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”

Harrison Davis to receive 5-8 years for killing grandson in DUI crash outside Gallup

Harrison Davis killed his grandson while driving drunk with him on his all-terrain vehicle
• The crash happened on July 1, 2018 in a “remote area” outside Gallup

• The binding plea deal puts his sentence at five to eight years

Read the case write-up or see past stories on this case

DATELINE — A Gallup man will receive a sentence of five to eight years for killing his grandson in a drunk driving crash, assuming a sentencing judge signs off on his plea deal with prosecutors.

Harrison Davis, age unlisted in court documents, pleaded guilty, May 10, 2021, to a criminal information charging him with involuntary manslaughter.

The binding plea deal, signed on April 9, 2021, but not submitted to the court until May 10, sets his sentence at five to eight years. The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is eight years. Prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall signed the plea deal.

Davis was originally indicted on a charge of child endangerment resulting in death, a state charge prosecuted federally, on Nov. 25, 2019, 16 months after he killed his unidentified grandson.

According to the federal statute, if found guilty, Davis would face the same penalties as he would in New Mexico, which, appear to be 18 years, a far cry from the eight year maximum he faces under the plea deal, and under the statute, for involuntary manslaughter.

Davis wrote in the plea agreement that he was driving his all-terrain vehicle with his grandson, only identified as E.D.

“I had been drinking alcohol and was drunk,” Davis wrote. “I crashed the vehicle, harming myself, and killing my grandson.”

 

Magistrate Judge John Robbenhaar accepted the plea although the district judge who sentences Davis could still reject it.

Sentencing has not been set in the case.

Davis released following 2019 arraignment

Davis was arraigned on Dec. 13, 2019 and pleaded not guilty to the child endangerment charge. A different federal prosecutor, David Cowen, did not object to the recommendations of the pretrial services officer and the judge adopted them, according to court minutes.

The minutes sheet does not list what the conditions are. The order releasing him states he can only travel in New Mexico, he can talk to his family but not about the case, he may not use alcohol and he must participate in any outpatient programs ordered by pretrial services. Federal District Court Judge Karen Molzen ordered him released to the custody of his wife, Juanita Davis, and allowed to live in their home near Gallup, according to a minute sheet.

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Fruitland man faces 8 years for killing motorcyclist after guilty plea

Felix Curtis faces a maximum sentence of 8 years for killing motorcyclist Brian Brown, also known as Brian Bob Brown, while drunk
• Curtis pleaded guilty without a plea deal
Brown and Curtis were both drunk at the time of the crash

Read the case write-up

FRUITLAND, N.M. — Felix Curtis pleaded guilty, May 14, 2021, virtually in federal court to one count of involuntary manslaughter for drunkenly killing motorcyclist Brian Brown, 39, while drunk in 2019.

Curtis, 26, of Fruitland, pleaded guilty to the Sept. 14, 2019 killing, without a plea agreement, according to minutes from the plea hearing.

Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones accepted the plea but deferred final acceptance until sentencing in front of a district court judge.

According to court records, no sentencing hearing has been set.

As part of the guilty plea proceedings, federal prosecutor David Cowen filed a proffer of evidence at trial, the first document outlining what happened to Brown, of Fruitland.

“At the moment Defendant made a left turn towards Canal Road, he crossed into the opposing traffic lane and directly in the travel path of John Doe,” Cowen wrote. “John Doe’s motorcycle collided with the passenger side rear-end of the vehicle that Defendant was driving. The impact of the collision killed John Doe and caused multiple blunt force injuries”

Curtis consented to field sobriety tests. He performed poorly, admitted to drinking alcohol and submitted to a breath test that showed his blood-alcohol content to be between 0.12 and 0.11, Cowen wrote.

The legal-per-se limit in New Mexico is 0.08.

No other court documents list no other details of the case and, if a search warrant in the case was sought, it appears to still be sealed, based on a review of federal search warrants in the weeks following the incident.

