Jodie Martinez sentenced to 2 years for 2019 Zuni crash that killed son, injured woman

  • Judge Kea Riggs sentenced Jodie Martinez to the maximum, two years, under a plea deal she accepted
  • Jodie Martinez pleaded guilty for a crash she caused, killing her son and severely injured a woman on July 6, 2019
  • Prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez gave her a plea deal for a sentence of 18 months to 2 years
  • Ruiz-Velez wanted two years while the defense asked for 18 months, a difference of six months
  • After being released to attend her son’s funeral, she tested positive for methamphetamine when she came back to the jail, prosecutors wrote
  • She smuggled meth back into the jail after the furlough for the funeral, prosecutors wrote

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

ZUNI, N.M. — Jodie Martinez received a two-year sentence, followed by supervised release for three years, for killing her 9-year-old son and severely injuring a woman in a drug-related head-on crash in 2019.

Federal District Judge Kea Riggs accepted the binding plea deal, proffered by prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez, that set Martinez’s sentence at 18 months to two years, for aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and dropped a charge of involuntary manslaughter for killing her son.

Mug shot of Jodie Martinez from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Jodie Martinez/Santa Fe County Detention Center

Riggs sentenced Martinez, 33, of Zuni, during a virtual hearing, Nov. 20, 2020, and said there will be a “zero-tolerance policy for substance abuse” during her three years of supervised release following her release from person, according to a minutes sheet.

The minutes do not indicate if any victims, either a woman only identified as “Mrs. Sweeney,” or 9-year-old Christian Molina‘s father, Samuel Molina, said anything during the sentencing hearing. Samuel Molina sued Martinez over the life insurance payout.

Although Martinez will get credit for the 304 days she spent in jail since she was charged in federal court, she will not receive credit for the 91 days she spent in a tribal jail, Riggs ordered.

Ruiz-Velez had been asking for two years, the maximum allowed in a plea deal she offered. Martinez’s defense attorney, Mallory Gagan, is asking for the minimum sentence under the deal, 18 months, even though prosecutors wrote Martinez smuggled methamphetamine into a jail following a furlough to attend her son’s funeral and use of methamphetamine while on furlough from jail. Martinez also has a pending case of vehicle embezzlement in state court in Santa Fe.

On Aug. 3, 2020, Martinez pleaded guilty to a single charge of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing accepted the plea but deferred final acceptance until sentencing in front of a district court judge. Prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez dropped a second charge, of involuntary manslaughter, brought by the grand jury that indicted her, despite her continued drug use after her arrest and apparent smuggling of drugs into the tribal jail.

Acceptance of the plea, and dropping the charge of involuntary manslaughter, was a decision left up to Riggs, who accepted it.

Sentencing memos

In her sentencing memorandum, Ruiz-Velez wrote there were evidentiary issues with the case. While prosecutors allege Martinez was high on methamphetamine when she crashed, and she tested positive for the drug after she crashed, she never admitted to getting high the day of the crash, four days before. She wrote:

“The drug test revealed that Defendant had methamphetamine in her system. Id. According to investigative reports, ‘the swabs used to drug test [Defendant] were sent to the Las Cruces Forensic Laboratory weeks later in an effort to determine the amount of methamphetamine [Defendant] had in her system.’ DBN 749. The swab samples were analyzed, but there were no ‘indications of any drug on them.’ DBN 751. However, the fact that drugs could not be identified ‘does not mean that no drugs were present,’ it is just that the forensic scientist could not ‘detect them.’ DBN 750. Although the evidence shows that Defendant was under the influence of methamphetamine, the level of methamphetamine in Defendant’s system could not be detected.”

Martinez brought methamphetamine back into the Zuni tribal jail after she was released to attend her son’s funeral. She tested positive for methamphetamine prior to being released and three days later when she returned, Ruiz-Velez wrote.

She also smuggled methamphetamine into the jail, later found wrapped in a soap wrapper, Ruiz-Velez wrote.

Ruiz-Velez wrote a two-year sentence is appropriate because it would fall within the normal sentencing guidelines for the charge she pleaded guilty to: assault resulting in serious bodily injury, even though if she had pleaded to involuntary manslaughter or both charges, her sentence guideline would be higher.

Martinez’s attorney, Gagan, is asking for the minimum sentence, 18 months, and that Martinez not be required to go into in-patient drug rehabilitation.

Martinez started work at the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority in 2007 and stayed for 10 years and even gave a TED talk about the restoration of the pueblo buildings. In 2017, she lost her job due to “tribal politics, — certain powerful individuals in the community did not want her, not an enrolled tribal member, to have the position,” Gagan wrote.

After she lost her job, her marriage “crumbled” and she left her children with her husband and moved in with her cousin and started using cocaine, and then methamphetamine.

“She just never quite got back on her feet,” Gagan wrote.

Sentencing guidelines

If Martinez had pleaded to the charge of involuntary manslaughter, been found guilty of it, or pleaded to both involuntary manslaughter and the assault charge, her sentencing guidelines would have put her sentence at a lot longer than just two years.

The sentencing guidelines put involuntary manslaughter at a “base level” of 22. A plea deal reduces that by three points, bringing what would have been her level down to 19.

Involuntary manslaughter involving a the reckless operation of a means of transportation carries a higher base level than other forms of involuntary manslaughter.

With a sentence range of 19, the guidelines put her sentence at 2 1/2 to 3 years, assuming little or no criminal history.

Martinez has a pending case in Santa Fe District Court on a charge of embezzlement of a motor vehicle.

The crash

See more details of the crash in the case write-up

According to the plea deal and an affidavit for a search warrant, Martinez crashed head-on into car driving the opposite direction on July 6, 2019, on State Highway 53, outside of Zuni.  A unidentified woman in the other vehicle, a truck, suffered severe injuries and medics flew her to Albuquerque for treatment. When Zuni Police Department officers arrived at the crash, Molina was dead and either lying next to her Ford Explorer or being held by her.

The unidentified woman suffered a fractured vertebrae, multiple rib fractures and other “bone fractures and injuries,” according to the plea.

Martinez told the officers who responded to the crash that she fell asleep at the wheel. In a subsequent interrogation, she told agents that her cell phone fell, she reached down to pick it up and that’s when she crashed. In an interview with Agent David Loos, both Martinez and her boyfriend allegedly admitted to using methamphetamine at least four days before the accident.

Continue reading “Jodie Martinez sentenced to 2 years for 2019 Zuni crash that killed son, injured woman”

Allister Quintana sentencing moved to February 2021 in Dulce torture case

• A judge moved Allister Quintana‘s sentencing to Feb. 1, 2021
• The defense’s psychological evaluation should be complete by mid-November
• A defense sentencing memorandum is due by Dec. 15

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

DULCE, N.M. — A judge moved Allister Quintana’s sentencing to February after he pleaded guilty in January 2020 to second-degree murder for torturing his cousin at his Dulce home and leaving him to die in a locked closet.

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

Quintana’s lawyer, Ray Twohig, wrote in a Nov. 11, 2020 motion to extend the deadlines in the case that he was still missing an evaluation from Christine Johnson, a forensic psychologist who has been unable to personally meet with Quintana at the McKinley County Detention Center, where he is being held.

Johnson’s trouble completing an evaluation of Quintana have been the subject of multiple motions to push off sentencing.

The report was supposed to be completed by Nov. 16, 2020. Twohig should have his sentencing memorandum completed by Dec. 15, 2020, which gives prosecutors until Dec. 29, 2020 to respond.

Although Twohig wrote that Johnson will have the evaluation done by November, she previously “assured” him it would be done by Oct. 14, 2020, according to a previous motion to extend deadlines.

District Court Judge William Johnson granted the extension and set sentencing for 10 a.m., Feb. 1, 2021. Sentencing had previously been set for Jan. 5, 2021. Johnson accepted Twohig’s suggested deadlines for his memorandum and the prosecution’s response.

Prosecutor Joseph Spindle previously asked for a life sentence for Quintana in his own sentencing memorandum, on April 2, 2020.

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.

More details on what prosecutors say happened to Howland 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. In his memorandum seeking a life sentence for Quintana, Spindle wrote that Bettelyoun is, under the current sentencing guidelines, slated to receive a harsher sentence than Quintana even though Quintana committed far more egregious acts.

Continue reading “Allister Quintana sentencing moved to February 2021 in Dulce torture case”

Plea: 18 to 24 months for Zuni woman who killed son in meth-related crash

Jodie Martinez will receive 18 months to 2 years for killing her son and severely injuring a woman in a likely DWI crash
• The plea, offered by prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez, still has to be accepted by a district judge at sentencing
• Martinez only pleaded guilty to injuring the woman and not to killing her son

See the case write-up

ZUNI, N.M. — A Zuni woman who crashed into a truck, killing her 9-year-old son and severely injuring a woman, will get just 18 months to two years in prison following an agreement with federal prosecutors to limit her sentence.

Jodie Martinez, 33, was indicted for involuntary manslaughter under the theory she was high on a drug, ostensibly methamphetamine, when she crashed into a truck headed in the opposite direction on July 6, 2019. She was also indicted on a charge of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Her son, Christian Molina, 9, died in the crash.

Jodie Martinez/Santa Fe County Detention Center

On Aug. 3, 2020, Martinez pleaded guilty to a single charge of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing accepted the plea but deferred final acceptance until sentencing in front of a district court judge.

Martinez tested positive for methamphetamine two successive days after the crash, although she did not admit in the plea to using methamphetamine directly before.

Federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez put forward the plea and binding agreement as to the sentence.

