Sentencing in Dulce torture case moved to October

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

See the case write-up

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

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

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

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

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

Quintana and Bettelyoun admitted to torturing Travis Howland, 28, before binding his hands and feet and leaving him, naked, in a closet to die on Feb. 2, 2018 in Quintana’s house, according to court records.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge finds Jansen Peshlakai a danger to the community and won’t release

• Judge denies Jansen Peshlakai‘s bid for release
• Peshlakai showed no elevated risk from the coronavirus

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jansen Peshlakai will continue to be housed in the private Cibola County Correction Center after a federal judge found him to be a danger to the community and that the coronavirus did not pose enough of a specific threat to him.

Shiprock. Photo by Mobilus In Mobili/Flickr

According to minutes from the June 4, 2020 hearing, conducted via Zoom, Peshlakai’s attorney, Edward Bustamante, asked he be released to the third-party custody of his sister in Oklahoma.

Federal prosecutor Allison Jaros provided an update on the status of coronavirus cases in the Cibola County Detention Center and asked Peshlakai remain in jail, according to the minutes.

According to the minutes, U.S. Marshal Deputy G. McCoy “provides information re: COVID-19 cases, status of employee’s health at Cibola and outlines medical treatment defendants receive upon entry/release from center.”

Jaros brought one exhibit, entered onto the record, but it was uploaded to PACER and the minutes do not state what it was.

At the end of the 45-minute hearing, District Judge Judith Herrera ordered Peshlakai continue to be held as a danger to the community, according to the minutes.

“Court finds defendant has not shown there is an elevated risk to him in contracting COVID-19, outlines reasons and denies request for release,” the minutes state. “Ms. Jaros to submit order”

Peshlakai allegedly ran down 20-year-old Dakota Whitehat on July 13, 2018. Whitehat was in a vehicle that stopped because Peshlakai was fighting with his wife on the side of the road and, according to one report, screaming for help, according to court documents. Read more about the case in the write-up.

A grand jury indicted Peshlakai on a charge of second-degree murder three months later, on Oct. 2. 2018.

Peshlakai’s competency to stand trial was an issue from the start of the case and he was found not competent on June 14, 2019, before being rehabilitated and found competent on March 20, 2020, his attorney, Edward Bustamante, wrote in a motion for his release.

Jaros opposed Bustamante’s request.

The Cibola County Correction Center, and the company that runs it, CoreCivic, have come under scrutiny because of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a March 30 response to the United States Marshals Service, Cibola County Detention Center Warden Luis Rosa Jr. wrote a vague letter that the facility is following proper guidelines and instituting social distancing within the facility.

That comes in stark contrast to reporting by Jeff Proctor at New Mexico In Depth. Proctor wrote that inmates had to sign a waiver before receiving face masks.

According to a May 12 filing by Jaros, two federal inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus. They were transferred from Otero County in early May, 2020.

No further hearings are scheduled.

The Cibola County Correction Center allegedly forced inmates to sign waivers before giving them face masks, according to Jeff Proctor reporting in New Mexico In Depth.

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Continue reading “Judge finds Jansen Peshlakai a danger to the community and won’t release”

Jansen Peshlakai requests release because of the coronavirus after competency determination

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jansen Peshlakai is asking a federal judge to release him to a halfway-house pending trial because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Peshlakai allegedly ran down 20-year-old Dakota Whitehat on July 13, 2018. Whitehat was in a vehicle that stopped because Peshlakai was fighting with his wife on the side of the road and, according to one report, screaming for help, according to court documents.

Shiprock Pinnacle. Photo by DiAnn L’Roy/Flickr

A grand jury indicted Peshlakai on a charge of second-degree murder three months later, on Oct. 2. 2018.

Peshlakai’s competency to stand trial was an issue from the start of the case and he was found not competent on June 14, 2019, before being rehabilitated and found competent on March 20, 2020, his attorney, Edward Bustamante, wrote in a motion for his release.

He was then returned to New Mexico on April 17, 2020, and taken to the Cibola County Correctional Center outside Milan, a private jail run by CoreCivic, Bustamante wrote.

Peshlakai previously appealed the initial order that he be held without bail. It was denied. Because of the coronavirus pandemic and Peshlakai being transferred, Bustamante filed the new motion for release on April 20, 2020.

“Jansen Peshlakai is an at risk detainee due to his permanent closed head injury and his course of medications that make him vulnerable to any health threat while detained,” Bustamante wrote.

He asked that his client be released to his daughter, Jennifer Peshlakai, in Oklahoma, or his mother, in Churchrock.