Cowen sought a direct indictment, never charging Curtis in magistrate court. On Aug. 11, 2020, 11 months after Brown’s death, a federal grand jury indicted him on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Brown is referred to as John Doe in court records but he is named in his obituary, which contains no other information about him.

Federal Magistrate Judge Gregory Fouratt ordered Curtis released to the La Pasada Halfway House in Albuquerque during his arraignment on Sept. 23, 2020, according to court minutes, and ordered an unsecured $10,000 bond. The docket does not indicate when Curtis was arrested, although the case was not unsealed, and an initial appearance set, until Sept. 17, 2020. No warrants appear in the docket.

Pathologist Karen Cline-Parhamovich wrote in the autopsy report that Brown suffered “lethal traumatic injuries” that caused bleeding in his chest and within the sac that surrounds the heart, along with multiple fractures to the ribs, upper arm bones, and legs.

“The cause of death is multiple blunt force injuries,” she wrote.

Although no court records indicate Brown was at fault for the crash, Brown was drunk, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.21, according to the toxicology report.

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To’Hajilee man, Joshua Gutierrez, sentenced to 12 years per plea deal for killing Llewyn Platero

• Judge Martha Vazquez sentenced Joshua Gutierrez to 12 years, per a binding plea deal
• Gutierrez shot Llewyn Platero in the chest, killing him
• Prosecutor Allison Jaros offered the 12-year plea deal for voluntary manslaughter

See past stories or the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Joshua Gutierrez was sentenced to 12 years for for fatally shooting Llewyn Platero in 2020, per a binding plea deal.

District Judge Martha Vazquez sentenced Gutierrez, 22, of To’Hajilee on April 7, 2021, after accepting to be bound by the terms of his plea deal, which gave him a 12-year sentence.

Vazquez had the final discretion of whether to accept or reject the plea agreement proffered by prosecutor Allison Jaros. Gutierrez originally pleaded guilty on Oct. 15, 2020, in front of Magistrate Judge Paul Briones who accepted Gutierrez’s guilty plea to a criminal information charging him with voluntary manslaughter and discharging a firearm in the course of a crime. The firearm charge mandates a 10-year sentence.

He received just two years for killing Platero, 36 and the remaining 10 years on his sentence came from the firearm charge.

Gutierrez apologized to Platero’s family during the hearing and introduced his own family members. Platero’s mother, Jackie Platero, addressed the judge, according to the sentencing minutes. The minutes do not detail what anyone said at the hearing.

In a sentencing memorandum, Jaros justified the binding plea deal’s 12-year sentence, even though it was made over the objections of Jackie Platero, who reportedly told Jaros she wanted Gutierrez to serve a life sentence.

“At the time of the change of plea, she expressed that she was not happy with the plea agreement, which she viewed as too lenient,” Jaros wrote.

Jaros justified the 12-year sentence with Gutierrez’s self-defense claims and the evidence.

“The proposed plea agreement holds Defendant accountable for the death of John Doe and the terrorizing of John Doe’s relatives by requiring Defendant to serve a significant prison sentence,” Jaros wrote.

Platero leaves behind four children.

The killing of Llewyn Platero

On March 29, 200, Gutierrez was spending the night at the house where his girlfriend, identified in court records as C.P., (YOB: 1987) and her father, L.P., lived. Platero was C.P.’s ex-boyfriend and the father of her child, Jaros wrote in the sentencing memorandum.

Gutierrez as at least partially motivated by “bad blood” between himself and Platero because of Platero’s past relationship with Gutierrez’s new girlfriend, Jaros wrote.

The night Gutierrez shot Platero, Platero went to L.P.’s house as part of a group who wanted to hang out with him, Jaros wrote. The group included Platero’s brother, Michael Kelewood, referred to in court documents as “M.K.,” Kelewood’s girlfriend and Platero’s cousin, referred to as “J.L.” J.L.’s age is not given but he is a teenager.

“The group arrived at L.P.’s house in the early morning hours of March 29, 2020 after a night out,” Jaros wrote. “L.P. invited the group into his room to drink, smoke, and hang out.”