According to the plea Ruiz-Velez offered, a sentence of 18 months to 2 years is the “appropriate disposition.” It takes into account Martinez’s “acceptance of responsibility” and states her sentence should not be further decreased.

Although Fashing deferred final acceptance of the plea agreement, assuming it is accepted, the sentence of 18 months to 2 years will be binding, pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C).

The entire hearing in front of Fashing, on Aug. 3, took 27 minutes. Minutes of the plea hearing make no mention of how the victims of the crash felt about the binding plea deal.

No sentencing date has been set.

FBI Agent David Loos arrested her on a warrant on Jan. 17, 2020. Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter ordered Martinez held without bail after a first appearance on Jan. 21, 2020 and she waived a detention hearing on Jan. 29, 2020.

She has been held without bail since her Jan. 17, 2020 arrest.

The crash

See more details of the crash in the case write-up

According to the plea deal and an affidavit for a search warrant, Martinez crashed head-on into car driving the opposite direction on July 6, 2019, on State Highway 53, outside of Zuni.  A unidentified woman in the other vehicle, a truck, suffered severe injuries and medics flew her to Albuquerque for treatment. When Zuni Police Department officers arrived at the crash, Molina was dead and either lying next to her Ford Explorer or being held by her.

The unidentified woman suffered a fractured vertebrae, multiple rib fractures and other “bone fractures and injuries,” according to the plea.

Martinez told the officers who responded to the crash that she fell asleep at the wheel. In a subsequent interrogation, she told agents that her cell phone fell, she reached down to pick it up and that’s when she crashed. In an interview with Agent David Loos, both Martinez and her boyfriend allegedly admitted to using methamphetamine at least four days before the accident.

Accepting responsibility

Although Martinez ostensibly took responsibility by taking a plea and admitting to causing her son’s death, she is only pleading guilty to injuring the unidentified woman in the opposing vehicle and the admission of facts does not say why the crash happened, or what caused it. Martinez wrote that she “merged” into the lane for oncoming traffic, crashing into a truck traveling in the opposite direction and as a consequence, Molina died.

The admission of facts outlines most of the narrative in the affidavit for a search warrant including:

  • Martinez told the police officers who first responded that she fell asleep at the wheel
  • Police found methamphetamine in her vehicle
  • She told federal agents, after she was discharged from the hospital, that she used methamphetamine four days prior to the crash
  • She told those agents she was talking to her mother on the phone before the crash, dropped it when she hung up, went to pick it up and when she looked up, she was in the opposing lane
  • She tested positive for methamphetamine on July 7 and July 8, 2019, two and three days after the crash, respectively

Martinez does not write what actually happened, or what actually caused the crash, in the plea deal. Nor did she say what happened in her response to the civil lawsuit filed to make sure she received none of the insurance money from Molina’s death, calling what happened an “error in judgement.”

Insurance settlement

The father of Martinez’s son, Samuel Molina, filed a lawsuit against Martinez over the insurance payout from their son’s death, on Aug. 12, 2020.

Samuel Molina’s attorney, Brian Grayson, wrote in the complaint for declaratory judgement on the wrongful death recovery proceeds.

Samuel Molina, appointed the personal representative for his son’s estate, received a $50,000 settlement from an unspecified insurance policy, according to the complaint. The lawsuit filed in August was to declare that Martinez was not entitled to any of that money.

Martinez “abandoned” Christian Molina under New Mexico law and because she caused his death, she was not entitled to any of the insurance proceeds under the Unlawful Acts Doctrine, Grayson wrote.

In a hand-written response filed Sept. 14, 2020, Martinez wrote that she was not opposed to Samuel Molina receiving the insurance payment for their son’s death.

“I am opposed to signing a document implying that I abandoned our son,” Martinez wrote. “There are statements made in the Declaratory Judgement that are inaccurate and quite frankly false. At the time Samuel and I shared custody through a mutual agreement due to our separation. I was not an absent parent.”

It is not clear what “inaccurate” or “quite frankly false” statements Martinez objected to. The complaint for declaratory judgement makes no mention of custody arrangements.

“Unfortunately, and with my deepest regret, I had an error in judgement which I will have to live with for the rest of my life,” Martinez wrote. “No amount of financial gain will every satisfy the tremendous loss we have experienced.

Martinez wrote she refused to “sign any document implicating the termination of parental rights, the abandonment of my son Christian Molina, or any other demeaning allegations.”

On Sept. 22, 2020, Grayson filed a notice of dismissal with prejudice because “all matters in controversy have been compromised and resolved,” even though Martinez “strongly denies the claims and allegations made in the Complaint for Declaratory Judgement.”

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See the case files on Google Drive or on Document Cloud. Read more stories on this case or peruse the case write-up.

Continue reading “Plea: 18 to 24 months for Zuni woman who killed son in meth-related crash”

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 or previous stories on this case

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, Christine Johnson, 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”

Prosecutor asks for life sentence in Dulce torture case

  • Allister Quintana pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Jan. 22, 2020
  • The prosecutor Joseph Spindle 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.”

Sentencing “anomaly”

Quintana’s current sentencing guideline appears to place him in the sentencing range of 17 to 22 years, based on a presumed sentencing guideline number of 37 based on court filings.

Bettelyoun faces a sentence range of 30 years to life, Spindle wrote. He did not specify what Bettelyoun’s sentencing guideline number or criminal history.

Quintana being positioned to receive a lower sentence creates a sentencing “anomaly” between them, he wrote.

Spindle wrote:

“By all accounts, Defendant’s conduct was far more egregious than his codefendant, Mr. Bettelyoun’s conduct. However, based upon the application of a cross reference in Mr. Bettelyoun’s case, his applicable guidelines range is imprisonment for 360 months to life. This is a glaring disparity between the codefendants considering that Defendant and Mr. Bettelyoun have similar criminal histories.”

Quintana’s sentencing is set for 2 p.m., June 22 in Albuquerque in the Cimarron courtroom in front of Chief District Judge William Johnson. No hearing has been set for Bettelyoun.

According to a motion reschedule the sentencing hearing by Quintana’s attorney, Ray Twohig, he has hired a forensic psychologist to help him and sentencing should be done in person. However, the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed in-person hearings and, by June, it is possible that hearings can be held in person again.

The case

According to court records, Quintana was allegedly angry because his cousin, Howland, failed to bail him out of jail in late January 2018. During a night of drinking, on Feb. 2, 2018, at Quintana’s house with Bettelyoun and Howland, Quintana allegedly attacked Howland before torturing him, binding him and leaving him in his closet. On Feb. 14, 2018, Howland’s body was found in the closet of Quintana’s house while Quintana was in jail on a tribal domestic case.

In Instagram messages, Quintana allegedly referred to the torture and killing as “batman shit.”

In summary:

Travis Howland

Amanda Martinez, writing for the Rio Grande SUNtalked to Howland’s family about who he was as a person, as well as their reactions to the case.

“He was a guitar player, a graffiti artist, someone who loved metal music and a father,” Martinez wrote.

Howland was goofy, liked to crack jokes and grew up with his sisters in and out of foster care, she wrote.

Martinez wrote that Bettelyoun is the nephew of the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s Juvenile Officer, Letita Julian, who is married to detective Aaron Julian.

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

Jodie Martinez indicted for 2019 DUI crash that killed her son

  • Jodie Martinez was allegedly impaired by methamphetamine when she crashed on July 6, 2019
  • The crash killed her son and severely injured a woman in the opposite vehicle
  • Martinez is being held without bail after waiving a detention hearing

See the case write-up

Update: Jodie Martinez’s son has been identified as Christian Molina, 9.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal grand jury indicted a 33-year-old woman who allegedly killed her son after crashing her car while under the influence of methamphetamine.

The grand jury indicted Jodie Martinez on charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault resulting in serious bodily injury, on Dec. 30, 2019, although she was not arrested on the warrant until Jan. 17, 2020, in Gallup, by Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent David Loos.

Dowa Yalanne is seen beyond the Veterans Memorial at Zuni, NM, on September 9, 2019.
Dowa Yalanne is seen beyond the Veterans Memorial at Zuni, NM, on September 9, 2019. Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA/Flickr

According to court records, Martinez allegedly crashed head-on into car driving the opposite direction on July 6, 2019, on State Highway 53, outside of Zuni, within the boundaries of the pueblo.  A woman in the other vehicle, a truck, suffered severe injuries and medics flew her to Albuquerque for treatment. Martinez’s son died following the crash but his age is not listed in court documents and in the indictment, he is referred to as John Doe.

The indictment alleges Martinez was under the influence of drugs when she crashed and a federal search warrant alleges she a urine test she took, following the crash, was positive for methamphetamine.

She first appeared in federal court in Albuquerque on Jan. 21, 2020, where she was ordered held without bail pending a detention hearing by federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter. Federal public defender Mallory Gagan was appointed to the case and Ritter arraigned her on Jan. 22, 2020. Martinez pleaded not guilty. She does not appear to have ever been charged in federal magistrate court.

On Jan. 29, 2020, Martinez waived her right to a detention hearing and Ritter ordered her held without bail.

On Feb. 21, 2020, Gagan filed a motion to continue the case. A jury trial is tentatively set for June 8, 2020 and the case is pending.

The crash

On July 6, 2019, Martinez was driving a Ford Explorer on State Highway 53, in the Zuni pueblo, when she allegedly slammed head-on into a truck (a blue GMC Sierra) driving in the opposite direction, FBI Agent Joshua Rock wrote in an affidavit for a search warrant.

