Joshua Gutierrez pleads to voluntary manslaughter for To’Hajiilee shooting

  • Joshua Gutierrez  pleaded guilty ahead of a grand jury indictment
  • The plea sets his sentence at 12 years, but final acceptance is at the discretion of the sentencing judge
  • He pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and discharging a firearm

See past stories or the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A To’Hajiilee man pleaded guilty Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in federal court to voluntary manslaughter and discharging a firearm for fatally shooting another man in an early-morning incident on March 29, 2020, on the reservation.

Joshua Gutierrez, 21, appeared via Zoom from a Cibola County detention center before Magistrate Judge Paul Briones who accepted Gutierrez’s guilty plea to a criminal information and set sentencing before a District Court judge at an undetermined time.

According to the plea deal, it is binding and Gutierrez will be sentences to 12 years. Final acceptance of the plea was deferred until sentencing by the district court judge, according to the form minutes.

Federal agents charged Gutierrez with murder in the death of Llewyn Platero, 36, on March 30, and Gutierrez has been in detention since.

The Route 66 Casino. Photo by Ken Lund/Flickr. CC-BY-SA

Gutierrez was staying at his girlfriend’s house on March 29 in To’Hajilee when guests of his girlfriend’s father including Platero, identified as “John Doe” in charging documents, and Platero’s brother, identified as “MK” began to scuffle, Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Jaros said. Jaros signed the plea deal.

“My girlfriend entered the room and told them to leave,” Jaros said, reading aloud the facts of the case from Gutierrez’s point of view. “Shortly thereafter I armed myself with a handgun and began walking down the hallway. John Doe exited the room. As we passed each other in the hallway, John Doe swung at me. I shot John Doe in the chest.”

Gutierrez pointed the firearm at MK and another witness, JL, telling them, “I’ll shoot you too!” according to MK, FBI agent Dibiassi Robinson’s affidavit for a criminal complaint alleged. JL allegedly told MK “he’ll do it!”

MK and JL drove Platero toward Albuquerque, dialing 911 and stopping at the Route 66 Casino, according to Robinson.

Gutierrez “fled” the house on foot, Robinson wrote, and was found at his own home 1 1/2 miles away.

Another man, JG, told Robinson that Gutierrez “confided in him that he had shot DOE,” he wrote.

“JG told GUTIERREZ to ‘lay down, the cops will be here,'” Robinson wrote.

After being read his Miranda rights, Gutierrez allegedly told investigators he shot John Doe because he attempted to “assault” him and that the gun he used was at JG’s house. A .380 caliber pistol and one spent cartridge were found at that house.

Gutierrez’s plea deal waives any claim of self-defense, Jaros said.

When Briones asked Gutierrez if he felt he had enough time to talk about the case with his public defender, Sylvia A. Baiz, Gutierrez said, “Yeah, somewhat.”

Briones asked Gutierrez several additional questions about Baiz’s representation in which Gutierrez responded positively. With the plea deal, Gutierrez waives any appeal attempts except on the grounds of his representation.

Baiz said Gutierrez reached the plea deal ahead of a grand jury indictment deadline, which she said would have brought additional charges against Gutierrez.

Jaros said Platero’s family listened into the hearing, and would speak at sentencing.

Gutierrez’s next hearing was not scheduled at the conclusion of the plea hearing.

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Wheeler Cowperthwaite contributed to this report.

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Sentencing set for Breadsprings man who beat girlfriend to death

Troy Livingston pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder
• Sentencing is tentatively set for November
• He beat to death Tyler Lamebear, his girlfriend

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, 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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Arizona man pleads to involuntary manslaughter without deal in DWI killing

Maroquez Clah pleaded guilty without a plea deal
• He faces a maximum sentence of eight years for killing Darrel Chavez, 22

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

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Maroquez Clah pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, Sept. 21,  for killing his friend in a drunk driving crash near Mitten Rock.

Clah, 28, of Red Valley, Ariz., pleaded guilty without a plea agreement and he faces a maximum sentence of eight years for the Aug. 30, 2019 crash that killed Darrell Chavez, 22.

Panoramic photo of Red Valley, Arizona, with no buildings in sight.
Red Valley, about a mile west of the New Mexico state line, 36.5845 -109.0732, Apache County, Arizona, 5/17/2014. Photo by Patrick Alexander/Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA

According to the plea minute sheet, Magistrate Judge John Robbenhaar accepted the plea. Robbenhaar allowed Clah to remain on his current conditions of release. He is living with his parents in Red Valley.

According to a proffer of evidence at trial filed by federal prosecutor Novaline Wilson, Clah acted with “wanton and reckless disregard for human life” when he drove drunk.