At some point, Platero and Kelewood started arguing and wrestling in the father’s room. C.P. then ordered them to leave and they started walking down the hallway, she wrote.

“Almost immediately after leaving the room, John Doe ran into Defendant who had armed himself with a gun and come to the room to challenge the group,” Jaros wrote.

Most witnesses agreed that Platero made an aggressive movement toward Gutierrez. Gutierrez told police that Platero swung at him and grazed his face, panicked and shot Platero. C.P. told police that Platero swung at Gutierrez as he was walking down the hallway, Gutierrez got mad and shot Platero, Jaros wrote.

Cousin J.L. gave “varying” accounts, including one immediately after Platero’s death, that Platero shoved Gutierrez prior to being shot. Platero died in J.L.’s lap, she wrote.

“In a later statement, after the stress of the moment had passed, J.L. indicated he did not recall seeing any physical altercation between John Doe and Defendant before the shooting,” Jaros wrote.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Dibiassi Robinson wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint that he spoke to J.L. at the Route 66 Casino, where Platero was taken by minivan to wait for an ambulance. Kelewood drove while J.L. applied pressure on Platero’s wound.

“JL indicated that as they approached the kitchen GUTIERREZ raised a handgun up, in his right hand, and fired one shot into the chest of DOE,” Robinson wrote. “JL made no mention of an assault or attempted assault by Doe towards GUTIERREZ. While attempting to provide aid to DOE, JL explained that GUTIERREZ told him and MK to get out of the residence ‘or I’ll shoot you too!’ Gutierrez pointed the firearm at the two as he spoke those words.”

According to the autopsy report, Platero died from a single gunshot wound. The bullet went through his heart and lungs, causing a “large amount” of bleeding in the chest cavity.

Past stabbing

The “bad blood” between Platero and Gutierrez was actually a stabbing.

Crownpoint Police Officer James Dan Jr. wrote in a police report he was called to the site of a domestic and found Gutierrez on the side of the road, clutched over in pain. After he was taken to the hospital, he talked to a woman identified as J.P., who told him she was in her house with her grandchildren when Gutierrez started banging and kicking on the door, saying he “was gonna kill all of us.”

A.L., who was working on his jewelry, said he heard someone banging on the front door. Gutierrez then broke the screen door and A.L. told the officer “I then went after him to stop him.”

Gutierrez was charged for criminal damage and the officer did not write if anyone admitted to stabbing him.

Jaros wrote that the shooting was an outgrowth of that bad blood. It is not clear from the police reports what role, if any, Platero had in the prior stabbing.

“Six months prior to the shooting, Defendant went to John Doe’s house and threatened John Doe and his family with a large metal pipe that was made to look like a firearm,” Jaros wrote.

Pattern of improper sealing

According to the court records, Guteirrez’s attorney, Sylvia Baiz, a federal public defender, appears to have improperly placed her sentencing memorandum under seal. The document does not appear on the federal court docket but is mentioned in other court records.

Improperly sealed documents appear to be a problem in New Mexico’s federal court, as outlined by Jeff Proctor, writing in New Mexico In Depth. He found a pattern and practice by prosecutors and public defenders to improperly seal documents in federal criminal cases, contrary to local and federal rules on sealing procedures. Baiz is a public defender.

Who was Llewyn Jose Platero?

Llewyn Platero, 36, of To’hajilee and the Pueblo of Nambe, was a family man who loved his five children. He was an artist like his father.

Photo of Llewyn Platero sitting in a booth.
Llewyn Platero

“Llewyn was such a loving and selfless man, with a big personality and an even bigger voice. Family meant everything to Llewyn, and he was the protector…the linchpin,” according to his obituary.

Family was extremely important to Platero and he was his family’s protector. He had four children, Joshua Platero, Llewyn Platero Jr., Corey Platero and Zahmarra Platero, and is also survived by his partner Candace Ruben.