When Zuni Police Department officers arrived, they found the victim, a child, not breathing and unresponsive, either lying next to the Explorer or being held by Martinez. Rock also describes the Explorer, an SUV, as a truck. The child, Martinez’s son, is neither named nor given an age in court documents.

“The child was later pronounced dead at the scene,” Rock wrote.

Continue reading “Jodie Martinez indicted for 2019 DUI crash that killed her son”

Judge: Blood tests in alleged drunk driving killing can be used at trial

  • Kayla Baker is charged for allegedly killing a man in a DWI crash on June 16, 2018 near Navajo
  • Baker was released back to Arizona where she worked as a nurse
  • Prosecutors indicted her 17 months after the fatal crash

See the full case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Cornfields, Ariz. woman will not have her 0.15 blood-serum test thrown out as evidence in her involuntary manslaughter and assault on a minor case following a federal district court judge’s ruling, April 9, 2020, that she voluntarily gave them access to her medical records.

Photo of the Navajo Code Talker Monument in Window Rock, Arizona, with the Window Rock in the background.
Navajo Code Talker Monument, Window Rock, Arizona. Photo by John Fowler/Flickr. CC-BY

Kayla Baker, 24, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault of a minor resulting in serious bodily injury after she allegedly drunkenly crashed her car into oncoming traffic on June 16, 2018, on Route 12 outside the town of Navajo, near the border with Arizona. She does not appear to have ever been charged in magistrate court with J.G.’s death, rather, a federal grand jury indicted her 17 months after the fatal crash, according to court documents.

Baker allegedly tried to pass a woman on the two-lane highway and slammed into a car carrying a man, only named J.G. (YOB: 1988, enrolled Navajo National tribal member) in court documents, his “common-law wife,” their 16-month-old son and the woman’s 17-year-old sister, according to court documents.

Baker’s attorney, Aric Elsenheimer, tried to get all the test results thrown out under the theory that she did not voluntarily consent to give them to tribal investigators Farrell Begay and Samantha Yazzie when they interrogated her at a jail in Window Rock, Ariz., following the crash. No court documents state she was charged with, or by whom, while she was held in Window Rock.

A separate blood test at the FBI crime lab showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.12, according to court documents.

District Judge William Johnson dismissed the motion on April 9, 2020.

Johnson also dismissed a motion, on March 6, 2020, to dismiss the charge of assault of a minor resulting in serious bodily injury.

Elsenheimer wrote in the motion that the assault charge, which carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life, required prior knowledge and intent, that is, that Baker knew and intended his 17-year-old victim was underage when she allegedly drunkenly crashed into her. Assault resulting in serious bodily injury, not done to a minor, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years — the mandatory minimum for its counterpart done to a minor.

On Feb. 28, 2020, Johnson granted a motion to continue the case for a jury trial tentatively set for July 6, 2020.

Continue reading “Judge: Blood tests in alleged drunk driving killing can be used at trial”

Judge gives Sanostee man minimum sentence for brother’s death in DWI crash

  • Tavis Washburn will spend just under six years in prison for killing his brother and injuring his 2-year-old son in the crash
  • The binding plea deal mandated a sentence of 6 to 10 years and without it, Washburn faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years
  • He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.258 when he crashed, over three times the legal limit, while driving 79-85 mph
  • A judge sent Washburn back to jail, prior to sentencing, after he began drinking excessively at a halfway house

Read the full case write-up here

SANTA FE, N.M. — Tavis Washburn will spend just under six years in prison after a federal District Court judge sentenced him to the minimum allowed under a plea deal for killing his brother in drunk driving crash.

District Court Judge Martha Vazquez sentenced Washburn, 27, on March 13, 2020, to 71 months in prison, just under six years.

According to court documents, the crash killed Orlando Wadsworth, 37, of Sanostee, severely injured Washburn’s 2-year-old son and injured a third man, only identified as A.J., driving the truck Washburn hit, on Feb. 15, 2018. Wadsworth had to be extricated from the passenger seat of the red Kia Washburn was driving. Although he was flown to a hospital, he died from his injuries. Washburn had a blood-alcohol level of 0.258 after the crash.

Washburn previously pleaded guilty in front of Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa on July 12, 2019, who deferred final acceptance of the plea until sentencing in front of Vazquez, during a 27-minute hearing, according to minutes from the plea hearing.

Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Kalon Fancher charged Washburn 10 months after the crash, on Oct. 24, 2018. On Nov. 13, 2018, federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter ordered Washburn released on pretrial release at a halfway house in Albuquerque. Washburn was later arrested sometime after Dec. 2, 2019, after he was found, twice, to have been heavily drinking.

Federal prosecutor Allison Jaros did not request a specific sentence, other than within the range of six to 10 years allowed under the plea deal, while Washburn’s attorney, Alejandro Fernandez, asked for the minimum in a sentencing memorandum dated Oct. 21, 2019.

According to the sentencing minute sheet, Washburn addressed the court, as did the “Victim’s representative.” The entire hearing lasted one hour and two minutes. Neither the minutes nor the judgement state why Vazquez sentenced Washburn to the minimum allowed under the binding plea deal, or why she accepted the binding plea deal.

Continue reading “Judge gives Sanostee man minimum sentence for brother’s death in DWI crash”

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 in a binding plea deal
  • 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, who initially accepted the plea, but deferred final acceptance to the sentencing judge.

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”

Jodie Martinez: Christian Molina — 7-6-2019

 

Summary

On July 6, 2019, Jodie Martinez, 33, allegedly slammed head-on into a truck on State Highway 53, outside Zuni. The crash killed her son, Christian Molina, 9, and left a woman in the opposite vehicle with severe injuries. Martinez allegedly tested positive for methamphetamine and allegedly admitted to using meth four days before the crash, according to an affidavit for a search warrant.

Although she was initially arrested by Zuni Police Department officers, she was not charged federally until she was indicted on Dec. 30, 2019, on charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

On Aug. 3, 2020, Martinez pleaded guilty to the assault charge. Her binding plea deal, proffered by prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez and accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing sets her sentence at 18 months to 2 years.

On Nov. 20, 2020, federal District Judge Kea Riggs accepted the plea and sentenced her to 2 years in prison.

The crash

On July 6, 2019, Jodie Martinez, 33, was driving a Ford Explorer on State Highway 53, in the Zuni pueblo, when she allegedly slammed head-on into a truck (a blue GMC Sierra) driving in the opposite direction, FBI Agent Joshua Rock wrote in an affidavit for a search warrant.

Jodie Martinez/Santa Fe County Detention Center

When Zuni Police Department officers arrived, they found the Christian Molina, 9, not breathing and unresponsive, either lying next to the Explorer or being held by Martinez. Rock also describes the Explorer, an SUV, as a truck. Molina, Martinez’s son, is neither named nor given an age in court documents.

“The child was later pronounced dead at the scene,” Rock wrote.

Martinez’s boyfriend, identified as C.R., was also in the Explorer when it crashed while Martinez’s son was in the rear passenger-side seat. Rock does not write how old the boy was. In the search warrant, Rock refers to Martinez as “J.M.” with a year of birth of 1986.

The driver of the truck allegedly Martinez crashed into received minor injuries while the passenger, his wife, “sustained serious injuries and was flown to Albuquerque, NM for medical treatment,” Rock wrote.

Rock wrote that Martinez allegedly told officers at the scene and investigators, later, two different stories about how the crash happened.

Rock wrote:

“J.M. told the officers she had fallen asleep at the wheel while driving westbound on Highway 53. When she woke up, she was in the opposite lane of travel. J.M. saw a blue pickup truck travelling in the opposite direction and tried to avoid the vehicle but was unable to react in time causing her to crash into the vehicle.”

Her story allegedly changed. Rock wrote:

“In a subsequent interview, J.M. stated a cell phone fell. J.M. reached down to pick it up and looked up and saw a truck coming. J.M. stated the truck was just there, there was no avoiding it.”

In an interview with Agent David Loos, both Martinez and her boyfriend allegedly admitted to using methamphetamine at least four days before the accident. Zuni police officers arrested Martinez, collected her urine and it tested positive for methamphetamine.

Zuni Police officers also searched the SUV and found a green backpack that had an alleged homemade pipe with burn residue.

 

Indicted, held without bail

Martinez was never charged with the Molina’s death in federal magistrate court. Instead, a federal grand jury indicted her on charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault resulting in serious bodily injury on Dec. 30, 2019. The case was not entered into digital court records until Jan. 9.

Molina is referred to as “John Doe” in the indictment.

According to the indictment, Martinez was driving while under the influence of drugs when she crashed.

Following the indictment, she was arrested on Jan. 17, 2020, in Gallup, by Loos, according to the arrest warrant.

She first appeared in court on Jan. 21, 2020, where she was ordered held without bail pending a detention hearing by federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter. Federal public defender Mallory Gagan was appointed to the case and Ritter arraigned her on Jan. 22, 2020. Martinez pleaded not guilty.

On Jan. 29, 2020, Martinez waived her right to a detention hearing and Ritter ordered her held without bail.

On Feb. 21, 2020, Gagan filed a motion to continue the case. A jury trial is tentatively set for June 8, 2020.

Plea deal

Martinez pleaded guilty on Aug. 3, 2020, to a single count of assault causing great bodily harm. Federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing accepted the plea but deferred final acceptance until sentencing in front of a district court judge. The plea sets her sentence at 18 to 24 months.

Federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez put forward the plea and agreement to sentence.

According to the plea Ruiz-Velez offered, a sentence of 18 months to 2 years is the “appropriate disposition.” It takes into account Martinez’s “acceptance of responsibility” and states her sentence should not be further decreased.