No sentencing date has been set.

A grand jury indicted Clah on a charge of involuntary manslaughter on Nov. 25, 2019 for crashing his truck while drunk near Mitten Rock, killing Chavez. He was not arrested until Feb. 14, 2020.  Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones released him to a halfway house over the objection of prosecutor Wilson. Briones refused to release him to his home in Red Valley to help his ailing parents amid the coronavirus pandemic. Federal District Court Judge Kea Riggs overruled Briones and ordered him released on April 20, 2020.

Details of the crash

FBI Agent Lancy Roundy wrote in a search warrant filed for Clah’s truck on Sept. 4, 2019, that Clah told federal investigators, while in the hospital, he had been drinking alcohol throughout the day prior to driving from Farmington to his home in Red Valley, Arizona. Chavez is referred to as “John Doe” in court records.

“Clah recalled John Doe being a passenger of his vehicle at some point during the drive,” Roundy wrote. “Clah admitted to drinking vodka approximately six hours prior to driving his vehicle home and remembered losing control of the vehicle while driving approximately 70 miles per hour before the vehicle rolled several times.”

Roundy wrote that, according to Clah’s hospital records from his treatment after the crash, his blood-alcohol content was 0.258, over three times the legal limit of 0.08.

According to Chavez’s autopsy report, he was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the truck during the crash.

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Judge rules Trudy Martinez has no right to in-person pre-sentence interview

  • Judge William Johnson wrote Trudy Martinez has no right to an in-person interview with the probation officers preparing her pre-sentence report
  • Martinez pleaded guilty in March 2020 to voluntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement
  • Alonzo Padilla’s motion does not appear in court records and he did not respond to questions about the possible improper sealing of his motion

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Trudy Martinez, 29, of Twin Lakes, has no right to an in-person interview with the federal probation officers tasked with preparing a pre-sentence report and determining the range of her suggested sentence, a federal district court judge ruled.

Trudy Martinez

Martinez pleaded guilty on March 16, 2020, to voluntary manslaughter and a firearms enhancement for shooting her sister-in-law Cornelia McCabe with an AR-15 on April 26, 2019. She faces a sentence of 10 to 15 years.

In an Aug. 18, 2020 order, District Judge William Johnson wrote he would grant Alonzo Padilla‘s motion to continue sentencing the case, but only because there was good cause and not because he agreed with Padilla’s position that Martinez was entitled to an in-person interview. He continued sentencing until Nov. 30, 2020.

“To be clear, Defendant is not entitled to an in-person interview with Probation for the purposes of completing her PSR,” Johnson wrote. “In fact, the Court finds her insistence on an in-person interview to be unreasonable, especially when she cites no legal authority which would require an in person interview, or even that an interview is required at all.”

Padilla filed a motion on July 21, 2020, and in it said that he wanted a 90-day continuance “in order for an in-person presentence interview to be conducted given ‘the serious nature of this case,'” according to a response in opposition filed on July 23, 2020, by prosecutor Thomas Aliberti.

Padilla’s motion was numbered 36 and does not appear in the court docket. It also does not appear that Padilla filed a motion, or for permission to seal his motion to continue the case. Padilla, a public defender, did not return a request for information about his motion.

Writing in New Mexico In Depth, Jeff Proctor illuminated 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.

“Judges, not lawyers, are supposed to decide which documents are made available to the public and which should remain secret through an established protocol based in part on decades of case law: Attorneys must submit a written request asking a judge to seal records and a judge must consent before records are sealed,” Proctor wrote.

At the heart of Padilla’s request, which may be sealed in violation of court rules, is the demand that she be interviewed in person by probation. In-person interviews are problematic because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to court filings.

“The Court has no way of determining how long the pandemic and the corresponding ban on in-person visits at the Santa Fe Detention Center will last, or when an in-person interview can be safely conducted in the foreseeable future.” Johnson wrote.

Probation officers are “routinely” interviewing people in other criminal cases, leading Johnson to be at a “total loss to understand how Defendant is prejudiced if she’s interviewed by Probation with her
counsel participating utilizing videoconferencing or telephonic equipment.”

Johnson wrote he was admonishing Padilla that he will not grant further continuances solely because she wants an in-person interview.

“The PSR will be completed, with or without Defendant’s cooperation,” Johnson wrote. “The Court will consider Defendant’s ability to participate waived if she refuses to cooperate unless the interview is conducted in-person.”

Johnson wrote that Padilla also asked for more time to interview members of Martinez’s family, on the Navajo Nation, who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Sentencing is currently set for 9:30 a.m., Nov. 30 in the Cimarron courtroom in Albuquerque and will likely be available via video conference.

