

Deputies detained him and Navajo Police officers arrested him when they arrived on scene, he wrote.

When investigators spoke to E.L., she said Lodgepole arrived at the house earlier that night and was verbally abusive toward her and Warren. As the night went on, he threw Warren to the ground and kicked her in the head.

Outside the house, investigators found a bloody metal baseball bat and shoe prints near where Warren’s body was found and resembled the soles of Lodgepole’s shoes.

The field investigator with the Office of the Medical Investigator found three wounds to Warren’s head, including one that likely fractured her skull.

Spaeth charged Lodgepole with murder.

San Juan County Sheriff’s Corporal C. Decker wrote in an incident report that medics found Warren was dead when they arrived and it appeared brain matter coming out of the side of her head.

The woman at the house kept telling Decker that “he wouldn’t stop kicking her,” then went to find Lodgepole at the Chapter House, Decker wrote.

The plea deal offers a slightly different set of facts than what investigators initially found.

Lodgepole wrote in the plea deal that he punched his mother’s friend 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.”

“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,” according to the plea deal.

Autopsy report

Pathologist Lori Proe and trainee Karen Zeigler wrote in the autopsy report that Warren died from blunt head trauma.

“There were broken skull bones, bleeding around the brain, bruises of the brain and swelling of the brain,” they wrote. “Other injuries included scrapes and bruises of the extremities and scrapes of the torso.”

Her blood-alcohol content was 0.25.

Indictment

Although Lodgepole was arrested on Aug. 1, the court docket does not show that he was ever arraigned or assigned a lawyer until two months later, when prosecutors indicted him, on Oct. 9.

The complaint for his arrest, and the entire case, appears to have been sealed until Oct. 24, 2019, the day before he was arraigned on the indicted charge of voluntary manslaughter, a downgrade from murder.

On Oct. 25, 2019, in Albuquerque, federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones ordered Lodgepole held without bail and on Oct. 28, Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa arraigned him. Lodgepole pleaded not guilty and his lawyer, Melissa Morris, waived a detention hearing.

Nothing in the court record indicates why Lodgepole would have been arrested, and held without bail, without being arraigned or assigned an attorney, or why the case would have been sealed, even though he was arrested.

Court delays

Since the arraignment, Lodgepole’s case has been continued three times. Once on Oct. 30, 2019, once on Jan. 13, 2020 and once on March 10, 2020.

According to Morris’ third motion for a continuance, filed March 6, 2020, plea negotiations had not begun in the case.

Plea deal

On Nov. 3, 2020, Lodgepole pleaded guilty to a single count of voluntary manslaughter in front of Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough.

Federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez‘s offered plea deal states Lodgepole can only be sentenced to 6 to 8 years in prison for the brutal beating death if it is ultimately accepted by a federal district court judge.

Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough accepted the plea, although he deferred final acceptance until sentencing in front of a district court judge, according to a plea minutes sheet.

Lodgepole wrote in a plea deal that he punched his mother’s friend 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.”

“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,” according to the plea deal.

Why voluntary manslaughter?

The federal charge of voluntary manslaughter is defined as the unlawful killing of someone without malice and “upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” It is a downgrade from first- and second-degree murder.

According to the indictment, Lodgepole killed Warren “upon a sudden quarrel and heat of passion, and therefore without malice.”

Lodgepole was initially charged with murder by Spaeth.

According to federal law, first-degree murder is done with “malice aforethought” and is “every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing.”

First-degree murder is also when someone dies “as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children.” In the murder statute, torture is defined as the crime of torture, except without the requirement that the torturer is doing so “under the color of law.” Under that definition, torture is an act “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.”

In the plea deal, Lodgepole said he took the cinderblock he used to bash in the back of Warren’s head, put it under the legs and beat her ankles with a cane after he saw she was still breathing.

According to federal sentencing guidelines, a judge can increase a sentence beyond the sentencing guidelines if the perpetrator’s behavior was “unusually heinous, cruel, brutal, or degrading to the victim.”

“Examples of extreme conduct include torture of a victim, gratuitous infliction of injury, or prolonging of pain or humiliation,” the guidelines state.