Although Fashing deferred final acceptance of the plea agreement, assuming it is accepted, the sentence of 18 months to 2 years will be binding, pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C).

The entire hearing in front of Fashing took 27 minutes.

No sentencing date has been set.

Accepting responsibility

Although Martinez ostensibly took responsibility by taking a plea and admitting to causing her son’s death, she is only pleading guilty to injury the unidentified woman in the opposing vehicle and the admission of facts does not say why the crash happened. She wrote that she “merged” into the lane for oncoming traffic, crashing into a truck traveling in the opposite direction and as a consequence, Christian Molina died.

The admission of facts outlines most of the narrative in the affidavit for a search warrant including:

  • Martinez told the police officers who first responded that she fell asleep at the wheel
  • Police found methamphetamine in her vehicle
  • She told federal agents, after she was discharged from the hospital, that she used methamphetamine four days prior to the crash
  • That she told those agents she was talking to her mother on the phone before the crash, dropped it when she hung up, went to pick it up and when she looked up, she was in the opposing lane
  • That she tested positive for methamphetamine on July 7 and July 8, 2019, two and three days after the crash, respectively

Martinez does not write what actually happened, or what actually caused the crash, in the plea deal. Nor does she say what happened in her response in the civil case, calling what happened an “error in judgement.”

Sentencing memos

In her sentencing memorandum, Ruiz-Velez wrote there were evidentiary issues with the case. While prosecutors allege Martinez was high on methamphetamine when she crashed, and she tested positive for the drug after she crashed, she never admitted to getting high the day of the crash, four days before. She wrote:

“The drug test revealed that Defendant had methamphetamine in her system. Id. According to investigative reports, ‘the swabs used to drug test [Defendant] were sent to the Las Cruces Forensic Laboratory weeks later in an effort to determine the amount of methamphetamine [Defendant] had in her system.’ DBN 749. The swab samples were analyzed, but there were no ‘indications of any drug on them.’ DBN 751. However, the fact that drugs could not be identified ‘does not mean that no drugs were present,’ it is just that the forensic scientist could not ‘detect them.’ DBN 750. Although the evidence shows that Defendant was under the influence of methamphetamine, the level of methamphetamine in Defendant’s system could not be detected.”

Martinez brought methamphetamine back into the Zuni tribal jail after she was released to attend her son’s funeral. She tested positive for methamphetamine prior to being released and three days later when she returned, Ruiz-Velez wrote.

She also smuggled methamphetamine into the jail, later found wrapped in a soap wrapper, Ruiz-Velez wrote.

Ruiz-Velez wrote a two-year sentence is appropriate because it would fall within the normal sentencing guidelines for the charge she pleaded guilty to: assault resulting in serious bodily injury, even though if she had pleaded to involuntary manslaughter or both charges, her sentence guideline would be higher.

Martinez’s attorney, Gagan, is asking for the minimum sentence, 18 months, and that Martinez not be required to go into in-patient drug rehabilitation.

Martinez started work at the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority in 2007 and stayed for 10 years and even gave a TED talk about the restoration of the pueblo buildings. In 2017, she lost her job due to “tribal politics, — certain powerful individuals in the community did not want her, not an enrolled tribal member, to have the position,” Gagan wrote.

After she lost her job, her marriage “crumbled” and she left her children with her husband and moved in with her cousin and started using cocaine, and then methamphetamine.

“She just never quite got back on her feet,” Gagan wrote.

Sentencing guidelines

If Martinez had pleaded to the charge of involuntary manslaughter, been found guilty of it, or pleaded to both involuntary manslaughter and the assault charge, her sentencing guidelines would have put her sentence at a lot longer than just two years.

The sentencing guidelines put involuntary manslaughter at a “base level” of 22. A plea deal reduces that by three points, bringing what would have been her level down to 19.

Involuntary manslaughter involving a the reckless operation of a means of transportation carries a higher base level than other forms of involuntary manslaughter.

With a sentence range of 19, the guidelines put her sentence at 2 1/2 to 3 years, assuming little or no criminal history.

Martinez has a pending case in Santa Fe District Court on a charge of embezzlement of a motor vehicle.

Sentence

On Nov. 20, 2020, Federal District Judge Kea Riggs accepted the binding plea deal, proffered by prosecutor Ruiz-Velez, and sentenced her to two years in prison during a hearing on Nov. 20, 2020. She said there will be a “zero-tolerance policy for substance abuse” during her three years of supervised release following her release from person, according to a minutes sheet.

The minutes do not indicate if any victims, either a woman only identified as “Mrs. Sweeney,” or 9-year-old Christian Molina‘s father, Samuel Molina, said anything during the sentencing hearing. Samuel Molina sued Martinez over the life insurance payout.

Although Martinez will get credit for the 304 days she spent in jail since she was charged in federal court, she will not receive credit for the 91 days she spent in a tribal jail, Riggs ordered.

Acceptance of the plea, and dropping the charge of involuntary manslaughter, was a decision left up to Riggs, who accepted it.

Insurance settlement

The father of Martinez’s son, Samuel Molina, filed a lawsuit against Martinez over the insurance payout from their son’s death, on Aug. 12, 2020.

Samuel Molina’s attorney, Brian Grayson, wrote in the complaint for declaratory judgement on the wrongful death recovery proceeds.

Samuel Molina, appointed the personal representative for his son’s estate, received a $50,000 settlement from an unspecified insurance policy. The lawsuit filed in August was to declare that Martinez was not entitled to any of that money.

Martinez “abandoned” Christian Molina under New Mexico law and because she caused his death, she was not entitled to any of the insurance proceeds under the Unlawful Acts Doctrine, Grayson wrote.

In a hand-written response filed Sept. 14, 2020, Martinez wrote that she was not opposed to Samuel Molina receiving the insurance payment for their son’s death.

“I am opposed to signing a document implying that I abandoned our son,” Martinez wrote. “There are statements made in the Declaratory Judgement that are inaccurate and quite frankly false. At the time Samuel and I shared custody through a mutual agreement due to our separation. I was not an absent parent.”

It is not clear what “inaccurate” or “quite frankly false” statements Martinez objected to. The complaint for declaratory judgement makes no mention of custody arrangements.

“Unfortunately, and with my deepest regret, I had an error in judgement which I will have to live with for the rest of my life,” Martinez wrote. “No amount of financial gain will every satisfy the tremendous loss we have experienced.

Martinez wrote she refused to “sign any document implicating the termination of parental rights, the abandonment of my son Christian Molina, or any other demeaning allegations.”

On Sept. 22, 2020, Grayson filed a notice of dismissal with prejudice because “all matters in controversy have been compromised and resolved,” even though Martinez “strongly denies the claims and allegations made in the Complaint for Declaratory Judgement.”

See the case files on Google Drive or on Document Cloud.

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Jodie Martinez sentenced to 2 years for 2019 Zuni crash that killed son, injured woman

Jodie Martinez indicted for 2019 DUI crash that killed her son

Joey Unkestine: Elison Unkestine, Katherine Edaakie — 10-18-2018

  • Suspect: Joey Unkestine
  • Victim: Katherine Edaakie (Joey Unkestine’s girlfriend)
  • Victim: Elison Unkestine (Joey Unkestine’s brother)
  • Non-fatal victim: A child, D.G., 9 (Edaakie’s son)
  • Date of incident: Oct. 18, 2018
  • Charges: Two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment
  • Status: Guilty plea to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment; binding plea agreement; sentenced
  • Sentence: 3 years, 10 months followed by 2 years probation, per plea agreement
  • Investigating agency: Unknown
  • Location: Highway 53, Zuni Pueblo, McKinley County
  • Magistrate case number: None
  • District case number: 19-cr-0094
  • Prosecutor: Frederick Mendenhall
  • Plea judge (magistrate): Jerry Ritter
  • Sentencing judge (district): Scott Skavdahl

 

Summary

On Oct. 18, 2018, Joey Unkestine crashed a 2002 Ford Explorer on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo, killing his brother, Elison Unkestine and his girlfriend, Katherine Edaakie and injuring his girlfriend’s son (D.G.). He was allegedly drunk.

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.

The incident

Joey Unkestine was driving between 74 and 93 mph on Highway 53 on the Zuni Pueblo, after he had been drinking extensively, when he rolled his 2002 Ford Explorer, killing his girlfriend and brother and injuring his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son, D.G., according to his plea agreement.

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

According to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutor Frederick Mendenhall, testing would later show Unkestine’s blood-alcohol content to be 0.36. 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.

Indictment

On March 18, 2019, a grand jury indicted Unkestine on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child endangerment, according to the indictment.

Plea

On June 20, 2019, Unkestine pleaded guilty to the charges. Mendenhall and defense attorney Irma Rivas signed the plea deal. Federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter accepted the binding plea agreement.

According to the plea agreement, Unkestine would only receive a sentence of three years, 10 months, with probation up to the sentencing judge. Ultimately, he received two years of probation when prosecutors asked for three.

According to Mendenhall’s sentencing memorandum, three years, 10 months is the “upper-guideline sentence” and reflects the seriousness of the offense.

Because the two people in the car were drinking, their deaths do not warrant a sentence at the top of the sentencing range. However, the child being placed in danger did warrant the lengthier sentence, as did his history with alcohol, he wrote.

Mendenhall did not write why, specifically, he agreed to a three year sentence for the deaths of two people, one of which left a child without his mother. However, he noted that both he and the defense minimized the uncertainty that comes with a trial.

Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl sentenced Unkestine on Oct. 18, 2019, to the three years, 10 months stipulated in the plea agreement and two years probation, a year less than requested by the prosecutor, according to the sentencing minute sheet.

No investigative documents appear in the court record.

Improperly sealed documents?

According to the local rules and federal rules, documents are only supposed to be filed under seal for good reason and a record of the motion to file a document under seal is supposed to appear on the court docket, as outlined by Jeff Proctor in New Mexico In Depth.

According to Mendenhall’s sentencing memorandum, the only document that was docketed but is not public is #27, the pre-sentencing investigation report by the probation department.

However, according to the docket, entry 28 was also sealed, as were 30 and 31. In addition, documents 34-36 appear to be sealed with no motions for sealing and no record of sealing, a process which is supposed to warrant a judge’s approval.

According to Sealing Court Records and Proceedings: A Pocket Guide, “(there) should be a public record of what is sealed and why, consistent with the reason for sealing.”

Autopsies

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

According to Elison Unkestine’s autopsy report, his blood-alcohol level was 0.14 and he also had methamphetamine in his system.

Office of the Medical Investigator Field Investigator Maria Olivares wrote, in a field investigation, the SUV was heavily damaged and Elison Unkestine had been ejected from it and his right hand was amputated.

In Edaakie’s field investigation, Olivares found Edaakie’s body was in the east-bound lane.

 

See the documents on Google Drive

Kayla Baker: Unidentified man (J.G., YOB 1988) — 6-16-2018

 

Summary

On June 16, 2018, Kayla Baker allegedly drunkenly passed a car on Route 12, near Navajo, New Mexico, and crashed head-on into another car, killing one Navajo Nation tribal member, a man named J.G., and injuring three others, one severely.

On Nov. 19, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Baker on charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault of a minor resulting in serious bodily injury. Trial is tentatively set for July 6, 2020, in Albuquerque.

The incident

On June 16, 2018, Kayla Erika Baker, also known as Kayla Baker, was driving on Route 12 (mile post 36), near Navajo, New Mexico, when she allegedly tried to pass another car on the two-lane road, FBI Agent Lance Roundy wrote in an affidavit for a search warrant.

Photo of the Navajo Code Talker Monument in Window Rock, Arizona, with the Window Rock in the background.
Navajo Code Talker Monument, Window Rock, Arizona. Photo by John Fowler/Flickr. CC-BY

Baker, of Cornfields, Ariz., allegedly crashed head-on into a Ford Fusion carrying J.G. (YOB: 1988, a registered member of the Navajo Nation), his “common-law wife,” their 16-month-old son and the “common-law wife’s” 17-year-old sister, referred to as C.H., according to a response to the motion to dismiss filed by prosecutor Nicholas Marshall.

Navajo Police Officer Cherlyn Owens allegedly found that Baker smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and a lack of balance and tried to conduct a field-sobriety test, which Baker failed, Roundy wrote.

In the car, Owens found beer bottles and a “bottle of alcohol” in the passenger side, he wrote.

Navajo Police Officer Irene Six found C.H. injured on the ground outside the car. She was flown to a hospital in Fort Defiance, Ariz., before being flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital for a broken leg, Roundy wrote.

A year later. C.H. needed follow-up surgery a year later “on the hardware placed in her leg and to aid in her recovery” and still receives physical therapy, Marshall wrote.

Medics, and a physician who stopped to help, tried to save J.G., and he was flown to Fort Defiance as well, where he was pronounced dead, Roundy wrote.

J.G.’s girlfriend said she remembered trying to hold on tightly to her toddler during the crash. Both her and the toddler suffered minor injuries and were released from the hospital, Marshall wrote.

Navajo Criminal Investigator Farrell Begay interviewed Baker following the crash, but Roundy did not write if Baker waived her Miranda rights.

Roundy wrote:

“During the interview, Baker admitted to purchasing Blue Moon beer and a bottle of Southern Comfort liquor. Baker stated she consumed half a can of beer before driving her car on Route 12. Baker did not recall any details after turning on to Route 12, but did recall waking up in the hospital.”

After federal investigators obtained her medical records, they showed she had a “blood serum of .151 of alcohol,” while an FBI crime lab test showed a she had a blood-alcohol content of 0.12. The legal limit is 0.08, in addition to THC, Marshall wrote.

Marshall wrote:

“The crash data information recovered from the vehicles indicated Defendant was in a passing zone, and went into the other lane, and was accelerating at the time of the crash. There is no indication of Defendant braking, or even swerving, to avoid hitting the other vehicle nor any indication that she even saw the other vehicle. Both cars were driving above the speed limit at the time of the crash.”

Following the crash, Begay and investigator Samantha Yazzie interrogated Baker at the Window Rock Department of Corrections in Window Rock, Ariz.

During that interrogation, Baker consented to giving investigators her medical records, including the blood test results.

Her attorney tried unsuccessfully to have the blood test results suppressed.

It is not clear how long, or under what charges or jurisdiction, Baker was held in Arizona because she was never charged for the crash in federal magistrate court.

Indictment and release

On Nov. 19, 2019, 17 months after J.G. died in the crash, a federal grand jury indicted Baker on charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault of a minor resulting in serious bodily injury.

While involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of eight years, assaulting a minor carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years with a maximum sentence of life. Assault resulting in serious bodily injury, but not done to a minor, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

After Begay arrested her on Nov. 25, 2019, at the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital, she was brought to federal court in Albuquerque where federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter ordered her held without bail until a detention hearing on Dec. 3, 2019, where she was ordered released by Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa. (LINK) She pleaded not guilty during her arraignment the day before.

Marshall opposed her release, but the minutes contain no documentation of why.

According to the conditions of her release, she was released into the custody of Carol Tapaha and ordered, with the exception of travel to court, to stay within Apache and Coconino counties in Arizona. She is also supposed be monitored for alcohol use.

After her release, Baker was fired from her job as a nurse “in an emergency room setting,” her attorney, Aric Elsenheimer, wrote in a motion to modify the conditions of her release.

Her unnamed employer took the restriction of her release, that she have no contact with the victims or their families, to mean she could not work at the hospital and he wanted the judge to change the conditions so she could have incidental contact. Marshall did not oppose the motion, he wrote.

Khalsa granted it.

Motions

Motion to dismiss assault on a minor charge

Aric Elsenheimer filed two motions early in the case. The first was to dismiss the second count of the indictment, for assault of a minor resulting in serious bodily injury.

Elsenheimer wrote that the crime required Baker’s knowledge that the person she severely injured was a minor.

District Judge William Johnson dismissed the motion.

Motion to suppress blood tests

Elsenheimer filed a separate motion to suppress the blood tests.

He wrote in a motion to suppress that the investigators, Begay and Yazzie, “did not obtain valid consent” from Baker to get her blood tests from the hospital.

Johnson denied that motion.

Still pending

On Feb. 28, 2020, Johnson granted a motion to continue the case for a jury trial tentatively set for July 6, 2020.

 

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Allister Quintana, Andrew Bettelyoun: Travis Howland — 2-2-2018

Allister Quintana
Charges: First-degree murder, kidnapping resulting in death and conspiracy to commit kidnapping
Status: Plea to second-degree murder, sentencing pending
Relationship to victim: Cousin
Federal magistrate case number: 18-mj-01776
Federal district case number: 18-cr-03989

Andrew Bettelyoun
Charges: Murder, conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping
Status: Plea to conspiracy to commit kidnapping; sentencing pending
Relationship to victim: Cousin
Federal magistrate case number: 18-mj-03427
Federal district case number: 19-cr-00216

 

Summary

Allegedly angry about not being bailed out of jail by his cousin, Allister Danzig Quintana, 25, allegedly beat, tortured and bound Travis Howland, 28, on Feb. 2, 2018, at his Dulce home, with the help of Andrew Bettelyoun, 24. On Feb. 14, 2018, Howland’s body was found in the closet of Quintana’s house while Quintana was in jail on a domestic case, according to court records.

Quintana was not arrested until May 24, 2018, federal agents arrested Quintana and charged him with murder and on Oct. 22, 2018, Bettelyoun was charged with murder. Quintana was subsequently indicted on first-degree murder. On Jan. 30, 2019, Bettelyoun pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Quintana was then indicted on kidnapping and conspiracy charges. On Jan. 22, 2020, Quintana pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, according to court records.

Quintana’s sentencing is set for Feb. 1, 2020. No hearing date is set for Bettelyoun’s sentencing.

 

The incident

Grudges and bail

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

Problems allegedly started between Allister Quintana, 25, and cousin Travis Howland, 28, in late January 2018 after Quintana gave Howland his bank card and asked him to bail him out of jail, Howland’s girlfriend, who is also the mother his child, told investigators, according to an affidavit for a criminal complaint written by FBI Agent Lance Roundy for Andrew Bettelyoun‘s arrest. Howland’s girlfriend is only identified in court documents as “A.C.”

Howland did not bail out Quintana. On Feb. 2, 2018, A.C. dropped off Howland in Dulce with a friend after they spent the morning together in Pagosa Springs, Colo. Howland met with Bettelyoun, Quintana and Sharol Cachucha  and they all went back to Pagosa Springs so Quintana could withdraw money to bail out another friend. He was unable to and contacted B.C., a man, who gave Bettelyoun and Quintana a ride to Dulce while A.C. and Cachucha stayed in Pagosa Springs for the night, Roundy wrote.

At 11 p.m. that night, A.C. did a video chat with Howland. At 11:26, Howland tried to video chat with AC, but was not able to. A.C. tried to contact Howland multiple times over the next few days, but wasn’t able to get through. It was the last time she talked to him, Roundy wrote.