According to the plea deal, Martinez intentionally killed McCabe during a sudden quarrel and therefore, without malice.

One of McCabe’s children told investigators she witnessed her mother’s killing and that Martinez first pushed her mother before going back to her truck to retrieve an AR-15 carbine, which she then loaded in the house, FBI Agent Jeffrey Wright wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant. McCabe is referred to as “Jane Doe” in his affidavit.

“DOE attempted to take the rifle away from Martinez,” Wright wrote. “As DOE approached MARTINEZ at the entrance to the Hogan, MARTINEZ pointed the rifle at DOE and fired the weapon two times. The first round missed DOE, but the second round struck DOE in the abdomen, after which DOE fell to the floor.”

See the case files on Google Drive or on Document Cloud or See the full case write-up.

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Zuni man sentenced to 5 months for probation violation

Raylan Reano waived an evidentiary hearing
• Judge James Parker ordered him back to prison for five months
• Reano killed girlfriend Nicky Chavez in a drunk driving crash in 2016

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Raylan Reano will spend the next five months in prison after a judge ordered him back, Aug. 25, 2020, after he was initially released on supervised probation after serving a two-year sentence for killing his girlfriend in a drunk driving crash.

Mug shot of Raylan Reano from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Raylan Reano

Reano, 27, admitted to violating the conditions of his release by failing to follow the instructions of his probation officer, failing to reside at a halfway-house after his release and taking drugs, according to a judgement signed by District Judge James Parker.

Raylan Reano killed his girlfriend, Nicky Chavez, 26, in a drunk driving crash on Oct. 23, 2016. He received a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Reano faced a maximum sentence of nine additional months for the probation violations, according to federal court documents.

Reano pleaded guilty on March 13, 2018, to a single count of involuntary manslaughter and a year later, Parker sentenced Reano to two years in federal prison, to be served at the same time as three tribal sentences, followed by supervised release for three years. One of those tribal sentences was for escaping from jail.

Reano’s probation officer,  Christopher Fiedler, reported problems with Reano as soon as he was initially released, on Jan. 3, 2020, and that Reano admitted to using drugs before even leaving prison, according to court documents.

In the original petition filed March 25, 2020, Fielder alleged Reano admitted to using methamphetamine and Suboxone and he tested positive for drugs on Jan. 3, 4 and 7, 2020.

In the second amended petition filed May 18, 2020, Fiedler wrote Reano tested positive for cocaine on March 20, 2020 and admitted to using cocaine in a subsequent interview. A drug testing sweat patch, applied on April 17, showed positive results for THC, the chemical in marijuana.

The case

To read more about the crash, the plea, or the arguments over sentencing, please read the case write-up.

According court documents and an autopsy report, on Oct. 23, 2016, Reano, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.365, drove off State Road 53, overcorrected and flipped, ejecting Chavez, killing her.

According to a response to a sentencing memorandum by prosecutor Sarah Mease, witnesses said Reano was driving recklessly and at a “high rate of speed” when he lost control of his car and it rolled. He had a blood-alcohol content level, or BAC, of 0.365, over four times the legal limit of 0.08, and in the area of possible alcohol poisoning, which Mease described as “shockingly high.”

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

Troy Livingston pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the beating death of 19-year-old Tyler Lamebear
• Livingston’s 2 1/2 year old child was in the house while he beat Lamebear to death
• He faces up to life in prison

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

ALBUQUERQUE,  N.M. — During a virtual 30-minute hearing Aug. 4, 2020, Troy Livingston, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the beating death of his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, 19.

Troy Livingston

Livingston pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Lamebear’s death on April 6, 2019.

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.

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

No sentencing hearing has been set.

Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life.

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

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 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 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 the girlfriend 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, Waldron wrote.

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Zuni man held without bail pending probation revocation hearing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 27-year-old Zuni man is being held without bail pending a probation revocation hearing after being arrested on June 18, 2020.

Mug shot of Raylan Reano from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Raylan Reano

Raylan Reano killed his girlfriend, Nicky Chavez, 26, in a drunk driving crash on Oct. 23, 2016. He received a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

After an initial probation revocation hearing on May 18, 2020, Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing set a tentative new hearing for May 22. The same day as the initial hearing, Federal probation officer Christopher Fiedler filed a second amended petition for the revocation of Reano’s probation. It was not until June 18 that federal agents arrested Reano on a warrant, dated May 19.