“His laughter was contagious and his drive and motivation to provide for his family was inspiring. He loved to joke around, and enjoyed cooking, fishing, and drawing,” according to his obituary.

Like his father who preceded him in death, Ernest Mirabal, Llewyn Platero was a great artist.

“He always had the best advice for any situation. No matter the time or circumstance, he was always there to guide his siblings,” according to his obituary.

He is also survived by his mother, Jackie Platero, sisters Miranda Simmons, Michelle Kelewood, Nakiva Mirabal, Paige Loretto, Khiah Long, Khaleah Long, and Kharalius Long and his brothers, Michael Kelewood, Khiry Kelewood, Natanni Mirabal, and Austin Long III.

“Everyone looked up to him because he motivated everyone he came in contact with; he made everyone want to be better,” according to his obituary.

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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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Tavor Tom sentenced to 15 years for stabbing aunt to death

• Tavor Tom faced a maximum sentence of life
• Prosecutor Joseph Spindle asked for 17.5 and his defense attorney asked for 7 years
• Tom stabbed his aunt, Roberta Clyde, 75 times at her Shiprock home

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

SHIPROCK, N.M. — A federal judge sentenced Tavor Tom, 20, to 15 years in federal prison, April 7, for stabbing his aunt to death at her Shiprock home in 2019.

Judge William Johnson sentenced during a virtual hearing. Tom, of Shiprock, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Nov. 24, 2020 for stabbing to death his aunt, Roberta Clyde, 45, and there was no agreement to the sentence.

Shiprock Pinnacle. Photo by DiAnn L’Roy/Flickr

Federal probation officers calculated Tom’s suggested sentence at 14 to 17.5 years. His attorney, James Loonam, asked for half of that, seven years, while prosecutor Joseph Spindle asked for the maximum under the guidelines, 17.5 years.

Tom appeared via video for the sentencing hearing and family members appeared via Zoom and one of them addressed the court, according to minutes from the hearing.

The minutes do not say who spoke or what was said. At the hearing, Spindle argued for 17.5 years and Loonam argued for seven years.

Tom must also pay $4,077 in restitution to Erik Benally, $11,522 to State Farm and $6,000 to the New Mexico Crime Victim’s Reparation Commission.

According to court records, after stabbing Clyde to death on July 1, 2019, Tom stole her Jeep Cherokee, eventually crashing it into a fence in front of a church in Nenahnezad.

Navajo Nation police officers found a bloody knife in the car, FBI Agent Cary Cahoon wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

During an interrogation, Tom told FBI agents he killed his maternal aunt with a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle. He intended to go to her house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex. After he stole it from the store, he drove on the back roads toward Shiprock and he crashed the vehicle into the fence. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.

In the plea agreement, Tom wrote that he stabbed his aunt repeatedly with a knife, “intentionally and without justification.”

When interrogated by FBI agents, he said he stabbed her repeatedly and slit her throat, according to court documents.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

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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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Tavor Tom to ask for 7 years at sentencing, prosecution for 17

Tavor Tom‘s sentencing is set, virtually, for 2 p.m., April 7
• The defense wants seven years while the prosecution wants 17.5
• Judge William Johnson has total sentencing discretion, up to life

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

SHIPROCK, N.M. — Tavor Tom is asking a judge to sentence him to seven years for stabbing his aunt 75 times at her Shiprock home, including twice through the skull, while federal prosecutors are asking for 17 years.

Tom pleaded guilty on Nov. 24, 2020, to second-degree murder for stabbing to death his aunt, Roberta Clyde, 45, in 2019, after being indicted on the same charge on July 9, 2019. There was no agreement as to sentence, which is up to the sentencing judge.

Tom’s sentencing is currently set for 2 p.m., April 7, 2021, after being reset multiple times because the judge, William Johnson, was unavailable.

Tom’s attorney, James Loonam, wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Tom should be sentenced to seven years, half of his calculated sentence guideline of 14 to 17.5 years. Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life.