The killing

Warning: the following series of events, taken from court documents, are disturbing.

The night of Feb. 2, 2018, Quintana, Bettelyoun and Howland were at Quintana’s house with “several friends and family members” when, after drinking, Quintana allegedly attacked Howland, Prosecutor Joseph Spindle wrote in a motion for an upward departure for Quintana’s sentence.

Dulce, New Mexico. Jicarilla Apache Nation sign. Photo by Bob Nichols/USDA/Flickr.
Dulce, New Mexico. Jicarilla Apache Nation sign. Photo by Bob Nichols/USDA/Flickr.

At first, Quintana allegedly punched Howland in the face, and Bettelyoun joined in the attack before both men grabbed a 14-inch flashlight and a lighter and Quintana beat Howland with the flashlight and burned him with the lighter, Spindle wrote, citing the private presentence report.

“Bleeding profusely, Doe was forced into the bathroom to avoid staining the living room. Defendant and Bettelyoun followed Doe into the bathroom and began a new phase of the eventual murder,” he wrote.

Quintana allegedly ordered Howland to undress, and then ordered him to place the metal flashlight into his own rectum, he wrote.

“Humiliated, Doe complied,” Spindle wrote.

Quintana allegedly picked up the flashlight with a towel and continued beating Howland, then told Bettelyoun to get an extension cord, which he used to tie Howland’s hands behind is back. Once he was bound, Quintana allegedly used a machete to “chop” Howland’s back. Because Howland was bleeding, Quintana told Bettelyoun to put wrapping paper on the floor of a closet, then moved Howland into it, he wrote.

“Doe begged for his life,” Spindle wrote. “Defendant and Bettelyoun left Doe in a closet where he eventually perished.”

According to an indictment charging Quintana with first-degree murder, he allegedly beat Howland with his fists, a flashlight and a stick and stabbed him with a machete and a sword.

When FBI agents searched Quintana’s house, they seized a machete and a sword, both of which appeared to have dried blood on them, as well as the black flashlight, Roundy wrote.

According to an affidavit for a search warrant for Quintana’s house written by Roundy, investigators found a stool in a back bedroom that appeared to be in the process of being remodeled, and there was a “significant” amount of what appeared to be blood splattered on the floor surrounding the stool, as well as dried blood spattered on the walls.

“Near the bedroom and on the floor was a large trail of what appeared to be dried blood that was smeared and led to the hallway and near the closet where John Doe’s body was discovered,” Roundy wrote.

They also found what appeared to be two improvised weapons made out of broomsticks. They also found a knife with blood on it, and a hammer, in Quintana’s bedroom, Roundy wrote.

Jicarilla Judicial Complex (Ishkoteen)
Jicarilla Apache Nation Ishkoteen Judicial Complex, Dulce, NM. Photo by Bob Nichols/USDA/Flickr.

“The items had the appearance of broken broom sticks with one end of each stick having cloth wrapped in silver duct tape with a dried red substance similar to that of blood,” Roundy wrote.

Bettelyoun allegedly talked to investigators on multiple occasions and initially denied any involvement in the case, Roundy wrote in the affidavit for a criminal complaint.

He was charged and arrested on Oct. 22, 2018, five months after Quintana.

When Bettelyoun was interviewed on July 12, 2018, he allegedly admitted to drinking with Quintana and Howland but claimed he passed out and woke up a short time later to Quintana arguing with Howland and punching him, Roundy wrote.

“Quintana requested help from BETTELYOUN, who admitted to participating in the assault by punching John Doe in the face approximately four times,” Roundy wrote.

He told investigators he watched Quintana beat Howland with the flashlight and Quintana demand Howland insert the flashlight into his rectum, he wrote.

“BETTELYOUN stated that he heard John Doe beg Quintana not to kill him on several occasions during the assault,” Roundy wrote.

After allegedly helping bind Howland’s hands and feet and moving him to the hall closet, naked and bleeding, Bettelyoun left the house. He returned a few days later. When he did, there was a foul odor coming from the closet, Roundy wrote.

Quintana was not charged until three months later, on May 24, 2018.

Discovery of the body

According to a deputy field investigation from the Office of the Medical Investigator, Brian Cachucha discovered Howland’s body on Feb. 14, 2018. Howland had been in jail since Feb. 8 on an unrelated domestic violence charge.

Field Investigator Lynne Gudes wrote that Brian Cachucha went to check on the house because he knew Howland was in jail and he noted that the back bedroom window was either open or broken and one of the doors was unlocked. He was worried about the pipes freezing and planned on sealing the open window.

“When Cachucha entered he smelled a strong odor,” Gudes wrote.

He opened the closet door and found Howland.

The thermostat was on its highest setting, but the house was not retaining heat because of the windows covered with plywood and other “makeshift patching material.”

Cause of death

According to an autopsy report, Howland died from “unspecified means.”

Howland had superficial blunt and sharp injuries to the head, torso, arms and legs, skull fractures, a stab wound on his buttocks, a rib fracture, slash on his foot and at least one “gaping” slash wound on his back.

Roundy wrote in his affidavit for a search warrant for Quintana’s house that Howland had stab wounds and blunt-force trauma to the head.

Howland was already in a state of decomposition when he was found, which complicated determining his cause of death. However, none of the injures identified by the pathologist were enough to have killed him, according to the autopsy report.

According to the report:

“However, multiple possibilities as a mechanism of death remain possible. Although the necklace around his neck was not tightly bound, nor were there significant internal neck injuries, Mr. Howland was found prone with bound extremities, and an asphyxial component to death cannot be ruled out. Furthermore, it remains possible that Mr. Howland was alive at the time he was left in the closet. Dehydration and/or starvation remain potential mechanisms of death. Vitreous (eye fluid) and blood could not be collected for laboratory testing due to decomposition.”

Social media posts

A.C., Howland’s girlfriend, provided FBI agents screenshots of an Instagram conversation made by the account “danzigcrowley,” which belonged to Quintana, according to Roundy’s affidavit for a criminal complaint for Bettelyoun.

12:02 a.m., Feb. 3, 2018

danzigcrowley: Every thing happened

Other poster: What do you mean by that?

danzigcrowley: Like ppl drinking n arguing n dumb shit

Other poster: Are you drunk?

danzigcrowley: I wish I’m kicking some ass

Other poster: Why?

danzigcrowley: Cuz thought I had family but now I know I’m by mysef…N lost u n mad at the world n tryan Change just been through a lot

Other poster: Just calm down please..sigh, you’re not fully alone…Have fun an be safe I can’t talk at the moment now…

danzigcrowley: But y?? N same here about to kill someone

Other poster: Why? An I hate myself n

danzigcrowley: Have to do some bat man shit

Other poster: To who?

danzigcrowley: Don’t worry about it be shit all over the house (racial epithet) scard

10:31 a.m., Feb. 3, 2018

danzigcrowley: bro

dakidoncloud9: whats up mane

danzigcrowley: I was about to kill someone last night

dakidoncloud9: What the fuck who my (racial epithet)

danzigcrowley: My brother haha

dakidoncloud9: Which one ?

danzigcrowley: Travis shit was crazy

A “close associate,” J.V., identified “danzigcrowley” as Quintana’s Instagram account, that he would not let anyone else use or access his account and that she believed he was drunk, at the time he wrote the posts, based on the verbiage and her previous experience messaging with him, Roundy wrote.

She said that a short time prior, Quintana allegedly attacked her and choked her. Quintana was in jail when Howland’s body was discovered.

Following a search of Quintana’s phone, agents found text messages between himself and someone identified as “Mairo” on Feb. 3, 2018.

10:17 a.m., Mairo: About you coming to Santa Fe? Good.

10:18 a.m., Quintana: Umm doing some batman shit I’ll go next week if you don’t mind.”

Simmering resentment

According to witness H.H., Howland and Quintana had fought in the past because Howland was having a sexual relationship with Quintana’s biological mother, Roundy wrote in his affidavit for a criminal complaint for Bettelyoun.

“H.H. said that she knew Quintana to be violent, more so when he was intoxicated or on drugs,” Roundy wrote.

Other confessions

According to Roundy’s search warrant affidavit, one witness, B.C., told investigators that he “was associated” with Quintana and, when he went to his house sometime between Feb. 3 and 5, 2018, he was denied entry, which he described as “abnormal.”

“B.C. also stated that he had an in-person conversation with QUINTANA on or about February 13, 2018 in which QUINTANA stated that he did something wrong and needed to clean up his house,” Roundy wrote. “QUINTANA said that once he bonded out of jail, he was going to clean up the mess at his house and leave the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation.”

On April 26, 2018, investigators interviewed one of the people who had been in jail with Quintana during the second week of February, before Howland’s body was discovered. The man, identified as M.M., said he had three conversations with Quintana, Roundy wrote in his affidavit for a criminal complaint for Bettelyoun.

M.M. told investigators that during the first conversation, Quintana allegedly approached him and said he was planning on moving to Santa Fe to go to school and he needed someone to look after his house and asked if M.M. would help clean up his house, he wrote.

“During the second conversation Quintana told M.M. he was in “deep shit” and that only certain people knew about it,” Roundy wrote.

In the third conversation, M.M. alleged Quintana asked him to clean something up from his house when they were both released.

“Quintana made the comment that he needed to get something out of his house before it started to stink and that if he did not get it out before it began to stink it would then result in a manslaughter charge,” Roundy wrote.