In the original petition filed March 25, 2020, Fielder alleged Reano admitted to using methamphetamine and Suboxone and he tested positive for drugs on Jan. 3, 4 and 7, 2020. He used that as a basis to request Reano have a special condition added to his sentence that he be required to live at a “residential reentry center” for up to six months. On March 16, 2020, District Judge James Parker, who initially sentenced him, added the special condition to Reano’s sentence.

In the second amended petition, Fiedler wrote Reano tested positive for cocaine on March 20, 2020 and admitted to using cocaine in a subsequent interview. A drug testing sweat patch, applied on April 17, showed positive results for THC, the chemical in marijuana.

Raylan Reano could spend up to another nine months in prison if his release is revoked, according to federal court documents.

On June 19, at a hearing on his revocation, Reano waived a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing.

A revocation hearing is set for 2 p.m., Aug. 25, via Zoom, in front of Parker.

Reano pleaded guilty on March 13, 2018, to a single count of involuntary manslaughter and a year later, Parker sentenced Reano to two years in federal prison, to be served at the same time as three tribal sentences, followed by supervised release for three years. One of those tribal sentences was for escaping from jail.

According court documents and an autopsy report, on Oct. 23, 2016, Reano, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.365, drove off State Road 53, overcorrected and flipped, ejecting Chavez, killing her.

To read more about the crash, the plea, or the arguments over sentencing, please read the case write-up.

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Sentencing in Dulce torture case moved to October

  • Allister Quintana pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Jan. 22, 2020
  • The in-person sentencing has been postponed to October because of the coronavirus pandemic

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Dulce man who pleaded guilty to torturing his cousin, binding him and locking him in a closet to die will not be sentenced until Oct. 23 at the earliest as the coronavirus pandemic has closed courtrooms and jails to visitors, including attorneys and psychologists.

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

Federal District Judge William Johnson set Allister Quintana’s sentencing hearing for 10 a.m., Oct. 23 in Albuquerque.

Quintana, 26, had been set to be sentenced on June 22, according to minutes of a May 26 hearing. Prosecutor Joseph Spindle is seeking a life sentence for Quintana.

Quintana 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.

During the May 26 hearing, Spindle said sentencing would take 1 1/2 to 2 hours and he planned to call one witness and two “family victims.” Quintana’s attorney, Ray Twohig, said he wanted to having the hearing moved because of issues related to the pandemic. It was then moved from June 22 to July 27. On June 1, the hearing was again moved, this time to Aug. 21. On July 13, it was moved again to Oct. 23. It is supposed to be in person but the public and media should have access via live streaming, according to the court docket.

In his third motion to reschedule sentencing, filed July 10, Twohig wrote that he “obtained the assistance” of a forensic psychologist to address mental health issues to be considered when Quintana is sentenced.

Quintana is being held at the McKinley County Detention Center and no in-person visits are currently allowed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Twohig needed psychologist Christine Johnson to complete her evaluation because he could complete his own sentencing memorandum but because of visiting restrictions, she was having a hard time, he wrote.

“However, she has been able to arrange Zoom conferences with him,” Twohig wrote. “These are difficult to schedule and conduct, since reception  is uneven and the evaluation process is delayed considerably by the use of this  method. She estimates she will need at least one other Zoom meeting in addition to the three Zoom meetings she has been able to conduct.”

In a sentencing memorandum, Spindle asked for Quintana to be sentenced to life, an upward variance.

No hearing has been set for Bettelyoun and no filings have been made in his case for over a year.

Continue reading “Sentencing in Dulce torture case moved to October”

Santa Fe man sentenced to 12 years for fatal DWI crash

Editor’s Note: This story published late, eight months after sentencing, because court records were not previously available.

Read the case write up

SANTA FE, N.M. — Paulo Vega-Mendoza will spend 12 years in prison for crashing into motorcyclist Paul Padilla and killing him, in 2017.

Paulo Vega-Mendoza

District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington sentenced Vega-Mendoza, 25, of Santa Fe, to 12 years followed by three years of supervised probation on Sept. 27, 2019. He had previously pleaded guilty to a single count of DWI vehicular homicide on April 29, 2019, under a plea signed by prosecutor Blake Nichols.

Ellington gave Vega-Mendoza credit for 792 days served, just over two years, for time spent in jail and on electronic monitoring prior sentencing.

Vega-Mendoza ran into the back of Padilla’s motorcycle, April 15, 2017, on Airport Road in Santa Fe. He fled from the scene and then crashed his own car, a Dodge Neon. It landed on its hood.

Witnesses, and then officers, allegedly chased Vega-Mendoza on foot before he tried to climb and fence and it broke, throwing him backward.