Loonam wrote that Tom’s age at the time, 18, was one reason, and that Tom, high on and addicted to dextromethorphan, also known as Mucinex, was “operating under diminished capacity” when he stabbed his aunt to death. That he killed a family member, and “will face consequences of loss of part of his family for the rest of his life,” was the third reason for giving Tom a sentence below the guidelines. Tom had been addicted to the drug since he was 14.

“Tavor knows that his actions have caused everyone he loves and cares about almost unbearable pain,” he wrote.

Loonam wrote that Tom was hospitalized 10 times for dextromethorphan overdoses and five times were suicide attempts. He included a timeline of the overdoses.

“Each hospitalization indicates that Tavor exhibited signs of chronic depression,” he wrote.

Loonam wrote that Tom’s actions were “a product of that (drug) abuse and addiction.”

Prosecutor Joseph Spindle wrote in his own sentencing memorandum that Johnson should sentence Tom to the high end of the sentencing guideline calculated by the U.S. Probation Office, 17.5 years.

Spindle wrote that Tom went to Clyde’s house to steal her car.

“However, once he was inside her house, the attempted theft became infinitely worse,” he wrote. “Before stealing her car, Defendant decided to stab his aunt seventy-five times in the face, back, abdomen, arms, hands and neck. She died of blood loss on the floor of her bedroom, alone and suffering.”

Among the reasons for a sentencing at the top of the guideline was how “senseless and brutal” it was.

“The stabbing was so frenzied, two of the stab wounds penetrated her skull,” Spindle wrote. “She died of blood loss. This level of brutality far exceeds what would have been necessary to effectuate a murder.”

While Tom is young and experienced traumatic events, his drug use contributed to them and he seems disinterested in curbing his use, he wrote. Spindle wrote:

“According to Defendant, treatment “takes up too much time.” (Doc. 38, ¶ 60). This level of apathy to his drug use, even after multiple overdoses and the murder of a loved-one, indicates that he is not interested in changing his life. Therefore, even if the brutal murder of his aunt can be partially attributed to Defendant’s drug use, the fact that he does not intend curtail his drug use indicates he will remain a public safety risk.”

Spindle is also asking for $21,606 in restitution.

The stabbing

At 10 a.m., July 2, 2019, Clyde was found dead in her house by her father. Sometime during that same morning, Tavor Tom was found in her Jeep Cherokee, after he crashed into a fence in front of a church in Nenahnezad. Navajo Nation police officers found a bloody knife in the car, FBI Agent Cary Cahoon wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

During an interrogation, Tom told FBI agents he killed Clyde with a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle. He intended to go to her house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex. After he stole it from the store, he drove on the back roads toward Shiprock and he crashed the vehicle into the fence. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.

Pathologist Ross Zumwalt wrote in the autopsy report that Clyde suffered a total of 75 separate “sharp force injuries,” meaning stab wounds and incised, or slashing, wounds.

“Two of the stab wounds of the back of the head penetrated the skull resulting in bleeding around the brain,” Zumwalt wrote.

Clyde also has four stab wounds in her chest and one in her abdomen, which penetrated her stomach. She also has cutting wounds on her hands, which Zumwalt classified as probable defensive wounds.

“Death was a result of the blood loss caused by the multiple wounds,” Zumwalt wrote.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

See the case on CourtListener.com or read the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

 

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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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Tavor Tom to be sentenced in March for brutal stabbing death of aunt

Tavor Tom stabbed or slashed aunt Roberta Clyde at least 75 times
• Tom pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November
• Judge William Johnson has total discretion to sentence him from no time to life imprisonment

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

SHIPROCK, N.M. — Tavor Tom could be sentenced as early as March 12, 2021, after he pleaded guilty in November to second-degree murder for the brutal stabbing death of his maternal aunt, Roberta Clyde, 45, of Shiprock.

District Judge William Johnson tentatively set the virtual sentencing hearing via a notice entered on Jan. 27. Assuming the case is not continued, it will be conducted over the video conferencing platform Zoom.