Another person in jail with Quintana was J.M., who told investigators that on Feb. 12, 2018, Quintana allegedly approached him.

“During the conversation, Quintana told him that he and BETTELYOUN tortured and killed someone and bound the body in a closet,” Roundy wrote. “Quintana acted nervous while talking with J.M. and said that he was concerned because he left the heat on in the house which Quintana believed would cause the body to decompose quicker.”

The searches

According to court records, the FBI initially searched Quintana’s house after Howland’s body was discovered on Feb. 14, 2018, and shortly thereafter searched his phone.

On June 28, 2018, Jicarilla Apache Nation Investigator Danny Garcia searched the house based on consent from Quintana and found a knife with dried blood on it in the bedroom, as well as a hammer with dried blood.

On July 2, 2018, the FBI went back to the house and conducted another search and this time, seized a machete with dried blood, a sword with dried blood, a black metal flashlight, a hammer, a second sword in a sheath, two clumps of suspected dark hair, one wooden stick and took 99 photos.

Arrests, indictments and pleas

The following account of the arrests, pleas and indictments is in chronological order. They are addressed below.

Arrest, indictment and plea timeline

In summary:

Initial arrests

Although Howland’s bound and tortured body was discovered in Quintana’s house on Feb. 14, 2018, it wasn’t until May 24, 2018, that FBI Agent Rachael Hickox filed a criminal complaint charging Quintana with murder and he was arrested the same day or the next day, according to the court docket. Hickox’s complaint listed the time frame for Howland’s death as Feb. 2 to 8, 2018.

After pleading not guilty and waiving time limits for presentation to the grand jury, his case was repeatedly continued.

On Oct. 22, 2018, Roundy filed a criminal complaint charging Bettelyoun with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping. Bettelyoun was arrested in Nevada and transferred to New Mexico. A search for him shows no other federal cases in Nevada.

Quintana’s first indictment

On Nov. 16, 2018, a grand jury indicted Quintana on a single charge of first-degree murder.

Bettelyoun’s plea

After Bettelyoun waived a preliminary hearings and grand jury presentment multiple times, on Jan. 30, 2019, he pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

According to the plea deal, accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter and offered by Spindle, Bettelyoun admitted to hitting Howland, providing weapons and “binding material” to Quintana, helping transport Howland from one room to another and that they relied on each other to assault, subdue, bind, confine and transport Howland “to secure the mutual goal of the conspiracy.”

The maximum sentence is life and prosecutors made no binding agreements. Instead, because he pleaded guilty, Bettelyoun will receive a reduction of two levels under the sentencing guidelines.

However, the sentencing guidelines are not binding on the judge and both the prosecution and defense can argue for harsher, or more lenient, sentences.

Quintana’s superseding indictment

On Feb. 13, 2019, just under two weeks after Bettelyoun pleaded guilty to conspiring with Quintana, a second grand jury indicted Quintana on a new set of charges, in a superseding indictment. Those charges were:

  • First-degree murder
  • Kidnapping resulting in death
  • Conspiracy to commit kidnapping

According to the indictment, there were a series of overt acts and that “others known and unknown” attacked Howland, punched him, brought a flashlight and machete to Quintana and other actions ascribed to Bettelyoun in other court documents.

Quintana’s guilty plea

On Jan. 22, 2020, Quintana pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder. Ritter accepted the plea, proffered by Spindle.

According to the plea deal, there was no agreement as to sentence, other than Quintana being eligible for a two-level reduction in his sentencing guidelines.

However, both sides are free to argue for a higher or lower sentence than what is calculated under the guidelines. Spindle also agreed to not being any further charges against Quintana.

Sentencing

Pending sentencing hearings

On May 1, 2019, Bettelyoun was supposed to be sentenced at 10 a.m. in Albuquerque, but according to online court records and the federal Bureau of Prisons, it appears he was never sentenced. No future sentencing hearings have been set.

Quintana is currently set to be sentenced at 2 p.m., June 22 in Albuquerque in the Cimarron courtroom in front of Chief District Judge William Johnson.

According to a motion reschedule the sentencing hearing by Quintana’s attorney, Ray Twohig, he has hired a forensic psychologist to help him and sentencing should be done in person. However, the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed in-person hearings and, by June, it is possible that hearings can be held in person again.

Sentencing is currently set for Feb. 1, 2021.

Prosecutors push for life sentence for Quintana

On April 2, Spindle filed a motion for Quintana to receive a greater sentence than suggested according to the sentencing guidelines, as prepared in a private presentence report.

Quintana’s actions were “unusually heinous, cruel, brutal and degrading to the victim,” and should result in a six-level increase in his sentencing guidelines, putting him at a level of 43, Spindle wrote.

Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.
Federal sentencing guidelines table, levels 33 to 43.

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.

Spindle wrote that Quintana’s alleged 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 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,” he wrote.

Quintana also 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.

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

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

He 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.”

Sentencing “anomaly”

Quintana’s current sentencing guideline appears to place him in the sentencing range of 17 to 22 years, based on a presumed sentencing guideline number of 37 based on court filings.

Bettyloun faces a sentence range of 30 years to life, Spindle wrote.

Quintana being positioned to receive a lower sentence creates a sentencing “anomaly” between them, he wrote.

Spindle wrote:

“By all accounts, Defendant’s conduct was far more egregious than his codefendant, Mr. Bettelyoun’s conduct. However, based upon the application of a cross reference in Mr. Bettelyoun’s case, his applicable guidelines range is imprisonment for 360 months to life. This is a glaring disparity between the codefendants considering that Defendant and Mr. Bettelyoun have similar criminal histories.”

Quintana’s sentencing is set for 2 p.m., June 22 in Albuquerque in the Cimarron courtroom in front of Chief District Judge William Johnson. No hearing has been set for Bettelyoun.

According to a motion reschedule the sentencing hearing by Quintana’s attorney, Ray Twohig, he has hired a forensic psychologist to help him and sentencing should be done in person. However, the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed in-person hearings and, by June, it is possible that hearings can be held in person again.

Travis Howland

Amanda Martinez, writing for the Rio Grande SUN, talked to Howland’s family about who he was as a person, as well as their reactions to the case.

“He was a guitar player, a graffiti artist, someone who loved metal music and a father,” Martinez wrote.

Howland was goofy, liked to crack jokes and grew up with his sisters in and out of foster care, she wrote.

Martinez wrote that Bettelyoun is the nephew of the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s Juvenile Officer, Letita Julian, who is married to detective Aaron Julian.

 

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Tavis Washburn: Orlando Wadsworth — 2-15-2018

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Summary

On Feb. 15, 2018, Tavis Washburn, 27, crashed into a truck pulling out of the Littlewater Express on Highway 491 near Littlewater, while speeding. The crash killed his brother, Orlando Wadsworth, and severely injured his 2-year-old son. Eight months later, Federal Bureau of Investigations agents charged him with involuntary manslaughter and assault on a minor resulting in serious bodily injury. When his blood was tested at the hospital, he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.285, over three times the legal limit.

On July 12, 2019, Washburn pleaded guilty to a criminal information, filed the same day, charging him with involuntary manslaughter and child abuse. According to his plea deal, his sentence would range from just under 6 years (71 months) and 10 years, the minimum mandatory sentence if he had been convicted of assault on a minor resulting in serious bodily injury.

On Feb. 13, 2020, federal District Court Judge Martha Vazquez sentenced Washburn to the minimum under the plea, just under six years, followed by supervised release for three years.

The incident

Shiprock Pinnacle. Photo by DiAnn L’Roy/Flickr

On Feb. 15, 2018, Tavis Washburn went to see his brother, Orlando Wadsworth, at his house in Sanostee to “have some drinks,” he told investigators, according to an affidavit for a criminal complaint written by FBI Agent Kalon Fancher.

Wadsworth wanted to go to Shiprock to pick up his EBT card, or benefits debit card, so Washburn buckled his 2-year-old child into a child seat in the back of a red Kia and drove to Shiprock. When they finished, Washburn wanted to pick up his “common law wife” from her work at the Littlewater Express gas station, so he sped, an estimated 75 yo 85 mph in a 45-mph zone, Fancher wrote.

One woman, only identified by the initials L.B., told Navajo Nation Criminal Investigator Wilson Charley that she was going about 65 mph when a red Kia passed her, then hit the raised center concrete median, causing sparks to come from the tire, around 10 p.m., Charley wrote in an investigation report.

The red car crested a little hill, then five seconds later, she came on the crash scene. A black truck “was being thrown across the northbound lane and it landed on the east side of the roadway,” Charley wrote.

L.B. stopped and ran to the red car and found two men in the front seats and a baby in the back. Washburn, whom she identified as a man with long hair, was trying to get out of the driver’s side window. The 2-year-old, Washburn’s child, was crying, while Washburn kept yelling he was OK, then started yelling for his brother after he got out, Charley wrote.

According to L.B.’s account, a woman, later identified as K.C., came up and started yelling that it was car her, her husband and her baby involved in the crash, then removed the baby from the car seat while Washburn argued with her, Charley wrote.

Navajo Nation Police Officer Ty Joe arrived at the scene of the crash and found Washburn walking around, his face covered in blood. Washburn was obviously intoxicated and smelled like alcohol. He denied driving and claimed another man, only identified by the first initial “H,” was driving and “took off running after the crash,” Charley wrote.

The rest of the man’s name is redacted.

Joe saw Wadsworth was pinned against the passenger-side door frame and it had to be cut for him to be removed and the 2-year-old had been removed from his car seat prior to police or medics arriving, Charley wrote.