Padilla, 63,  died from extensive brain injuries on April 25, 2017.

For more details, please see the summary of the case.

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Absconder warrant requested for Zuni man who killed girlfriend in DWI crash

Raylan Reano killed girlfriend Nicky Chavez in a 2016 crash outside Ramah
Judge James Parker gave Reano a 2-year sentence for killing Chavez, a mother of two
• Reano allegedly violated his probation, after release, by absconding

Read more about the case here

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Probation officers have requested a warrant for a Raylan Reano, 27, of Zuni, after he allegedly repeatedly violated the conditions of his supervised release and absconded after serving a federal prison sentence for killing his 26-year-old girlfriend Nicky Chavez in 2016.

Mug shot of Raylan Reano from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Raylan Reano

After an initial hearing on May 18, 2020, where no action was taken, a following hearing on his alleged probation violation was tentatively set for May 22, but court records show there has been no more movement in the case.

Raylan Reano could spend up to another nine months in prison if his release is revoked, according to federal court documents. Reano pleaded guilty on March 13, 2018, to a single count of involuntary manslaughter and a year later, federal District Judge James Parker sentenced Reano to two years in federal prison, to be served at the same time as three tribal sentences, followed by supervised release for three years. One of those tribal sentences was for escaping from jail.

According court documents and an autopsy report, on Oct. 23, 2016, Reano, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.365, drove off State Road 53, overcorrected and flipped, ejecting Chavez, killing her.

Federal probation officer Christopher Fiedler alleged Reano admitted to using methamphetamine and Suboxone and he tested positive for drugs on Jan. 3, 4 and 7, 2020, he wrote in a petition for a revocation of his supervised release filed March 25, 2020. He used that as a basis to request Reano have a special condition added to his sentence that he be required to live at a “residential reentry center” for up to six months. On March 16, 2020, Parker added the special condition to Reano’s sentence.

“This was in response to the defendant failing to comply with his substance abuse treatment plan,” he wrote.

Neither the request nor the condition appear on the public docket and appear to have been sealed. There is no documentation requesting they be sealed or indication how, or why, the sealing circumvented the normal rules for court filings.

Fiedler’s March 25, 2020 petition alleged that Reano didn’t call to schedule his assessment appointment for the reentry program on March 23, as ordered. He wrote:

“On March 24, 2020, this officer received notification from staff at Diersen Charities Residential Reentry Center that the defendant left their facility without permission and was considered an absconder. Later that same day, the defendant contacted this officer by phone and confirmed that he decided to leave the residential reentry center and returned back to his mother’s residence in Zuni, New Mexico.”

The federal Bureau of Prisons lists his status as an absconder.

Fiedler wrote that the revocation range is three to nine months.

Aerial panorama, Dowa Yalanne near Black Rock (left) and Zuni (right), NM, on September 9, 2019.
Aerial panorama, Dowa Yalanne near Black Rock (left) and Zuni (right), NM, on September 9, 2019. Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA/Flickr

Instead of a warrant, Reano was issued a summons to appear on a revocation hearing which, after being pushed off, was set for May 18, 2020.

During that hearing in front of Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, Mease requested Reano be arrested, Elsenheimer requested he remain free and probation said that a second amended petition was filed and a warrant was requested, according to the minutes.

No petition appears in the public court record.

The hearing was tentatively moved to May 22, 2020 but no further filings appear in the court record after May 18, 2020. The minutes do not state if Reano was ordered detained or allowed to remain free.

Reano previously escaped from the Zuni jail, a crime that was charged in tribal court, federal prosecutor Sarah Mease wrote in a response to a sentencing memorandum.

He also attacked a fellow inmate while in the Zuni jail and on Nov. 12, 2016, a week after killing Chavez, he was found drunk and sleeping in a vehicle, Mease wrote.

Reano and Chavez were both enrolled Zuni tribal members.

Continue reading “Absconder warrant requested for Zuni man who killed girlfriend in DWI crash”

Prosecutor asks for life sentence in Dulce torture case

  • Allister Quintana pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Jan. 22, 2020
  • The prosecutor wants Quintana to receive a life sentence because of how heinous his actions were
  • Quintana had Andrew Bettelyoun help torture and bind Travis Howland before leaving him in a closet to die
  • Bettelyoun pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal prosecutor is asking a judge to impose a life sentence on the Dulce man who beat, chopped, stabbed and bound his cousin before locking him in a closet to die of asphyxiation, starvation or dehydration.

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

Allister 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.