Federal sentencing guidelines appear to place Tom’s suggested sentence at 16 to 20 years. No sentencing memorandums, from the prosecution or defense, have been filed n the case.

Tom, 19, of Shiprock, pleaded guilty on Nov. 24, 2020, to second-degree murder for stabbing Clyde to death in 2019. The plea was conditionally accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa during a virtual hearing that lasted just over 30 minutes.

federal grand jury indicted him on July 9, 2019, on a charge of second-degree murder. He stabbed his aunt to death on July 1, 2019. According to the plea deal proffered by federal prosecutor Joseph Spindle, there is no agreement as to the sentence.

The stabbing

At 10 a.m., July 2, 2019, Clyde was found dead in her house by her father. Sometime during that same morning, Tavor Tom was found in her Jeep Cherokee, after he crashed into a fence in front of a church in Nenahnezad. Navajo Nation police officers found a bloody knife in the car, FBI Agent Cary Cahoon wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

During an interrogation, Tom told FBI agents he killed Clyde with a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle. He intended to go to her house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex. After he stole it from the store, he drove on the back roads toward Shiprock and he crashed the vehicle into the fence. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.

Pathologist Ross Zumwalt wrote in the autopsy report that Clyde suffered a total of 75 separate “sharp force injuries,” meaning stab wounds and incised, or slashing, wounds.

“Two of the stab wounds of the back of the head penetrated the skull resulting in bleeding around the brain,” Zumwalt wrote.

Clyde also has four stab wounds in her chest and one in her abdomen, which penetrated her stomach. She also has cutting wounds on her hands, which Zumwalt classified as probable defensive wounds.

“Death was a result of the blood loss caused by the multiple wounds,” Zumwalt wrote.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

See the case on CourtListener.com or read the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

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Zachariah Joe sentenced to 15 years for stabbing death of cousin, per binding plea

• The binding plea deal offered by prosecutor David Cowen mandated a sentence of 15 years
Zacharian Joe stabbed cousin Brett Micah Morgan to death as he begged him to stop

See the full case summary or past stories on the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal district court judge sentenced Zachariah Joe to 15 years in prison for fatally stabbing his cousin in Shiprock, after accepting a binding plea agreement.

District Judge James Browning sentenced Joe on Jan. 14, 2021, to 15 years followed by supervised release for three years, according to a sentencing minutes sheet filed eight days after the hearing.

The minutes do not state if anyone spoke at the hearing.

Joe admitted to stabbing his cousin, Brett Micah Morgan, 10 times, although court documents indicate he also kicked him after repeatedly stabbing him. Morgan begged him to stop as Joe stabbed him, according to court documents.

Joe owes $6,546 to his cousin’s family, according to the judgement filed in the case.

He pleaded guilty on Oct. 31, 2019, to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Brett Micah Morgan’s death, offered by federal prosecutor David Cowen. Joe admitted to stabbing Morgan 10 times in the chest and neck.

Multiple family members wrote letters to the judge encouraging him to accept the plea.

The stabbing

On Jan. 3, 2019, Joe showed up at a house where Morgan, 32, and another man, identified by the initials B.M., were hanging out. Joe had just been fired from Burger King in Shiprock, Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Lance Roundy wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint for the arrest of Joe.

Photo of Shiprock on a snowy day.
Shiprock in the snow. Photo by Larry Lamsa/Flickr. CC-BY

Joe hit Morgan in the face with the back of his hand, then tried to attack Morgan, on the ground, but B.M. wrestled him to the ground. Morgan and B.M. got out of the house and Joe could be heard searching through kitchen drawers and cabinets. B.M. ran to Joe’s house and broke a window. While he was gone, Joe had stabbed Morgan 10 times, Roundy wrote.

Joe admitted in the plea deal to stabbing Morgan as he begged him to stop.

Another witness, D.T., told Roundy that he saw Joe kicking an unresponsive Morgan, after he had been stabbed, Roundy wrote.