How the grand jury that indicted Lodgepole reached the conclusion that voluntary manslaughter was the appropriate charge is a mystery as grand juries are secret. The prosecutor’s signature on the indictment is inscrutable, although Ruiz-Velez is the only attorney listed on the docket.

However, multiple articles articulate how grand juries will follow the lead of the prosecutor presenting the case to them. In the case of Breonna Taylor, a grand juror said that homicide charges were never even presented to them.

University of Dayton Law Professor Susan Brenner wrote in a 1996 article that “the federal grand jury has become little more than a rubber stamp, indiscriminately authorizing prosecutorial decisions.”

A 2017 article in the Harvard Law Review that has no listed author opines that the failure to indict the officers who allegedly killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., “merely drew public attention to flaws” that have been there the whole time.

“The complete prosecutorial control over the grand jury — particularly over the flow of information and grand jury procedure — solidifies the grand jury’s dependence on the prosecutor,” the anonymous author wrote.

Sentencing date set

Lodgepole is tentatively set to be sentenced at 3 p.m., April 14, 2021, by District Judge James Parker, according to a hearing notice. The hearing will be held virtually, via Zoom. No courtroom is listed on the hearing notice, entered on Feb. 10, 2021.

Sentenced to seven years

District Judge Kea Riggs sentenced Lodgepole, 22, to seven years in prison for killing Michealene Warren, 43, of Nenahnezad, during a virtual hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Lodgepole will spend an additional three years on supervised probation after he is released from prison.

Ruiz-Velez asked for seven years in prison while, according to the minutes, Lodgepole’s attorney, Melissa Morris, asked for six years.

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.

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See the case documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

Past stories

John Lodgepole sentenced to 7 years for brutal beating death of Michaelene Warren

Prosecutor asks for seven years for John Lodgepole in brutal beating death of Michaelene Warren

John Lodgepole to be sentenced in April for brutal killing of woman in Nenahnezad

Fruitland man to receive 6-8 years for woman’s beating death

Man set to plea in Nenahnezad beating death

Trial in Nenahnezad beating death postponed for third time

Troy Livingston: Tyler Lamebear — 4-6-2019

 

Summary

On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston, 18, beat his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, to death with his fists, feet and a flashlight after she said she had slept with one of his friends, according to court documents.

On Jan. 29, 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Livingston on a charge of first-degree murder for Lamebear’s death.

On Aug. 4, 2020, he pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder. A virtual sentencing hearing is set for 9:30 a.m., May 17, 2021.

The incident

On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston’s mother, Gertrude Livingston, identified in charging documents as G.L., was at home when her son and his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, came home to her Rodeo Road home in Breadsprings, FBI Agent Monty Waldron wrote in a statement of probable cause for Livingston’s arrest.

At 3 a.m., Livingston and his girlfriend, Lamebear, were arguing and Gertrude Livingston could “sense tension” between them, he wrote.

Lamebear is identified as T.L. or “Jane Doe” in charging documents.

Troy Livingston

“G.L. heard crying from the bedroom and went in to see LIVINGSTON on top of Jane Doe with his fist raised,” Waldron wrote. “G.L. believes Jane Doe had already been hit because she was crying. Livingston told G.L. to get out of the bedroom which she did.”

When she heard more crying, she went into the bedroom and saw her son allegedly stomping his girlfriend with his foot and described the girlfriend as being in a ball, her arms and hands around her head, he wrote.

“Again LIVINGSTON told G.L. to get out, so G.L. left the house,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON locked the door behind G.L. From outside, G.L. could hear screaming, thumping and banging.”

When it was quiet, the mother went back into the house. She heard wheezing from inside the bedroom door, but did not know who was wheezing, he wrote.

At some point, she called the Navajo Police Department to report a violent “dispute” between Lamebear and her son, he wrote.

About 30 minutes after she went back into the house, Navajo police officers arrived and knocked on the door. When no one answered, they looked through the windows and saw blood on the floor. The mother then opened the door. Officers could see “lots of blood on the floor between the bedroom and the bathroom,” Waldron wrote.

Officers found the girlfriend laying on the floor, covered in blood, badly beaten. They asked her who beat her and she responded, “Troy did this to me.” Livingston was lying on the bed next to this 2-1/2-year-old toddler, who was not harmed, he wrote.