Federal prosecutor Joseph Spindle filed a sentencing memorandum/motion for an upward departure in Quintana’s case on April 2, 2020, asking that he receive a life sentence. Spindle wrote he wants six points added to Quintana’s sentencing guideline, to put him at an offense level of 43, where the only suggested sentence is life, regardless of criminal history.

“Defendant’s conduct was unusually heinous, cruel, brutal, and degrading to the victim, warranting the imposition of a six-level upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K2.8,” Spindle wrote.

The extreme conduct guideline Spindle referenced is for “torture of a victim, gratuitous infliction of injury, or prolonging of pain or humiliation.”

Spindle wrote that Quintana’s torture of Howland encompassed three phases.

“He beat him with a flashlight, burned him with a lighter, cut him with a machete, and bound him with a cord,” he wrote. “Doe suffered three types of trauma, blunt, sharp, and compressional.”

Quintana allegedly forced Quintana to sodomize himself with a flashlight and tortured him in three separate rooms before leaving him bound in a closet “where he may have painfully surrounded to starvation, asphyxiation, or dehydration,” Spindle wrote.

The pathologist who performed Howland’s autopsy wrote that the manner of death was homicide but the means was unspecified, according to the autopsy report. None of his injuries were enough to kill him. (Read more about the cause of death here.)

Quintana also allegedly victimized one of Howland’s sisters because she saw his body when responding as a medic, although she did not initially recognize him, Spindle wrote.

What Quintana did to Howland is outlined in greater detail in the case write-up. However, reader discretion is advised because the details are disturbing.

Although Spindle did not write what Quintana’s sentence guideline number was, if it took a full six points to get to 43, the highest number, which carries a suggested sentence of life, his number could have been 37. With no criminal history points, the sentencing guidelines suggest a sentence of 17 to 22 years. With the maximum number of criminal history points, and a guideline of 37, the sentence is 30 years to life.

“Coupled with a criminal history category of I, Defendant’s adjusted guidelines range would be imprisonment for life,” he wrote.

Below is the federal sentencing table, from levels 33 to 43, the highest level.

Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.
Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43. Prosecutor Joseph Spindle wrote Andrew Bettelyoun’s sentence guidelines is 360 months (30 years) to life. Depending on his criminal history, his level is anywhere from 37, with the highest criminal history rating of V, to 42, with the lowest level of criminal history. Court documents do not say where he lands. Allister Quintana appears to have a level of 37, with no criminal history points.

Quintana also has an “abysmal” criminal history that warranted a higher sentence, Spindle wrote.

Jicarilla Judicial Complex (Ishkoteen)
JJicarilla Apache Nation Ishkoteen Judicial Complex, Dulce, NM. According to federal prosecutors, Allister Quintana had an extensive criminal history, not accounted for in a presentence report. All the cases appear to be tribal. Photo by Bob Nichols/USDA/Flickr.

“In less than ten years, Defendant has been charged nine times,” Spindle wrote. “While none of his previous conduct was even close to the brutality involved in this case, several times his convictions were for violent crimes. At least five of the crimes appeared to victimize women, and at least one involved confinement of the victim in his home.”

It is unclear what alleged crimes Quintana committed, or how many he was convicted of. The only federal case against him is for Howland’s death and state court records only show two cases, both for minor in possession of alcohol, from 2015.

In his presentence report and the calculation of his offense level, he did not receive points for his criminal history, Spindle wrote.

Quintana allegedly wanted Howland to suffer before he did by inflicting pain, humiliation and subjecting his sister to the sight of his decomposing body, Spindle wrote.

Spindle wrote:

“A sentence within the guidelines would not adequately reflect the seriousness of this type of sadistic behavior and would signal to the community that a brutal torture is no different from an isolated shooting. But there is a difference ― a huge difference. Doe’s death was not quick and painless. He died after being beaten, tied up, and sodomized.”

Continue reading “Prosecutor asks for life sentence in Dulce torture case”

Woman pleads guilty in 2019 Twin Lakes killing

  • Trudy Martinez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement
  • Martinez shot her sister-in-law, Cornelia McCabe, in the abdomen in Twin Lakes, in front of at least one of the woman’s children
  • She faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and a max of 15 years
  • Sentencing is tentatively set for Aug. 24, 2020

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Twin Lakes woman pleaded guilty, March 16, 2020, to voluntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement for shooting and killing her sister-in-law with an AR-15 in April 2019.

mug of Trudy Martinez
Trudy Martinez

Trudy Martinez, 29, of Twin Lakes, will spend at least 10 years in prison for killing Cornelia McCabe, 36, her sister-in-law. She is identified in court documents as C.M.