See the full case summary, as well as a more complete narrative of the killing. Read the affidavit for a criminal complaint written by FBI Agent Lance RoundySee all the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud view the case and documents on Court Listener.

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Florida man appeals second-degree murder conviction on five grounds

A jury found Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez guilty of second-degree murder for strangling Connie Lopez
• Judge Jarod Hofacket sentenced him to 15 years, the maximum in New Mexico

Read the case write-up catch up on the past stories

DEMING, N.M. —  Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez is appealing his second-degree murder conviction on five grounds, including that holding the trial during a pandemic hampered the transcription of the trial, therefore eliminating his right to a fair trial.

Mug shot of Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez, convicted of second-degree murder for the death of Connie Lopez, 57, of Lake Placid, Fla.
Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez

A jury convicted Lobato-Rodriguez, 57, of the second-degree murder of Connie Lopez, 57, of Lake Placid, Fla., following a four-day trial that ended Aug. 20, 2020. They deliberated for just an hour. He was charged in district court with first-degree murder. District Judge Jarod Hofacket sentenced Lobato-Rodriguez to 15 years in prison, the maximum sentence for second-degree murder in New Mexico, during a hearing on Nov. 2, 2020.

On Nov. 10, 2020, Hofacket appointed the public defenders office to appeal Lobato-Rodriguez’s conviction, according to the docket. On Dec. 21, 2020, his attorney, George Harrison, filed a docketing statement with the court of appeals, contending that five issues in the case were grounds for a new trial:

  1. Conducting the trial while adhering to COVID-19 protocols resulted in “the inability to properly transcribe the proceedings,” obviating a fair trial
  2. Hofacket’s multiple denials of motions to suppress evidence
  3. Denial of a mistrial motion after prosecutor Matthew Bradburn commented on Lobato-Rodriguez’s silence after asserting his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent
  4. Hofacket’s “failure to correct critical errors” by the interpreter
  5. Hofacket’s denial of a self-defense jury instruction

Harrison previously motioned for a mistrial on three grounds, repeated in the appeal — the Fifth Amendment statement, the improper interpreting and the denials of motions to suppress. Hofacket denied that motion.

Harrison wrote in the docketing statement that he hired a certified Spanish interpreter to compile a “complete interpretation” of Lobato-Rodriguez’s testimony.

“The interpreter filed an affidavit with the district court,” Harrison wrote. “The affidavit states, among other things, that the quality of the audio recording of Mr. Lobato-Rodriguez’s testimony during trial is so poor that a proper interpretation would not be possible.”

Harrison wrote in the docketing statement and other motions that there was an improper translation, where Lobato-Rodriguez mumbled that he thought the victim told him he would “be dead that day.”

When Hofacket denied the motion, he wrote that the interaction Harrison said happened in fact, did not happen, and he did not understand why the interpreter claimed something happened that he found did not, after he reviewed the audio.

Harrison wrote that the rules for a jury trial during a pandemic meant the jurors were seated in the audience section of the courtroom, the family of the victim, Harrison and Lobato-Rodriguez were in the jury box, with their backs to the jury, and everyone was wearing masks.

Two Spanish interpreters translated during the trial for Lobato-Rodriguez and one juror.

“The COVID rules in effect made for great difficulty hearing potential jurors during voir dire and understanding witnesses called to the stand during trial testimony,” Harrison wrote.

No hearings have been set in the appeal and no responses have been filed by prosecutors.

The killing

On March 17, 2017, Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez, of Florida, allegedly tied a belt around Connie Lopez’s neck, strangling her in the front seat of her rented mini-van, two miles east of Hachita in Grant County, according to a statement of probable cause.

He allegedly told two Border Patrol agents, one of whom found Lopez’s body, that she was going to kill him and his family and that he was with other people in a berm in the desert. The agents could find neither footprints nor signs of anyone else.

According to Lobato-Rodriguez’s trial testimony, Lopez was driving him to his home in Mexico. Lobato-Rodriguez is a Mexican national.

For more details on the killing of Connie Lopez, see the case write-up or read the past stories.

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