Medics transported the girlfriend to the Gallup Indian Medical Center. She either died at the hospital or before she arrived, he wrote.

FBI Agent David Loos and Navajo Criminal Investigator Ben Yazzie interrogated Livingston.

“I just got mad and took it too far, way too far,” Livingston said, according to Waldron’s statement of probable cause.

Livingston also allegedly said “I still can’t believe it, I killed her,” he wrote.

“LIVINGSTON stated that he was mad at her for sleeping with his friend as Jane Doe had finally admitted to doing,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON stated he ‘just started hitting her’ and took it too far. Livingston stated he hit Jane Doe with a flashlight and also used his foot.”

Livingston allegedly said he beat her in the bedroom and bathroom, he wrote.

FBI agents searched the house and found a flashlight with blood on it and photographs of Lamebear showed circular wounds that appeared to be consistent with the end of a flashlight, he wrote.

Autopsy report

According to the autopsy report by Lori Proe, Lamebear had multiple “bruises, scrapes and skin tears of the face and scalp” and many of them had a distinctive shape, like that of a flashlight. Her nose was broken and there was bleeding in the deep tissues of her scalp and bleeding over the surface of her brain, which was swollen, “a change that can occur when the organ is damaged and/or deprived of oxygen.”

Multiple ribs were broken and she was bleeding in her chest and what would be a bite mark on her left shoulder, Proe wrote.

According to a deputy field investigation by Harolynn Yazzie, she was covered in dried blood and her clothing was soaked in blood.

The indictment and plea

After waiving his right to a grand jury indictment, as well as a preliminary hearing, a federal grand jury indicted him on a charge of first-degree murder on Jan. 29, 2020.

On Aug. 4, 2020, Livingston pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for beating Lamebear to death.

According to the plea deal signed by prosecutor David Cowen, Livingston will be entitled to a two-level reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines, although where that puts his sentence is unknown pending the outcome of a pre-sentence report.

According to the minutes, Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing asked why the plea needed to be held so soon, and made findings as to why the plea hearing was held, but not what those findings were. The final acceptance of the plea was deferred until the sentencing hearing in front of a district court judge.

A sentencing hearing is set for Nov. 12, 2020.

Sentencing guidelines

The base offense level, per the sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder, is 38. The plea deal provides Livingston with a two-level reduction for pleading guilty, putting the base level at 36.

According to the federal sentencing table, with little or no criminal history, that puts Livingston’s proposed sentence, sans any increases or decreases, at 16 to 20 years. At a base offense level of 38, the range increases to 20 to 24 years.

According to New Mexico and federal court records, Livingston has one past criminal case, for intoxicated driving and child endangerment from March 2019. Prosecutors dismissed that the case at the magistrate level, without prejudice, on May 8, 2019 in a form dismissal and wrote that Livingston was in federal custody for “an alleged capital offense.” His past arrests or convictions in tribal court is unknown.

Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.
Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43. Sentence ranges are in months. Second-degree murder has a base level of 38 (sentence range of 20 to 24 years) and the plea deal means a two-level reduction, to 36, creating a sentence range of 16 to 20 years.

Sentencing delayed

Although sentencing in the case was originally set for Nov. 12, 2020, it has been delayed multiple times, both at the request of Livingston’s defense attorney, Theresa Duncan, as well as at the behest of sentencing judge William Johnson, who gave no reason for the delay.

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Past stories

Sentencing set for Breadsprings man who beat girlfriend to death

Breadsprings man pleads to second-degree murder for beating death of girlfriend

Breadsprings man indicted for first-degree murder in beating death of girlfriend

 

UNSOLVED: Tyrone Tallman — 7-17-2018

Summary

Tyrone Tytis Tallman
Tyrone Tallman

Tyrone Tallman’s body was found in a canal in Nenahnezad on July 17, 2018. A preliminary autopsy report showed he suffered stab wounds, broken bones and “trauma” to his skull, according to a website post by the FBI.

Tallman was wearing pants, socks with “Girls Rule” embroidered on them and shoes.

It is “believed” he was last seen alive on July 9, 2018, also where is not listed.

There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his killer.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI at (505) 889-1300.

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