Martinez pleaded guilty in front of federal Magistrate Judge Paul Briones who deferred acceptance of the plea to the district judge sentencing her in the case, according to the minutes.

When she was first arrested, Federal Bureau of Investigations agents charged her with an open count of murder.

Federal prosecutor Thomas Aliberti signed the plea deal and filed the criminal information charging her with voluntary manslaughter and the firearm enhancement. Voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years while the firearm enhancement carries a minimum 10-year sentence.

According to the plea deal, Martinez intentionally killed McCabe during a sudden quarrel and therefore, without malice.

One of McCabe’s children told investigators she witnessed her mother’s killing and that Martinez first pushed her mother before going back to her truck to retrieve an AR-15 carbine, which she then loaded in the house, FBI Agent Jeffrey Wright wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant. McCabe is referred to as “Jane Doe” in his affidavit.

“DOE attempted to take the rifle away from Martinez,” Wright wrote. “As DOE approached MARTINEZ at the entrance to the Hogan, MARTINEZ pointed the rifle at DOE and fired the weapon two times. The first round missed DOE, but the second round struck DOE in the abdomen, after which DOE fell to the floor.”

Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 24, 2020, at 10 a.m. in the Cimarron Courtroom in Albuquerque in front of District Court Judge William Johnson. It was moved to August after Martinez’s attorney, Irma Rivas, filed an unopposed motion to push out the sentencing date because Martinez wants her pretrial interview to be in person but the coronavirus pandemic has eliminated in-person visits at the Santa Fe County Detention Center, where she is being housed.

Continue reading “Woman pleads guilty in 2019 Twin Lakes killing”

Autopsy reports: Fatal crash victims had methamphetamine in system, high BAC

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The autopsy reports for the two people killed in a car wreck in October 2018 shows they both had been drinking and consumed methamphetamine before the crash.

Zuni Pueblo, eastern edge. Photo by Joseph Novak/Flickr

Their drinking and methamphetamine use was cited by federal prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall as the reason for the sentence he gave Joey Unkestine in a plea deal: 3 years and 10 months.

Joey Unkestine killed his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie, his brother, Elison Unkestine and injured Edaakie’s child, referred to in court documents as D.G., when he crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Oct. 18, 2018, on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo.

On June 20, 2019, Joey Unkestine pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment. On Oct. 18, 2019, the 1-year anniversary of the crash, Joey Unkestine was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in prison, per a plea agreement signed by Mendenhall. Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter accepted the plea. Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl entered the sentence.

According to the plea agreement and a sentencing memorandum written by Mendenhall, Joey Unkestine’s blood-alcohol level was later measured at 0.36 and he was estimated to be driving between 74 and 93 mph on a 55-mph-limit road.

Because the two people in the car were drinking, their deaths do not warrant a sentence at the top of the sentencing range, citing United States v Lente. However, the child being placed in danger did warrant the lengthier sentence, as did his history with alcohol, Mendenhall wrote in the sentencing memorandum:

The two adult victims in this case had been drinking in the vehicle. Both of their deaths are tragic, but the circumstances of this case suggest an upward departure or variance is not necessarily warranted.

According to Edaakie’s autopsy report, she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.28 and methamphetamine in her system.

Continue reading “Autopsy reports: Fatal crash victims had methamphetamine in system, high BAC”

3 years, 10 months prison for Zuni Pueblo man who killed girlfriend, brother in DUI crash

  • Joey Unkestine crashed his car on Oct. 18, 2018, killing 2 people
  • Prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall set Joey Unkestine’s sentence at 3 years 10 months
  • Unkestine had a history of alcohol-related convictions
  • Mendenhall: Killing two people did not warrant a heftier sentence

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

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On Oct. 18, 2019, the 1-year anniversary of the day he rolled his Ford Explorer, killing his girlfriend, his brother and injuring his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son, Joey Unkestine received a three year and 10 month sentence.

The sentence was no surprise. When Unkestine pleaded guilty on June 20, 2019, to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment, federal prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall had already agreed to the binding sentence when he brought it to Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter.

Ultimately, Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl issued the sentence, which only carried two years of probation. Mendenhall asked for three.

According to the plea agreement and a sentencing memorandum written by Mendenhall, Unkestine crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo on Oct. 18, 2018, killing his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie, his brother, Elison Unkestine, referred to in court documents as K.E. and E.U. and injuring his girlfriend’s son, referred to as D.G. His blood-alcohol level was later measured at 0.35 and he was estimated to be driving between 74 and 93 mph on a 55-mph-limit road. For comparison, the legal-per-se limit is 0.08 and above 0.40 can be fatal.