While Joe was trying to render medical attention to Wadsworth when Washburn walked away and later returned in a black Dodge Avenger and claimed he was injured. Joe told the person driving him to drive him to the Northern Navajo Medical Center, Charley wrote.

The child was flown to the hospital first, followed by Wadsworth, because he had to be extricated. The 2-year-old child suffered a lacerated liver, a collapsed lung, a left arm fracture and a broken left leg, he wrote.

According to a sentencing memorandum, K.C. told prosecutors that their son’s left leg bones “have not grown at the same rate as the right leg bones, resulting in his hips being uneven.” However, “it is not clear” if the child will have his future movement ability affected or if he will require more treatment.

Washburn’s blood-alcohol content, after the crash, was 0.285, over three times the legal limit, according to the memo.

Washburn was charged on Oct. 24, 2018, eight months following the crash. On Nov. 18, 2018, federal Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter ordered Washburn be released into the custody of a halfway house.

The other driver

The person in the black truck, a GMC Sierra, that Washburn hit, identified in court documents by the initials A.J., told Charley and Fancher that the night of the crash, he got off work at 3 p.m. He ran a few errands in Farmington before driving back to the Navajo reservation and stopped for gas in Shiprock before driving south to Sanostee, around 9 p.m., Charley wrote.

A.J. told investigators he remembered driving past the weigh station, 2-3 miles north of the Littlewater Express Store, and nothing after that, other than being woken up and his mother taking him to the hospital in Shiprock, he wrote.

However, he admitted to drinking three 12-ounce cans of Bud Light before he was crashed into, Charley wrote.

According to an crash reconstruction report, requested by Fancher and done by Officer Stanley Lundy, AJ was driving at 31 mph at the time of impact while Washburn was driving at 85 mph.

According to a sentencing memorandum, Lundy and another accident reconstructionist, disagreed “at the relative fault” of AJ in the crash, although Lundy’s report makes no overt judgement to fault.

Two more witnesses

Two people, S.B. and K.C., the mother of the 2-year-old/Washburn’s girlfriend (also referred to as his common-law wife and as his wife in court documents)t, were working at the Littlewater Express Store the night of the crash, Charley wrote.

S.B. told Charley that around 9:30 p.m., K.C. was on the phone with her boyfriend, Washburn, and worried he was drinking with their son. Around 10 p.m., the last customer left. It was A.J., who got into his black truck. Her boss called and asked about him and she said he was just leaving the store, he wrote.

“(S.B.) said she was looking out the store window when she noticed a car traveling southbound at a very high rate of speed,” Charley wrote. “(S.B.) said it was almost instantly when the car hit the black truck as it was pulling out of the store’s parking lot.”

Still on the phone with her boss, she screamed it was AJ who was involved in the crash. K.C. ran out of the store, asked S.B. where the crash was, then ran to the crash site. S.B. would see and hear a woman at the site of the crash, yelling for help, Charley wrote.

“(S.B.) said she went back into the store to get her phone and when she came back out (K.C.) was running back to the store yelling she couldn’t make it over the fence,” Charley wrote. “(K.C.) was yelling that it was her car and her baby.”

S.B. saw K.C. run to the crash scene. She then started banging on the car and cussing at someone before opening the door and slapping her boyfriend. She brought the baby back into the store after being driven by someone with the initials S.P., (who name is otherwise redacted in the documents,) Charley wrote.

S.B. went to the crash scene with her boss and saw K.C. in someone’s car with her baby. S.B. called for medics and told them the baby needed medical attention. Washburn followed K.C. around at the crash scene, and K.C. yelled at him, saying he was the cause of “all this,” Charley wrote.

When the medics did find the boy, he was flown to the hospital with severe injuries.

S.B. took K.C. to the San Juan Regional Medical Center and, during the drive, she asked K.C. about the other two adults in the car, he wrote.

“(S.B.) said (K.C.)’s boyfriend was the driver because no one ran from the scene as she witnessed the crash in front of her,” Charley wrote.

Charley’s interview with K.C. makes no mention of her pulling her baby out of the car or not bringing him to medics.

Fatal injuries

Orlando Jerry Wadsworth, of Sanostee, 37 when he died, was born on Oct. 6, 1980 in Shiprock and he died on Feb. 15, 2018, according to his obituary. No more biographical information was listed.

Wadsworth’s right arm was completely broken, as was his left leg. He suffered “massive trauma” to the back of the head, according to a field investigation conducted by the Office of the Medical Investigator.

After being sealed in a body bag on Feb. 16, 2018, his family agreed for him to be an organ donor. The following day, donor services informed the deputy field investigator that the Desert View Funeral Home embalmed him before they could harvest any organs, according tot he field investigation.

Although he was embalmed before an autopsy could happen, the FBI asked for it to still be done, according to the field investigation.

According to the autopsy report, Wadsworth has tears in his right lung, spleen and liver, which would have caused massive internal bleeding resulting in his death.

The plea

According to court records, prosecutors filed a criminal information charging Washburn with involuntary manslaughter and child abuse on July 12, 2019, the same day as his plea hearing. The latter charge was a downgrade from assault on a minor resulting in serious bodily injury charge initially levied by Fancher.

Washburn pleaded guilty to the two charges, involuntary manslaughter and child abuse, although Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa deferred final acceptance of the plea until sentencing in front of a District Court judge during a 27-minute hearing, according to minutes from the plea hearing.

According to the plea agreement, Washburn’s sentence would be between just under six years (71 months) and 10 years, an agreement between the prosecution and defense that is binding on a judge who accepts it. Prosecutor Allison Jaros signed the plea.

History of drunk driving

According to Jaros’ sentencing memo, Washburn had previously been arrested for drunk driving in June 2017, while his wife and their child were with him. A breath test for his blood-alcohol level found it to be between 0.15 and 0.17.

“Defendant’s wife told police that she advised Defendant not to drive, but did not want to argue with him,” Jaros wrote.

San Juan County Sheriff’s deputies charged him with child abuse, aggravated DWI, driving on a suspended license and open container of alcohol in a vehicle, according to an Aztec Magistrate Court docket.

His 2017 drunk driving case was initially referred to pre-prosecution diversion, on June 29, 2017, but by Nov. 2, 2017, it was terminated and he waived his right to a preliminary hearing. The case was then bound over to District Court, according to the docket.

According to the Farmington/Aztec District Court docket, he pleaded guilty to drunk driving and child abuse, but the latter charge was subject to a conditional discharge.

 

Sentencing arguments

Federal prosecutor Allison Jaros did not request a specific sentence, other than federal District Court Judge Martha Vazquez accept the plea agreement, with the range of 6-10 years imprisonment.

Jaros wrote in a sentencing memorandum, submitted Nov. 22, 2019, that the plea allowed Washburn to avoid a minimum sentence of 10 years for a assault on a minor resulting in serious bodily injury charge.

The involuntary manslaughter charge carried a maximum sentence of eight years.

Although the evidence against Washburn was strong, “neither victim favored prosecution,” she wrote.

He was not charged for injuries to A.J., in the vehicle he hit, according to court documents.

Although two of the three victims were related to Washburn, and those were the ones he was charged for hurting and killing, one was dead and the other was 2 at the time of the crash.

Jaros did not write how a dead man and a toddler could favor prosecution.

The two accident reconstructionists disagreed on A.J.’s role in the crash and he was never charged because of that disagreement, she wrote.

Jaros wrote that the previous conviction for drunk driving, and that his child was previously in the car during a drunk driving incident, were aggravating factors to be considered.

Washburn’s attorney, Alejandro Fernandez, wrote in a sentencing memorandum submitted Oct. 21, 2019, that the crash plays in Washburn’s mind in a “relentless loop.”

Fernandez requested a sentence of 71 months, just under six years, the minimum allowed under the plea deal.

Washburn wrote in an undated letter to the court that he was at the La Pasada Halfway House, had been there for a year, and was working two jobs to provide for his 3-year-old son and a newborn.

“The day the accident happened has made a huge impact on me and my family,” he wrote. “I always wished it never happened. My oldest brother was the passenger and is now deceased from the accident. My son being injured hurts me knowing he was part of it. He had fully healed from the injuries and is now back to normal.”

This assertion, that his child is “now back to normal” is contradicted by Jaros’ sentencing memo, that the boy’s left leg bones “have not grown at the same rate as the right leg bones, resulting in his hips being uneven.”

Washburn wrote that he became addicted to alcohol for three years after his mother died, but he no longer misses the feeling or taste and thinks about his family and his future as a father.

“Please give me the least amount of time to serve so I can attend college and also provide for my two boys,” he wrote. “I believe I am a good person. I help those in need, I donate what is needed to strangers and feel good doing so.”

Revocation for drinking

On Dec. 2, 2019, pretrial services asked for the judge to have Washburn arrested after twice tested positive for alcohol.

On Dec. 1, he blew a 0.148 followed by a 0.168 and the following day, he blew a 0.297, according to a petition for action on the conditions of his pretrial release.

The halfway house Washburn had been staying at was no longer willing to serve as his third-party custodian. On Dec. 4, he was remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and he waived his right to a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing.

Sentenced

On Feb. 13, 2020, two months after Washburn was arrested for violating the conditions of his release by drinking heavily, federal District Court Judge Martha Vazquez sentenced him to the minimum allowed under the plea deal, just under six years (71 months), followed by supervised release for three years.

According to the sentencing minute sheet, Washburn addressed the court, as did the “Victim’s representative.” The entire hearing lasted one hour and two minutes. Neither the minutes nor the judgement state why Vazquez sentenced Washburn to the minimum allowed under the plea.

 

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