Prosecutor Allison Jaros wrote in a response, dated April 23, 2020, that Bustamante did not argue that his client is no longer a flight risk or a danger to the community and that the pandemic would not make it less likely he would violate court orders and drink or harm others if released from custody.

“Defendant’s mental condition has improved since his incarceration, likely due to his forced sobriety,” Jaros wrote.

According to Peshlakai’s own doctor, he requires “24/7” supervision for safety, food preparation, medication administration and assistance with other basic daily activities, she wrote.

Cibola County Detention Center badge
Cibola County Detention Center badge

“The COVID-19 pandemic simply has no bearing on whether conditions of release can reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court and the safety of the community,” Jaros wrote.

She wrote that Peshlakai is also not particularly at risk from the coronavirus, citing a New York case where a man with dementia and a history of strokes and heart attacks was denied pre-trial release during the pandemic.

“It would be pure speculation for the Court to presume that Defendant’s underlying conditions pose a greater risk to his safety than if he was released back into the public, where he could resume drinking,” Jaros wrote.

She wrote that when he was arrested, he also had three outstanding warrants. One was a New Mexico probation violation case, although she did not specify if it was federally issued or a state case, and two for failing to appear in court in Oklahoma.

Continue reading “Jansen Peshlakai requests release because of the coronavirus after competency determination”

Prosecutor asks for life sentence in Dulce torture case

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

See the case write-up

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

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

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

Quintana and Bettelyoun admitted to torturing Travis Howland, 28, before binding his hands and feet and leaving him, naked, in a closet to die on Feb. 2, 2018 in Quintana’s house, according to court records.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spindle wrote:

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

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

Thomas Goodridge sentenced to 8 years for killing wife

  • Sentence was the maximum allowed under a plea deal

See the full case here

BERNALILLO, N.M. — On July 30, 2019, District Court Judge Louis P. McDonald sentenced Thomas Goodridge, 74, to eight years in prison for killing his wife with a rock on April 22, 2017, according to court documents.

Thomas Goodridge

McDonald previously, on May 2, accepted a no contest plea from Goodridge that capped his maximum sentence at eight years and set a minimum of four years. That plea mandated that the rest of his sentence be suspended, in this case seven years, and he be placed on supervised probation for five years after he is released from prison. The judgement and sentence also states that he will be placed on parole for two years.

Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Second-degree murder is a serious violent offense which means he must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he can be released, compared to the 50 percent required for crimes that are not considered to be serious violent offenses.

Continue reading “Thomas Goodridge sentenced to 8 years for killing wife”

Jansen Peshlakai: Dakota Whitehat — 7-13-2018

Suspect: Jansen Peshlakai

Victim: Dakota Whitehat, 20

Charges: Second-degree murder

Status: Pending

Date of incident: July 13, 2018

Agency: FBI

Location: 1/2 mile west of Highway 491 on BIA/Navajo/Indian Services Route 13, near Shiprock and Mitten Rock

Federal magistrate case number: None

Federal district case number: 18-cr-03323

Prosecutor: Allison Jaros

Prosecuting agency: US Attorney’s Office

 

Summary

On July 13, 2018, Jansen Peshlakai allegedly ran over Dakota Whitehat, 20, after some kind of domestic dispute with his wife, on BIA/Navajo/Indian Services Route 13 near Shiprock and Mitten Rock.

He was not charged until three months later when a grand jury indicted him for second-degree murder on Oct. 2, 2018.

In February 2019, his case was placed on hold for a competency evaluation. He was initially found to not be competent, sent to a facility for rehabilitation, and found to be competent on March 20, 2020.

No hearings have been scheduled.

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The incident

On July 13, 2018, Dakota Whitehat, 20, was walking down U.S. Highway 491, near Shiprock, when a car picked him up. After turning onto Indian Services Route/BIA Route/Navajo Route 13, the driver stopped because Jansen Peshlakai and his wife appeared to be in a physical fight, according to a deputy field investigation by Barbara Nabors.

Shiprock Pinnacle. Photo by DiAnn L’Roy/Flickr

“Per law enforcement, both the man and the woman of the parked vehicle became aggressive towards the occupants of vehicle one,” Nabors wrote. “For unknown reasons the decedent began walking eastbound on the opposite side of the road.”

Peshlakai allegedly turned his car around and ran down Whitehat, who was 15 to 20 feet off the highway, she wrote.

Federal prosecutor Allison Jaros wrote in an opposition to Peshlakai’s appeal of his detention that the woman, Peshlakai’s wife, was yelling “Help me! Help me!” when Whitehat, and the people who picked him up, came onto the scene.

Jaros’ account differs from that of Nabors, based on what police initially told her.