Opioids and methamphetamine were also found in his system, although he claimed he used no drugs that day. The brother and girlfriend had also been drinking while he was driving. D.G. received “only scrapes and bruises,” Mendenhall wrote.

Unkestine had several prior convictions “involving alcohol” but all of them were tribal, Mendenhall wrote.

Continue reading “3 years, 10 months prison for Zuni Pueblo man who killed girlfriend, brother in DUI crash”

Acoma Pueblo man pleas in fatal DWI crash, to get 5-8 year sentence

  • Mateo Maestas drunkenly crashed into an unidentified Laguna Pueblo woman’s car on April 19, 2019, killing her
  • The plea deal sets his sentence between 5-8 years
  • In secret court documents, prosecutor Elisa Dimas asked for Maestas to receive either the maximum sentence or one greater than allowed under his plea deal

Read the full case summary

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 22-year-old Acoma Pueblo man is tentatively set to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020, for an April 2019 crash that killed a woman and injured her two children on the Laguna Pueblo.

Laguna Pueblo as seen from I-40. Photo by Ken Lund/Flickr

Mateo Maestas pleaded guilty to a single count of involuntary manslaughter on Sept. 5, 2019. According to the plea deal, accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, the sentencing judge is bound to sentence Maestas to five to eight years in prison. Eight years is the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter. He was previously indicted on the manslaughter charge on June 12, 2019.

According to an order continuing his sentencing hearing, Federal District Court Judge James Browning is set to sentence Maestas at 8:30 a.m., Jan. 17, 2020 in Federal District Court in Albuquerque.

In preparation for the sentencing hearing, his attorney, Britany Schaffer, filed a 15-page sentencing memorandum on Dec. 31, 2019.

She wrote that Maestas drove because his friends left him at his car following a minor argument.

“He made a terrible error in attempting to drive back to safety, one for which he will be haunted by for the rest of his life,” Schaffer wrote. “He called out for help to one of his loved ones, but he was too far away to be able to help.”

Schaffer does not write how Maestas was in danger, or what he was in danger from, that he needed to drive, drunk, to safety, or what safety he was trying to drive toward.

The presentence report, which isn’t public, suggested a sentence of 2 1/2 to 3 years, she wrote.

Schaffer wrote that she wants Browning to give Maestas a sentence at the low end of the plea agreement.

“Mr. Maestas has a criminal history of zero: that is, prior to this case, he has never been convicted of a crime, other than a single speeding ticket,” she wrote. “He is young, hard-working and educated, and aspires to help others in his future as he has been doing during his counseling sessions while this case has been pending.”

He is the grandson of Wilson Joe Chiquito, who was killed in his home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into his killing is still unsolved.

“Although there is no excuse for his actions on the date of the accident, Mr. Maestas was heavily impacted by the loss of his grandfather, and, at the time when this accident occurred, he had unfortunately fallen into a pattern of using alcohol in an unhealthy manner. He was forthright with his probation officer when he discussed his drinking habits, and that he ‘was struggling with alcohol use,'” Schaffer wrote.

Prosecutor Elisa Dimas wants Browning to give Maestas a sentence above the maximum of eight years agreed to in his plea deal because of his “uncharged conduct,” Schaffer wrote. This is because of the injuries to the Laguna Pueblo woman’s children.

One child, L.R., received “liver lacerations and spleen injuries.” She was unrestrained in the back seat.

Dimas’ actual request to increase Maestas’ possible sentence does not appear in the public court docket. The public docket is missing entries 38 and 39 and 44 through 46.

According to Schaffer’s sentencing memo, Dimas’ request for Maestas to receive a sentence above what she agreed to in the plea agreement is document 45, which does not appear on the public court docket. There is no explanation as to why the document is being kept secret and there are no entries indicating it was sealed, or that either the defense or prosecution requested it be sealed.

According to Schaffer’s memo, Dimas wants Maestas to be sentenced to at least a maximum of eight years and one month, one month above what was allowed in his plea deal, although it is not clear if she is seeking a sentence above that and her request is not on the public docket.

In 2018, journalist Jeff Proctor wrote about prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes federal cases, and public defenders, improperly sealing court documents, a process that requires a judge’s consent.

Maestas also wrote a letter to Browning and the dead woman’s family. Although he wrote that he feels sympathy for the woman’s family and he regrets the decision he made, because it killed the Laguna Pueblo woman, much of his letter is about the unsolved killing of his grandfather.

Maestas is tentatively set to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020.

The details of the crash are in the case write-up.

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Continue reading “Acoma Pueblo man pleas in fatal DWI crash, to get 5-8 year sentence”