The man who picked up Whitehat in his truck earlier on the road offered the wife a ride, Jaros wrote.

Whitehat is referred to as “John Doe” in court documents.

According to Jaros:

“She got into the truck to leave,  which angered the defendant. The defendant got into his vehicle, a brown SUV, and drove across the road to where the white truck was parked. The defendant rammed the white truck. Next, the defendant ran over John Doe who was outside the vehicle on foot.”

Several witnesses, including other motorists who stopped, told investigators that Peshlakai allegedly did not try to swerve or slow down to avoid running over Whitehat, Jaros wrote.

“At the time of the collision, it was light outside,” she wrote. “John Doe died from his injuries later that day.”

Peshlakai had been drinking prior to allegedly running over Whitehat, she wrote.

“The defendant’s dangerousness is exacerbated by his alcohol abuse,” she wrote. “The defendant has been charged with alcohol related offenses on at least ten different occasions. He has convictions for public drunkenness and driving under the influence.”

In 2016, he was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, she wrote.

Specifically, he was drinking and driving without a driver’s license when he allegedly killed Whitehat, she wrote.

Below is the approximate location of the alleged attack.

Court proceedings

Indictment

In a motion for release, Peshlakai’s attorney, Edward Bustamante, of Albuquerque, wrote that Peshlakai was initially charged in state court and those charges were dropped after he was indicted federally.

According to a search of public state court records, no arrest appears to have been recorded.

Mitten Rock, off of Navajo Route 13 (Indian Services Route 13), New Mexico. Photo by James St. John/Flickr

On Oct. 2, 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Peshlakai on a charge of second-degree murder, although it would not be entered into the court record until Oct. 11, 2018.

Peshlakai immediately retained Farmington attorney Adam Bell once he learned he could be charged with a crime for allegedly running down Whitehat, Bustamante wrote.

Bell then arranged for Peshlakai to surrender to police in Farmington, he wrote.

According to the docket, he surrendered on Dec. 6, 2018 and Bustamante was appointed as his attorney.

On Dec. 13, 2018, federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing ordered Peshlakai held without bail. The minutes only contain the notations that the prosecution, defense spoke and that “Officer Galaz” told Fashing of the resources available at a halfway house.

On Jan. 10, 2019, Bustamante appealed the Fashing’s order.

Peshlakai suffered a “serious closed head injury” in 2013, which require him to “ingest a battery of medications to prevent ongoing seizures,” Bustamante wrote.

Before being arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Peshlakai was scheduled to meet with multiple doctors about his brain injury.

“Subsequent to surrendering federal authorities Mr. Peshlakai has suffered a disruption in his prescribed medications,” Bustamante wrote. “The disruption in prescribed medication is causing at a minimum elevated anxiety in Mr. Peshlakai which in turn exacerbates Mr. Peshlakai’s closed head injury.”

Fashing “expressed concerns” about Peshlakai getting his medication when she ordered him held without bail. Release to a halfway house in Albuquerque would mean he could resume his medical treatment, he wrote.

On Jan. 28, 2019, District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl denied his motion for release, following a hearing the same day.

Competency

On Feb. 7, 2019, Jaros filed a motion to have Peshlakai evaluated for his competency, an issue because of his 2013 head injury.

When Bell was representing Peshlakai, he told prosecutors that he thought his client was not competent to stand trial, she wrote.

She attached a letter given to her by Bell, from one of his doctors, Garett Riggs, of the Northern Navajo Medical Center.

“Mr. Peshlaki’s (sic) injury affected both frontal lobes of the brain leading to impairments of judgement, planning, and complex decision making,” Riggs wrote.”He requires 24/7 supervision for safety, medication administration, food preparation, and assistant with basic daily activities.”

Bustamante wrote in a motion to have Peshlakai released, because of the coronavirus pandemic, that Peshlakai was evaluated at a facility in Colorado and found incompetent to proceed on June 14, 2019. He was committed to a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility to be returned to competency.

On March 20, 2020, a facility in North Carolina concluded that Peshlakai was competent to proceed to trial and he was returned to New Mexico on April 17, 2020, to the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan.

Jaros wrote in a response to Bustamante’s motion that his condition has improved since he was initially arrested “likely due to his forced sobriety.”

“The most recent evidence regarding Defendant’s mental state indicates that Defendant has recovered well from his head injury and that his epilepsy is currently under control,” she wrote.

A Bureau of Prisons psychologist wrote that his brain has recovered “well” from the injury and his “current cognitive profile does not reflect evidence of brain injury,” Jaros wrote.

Release request amid coronavirus

On April 20, 2020, Bustamante filed a motion for an expedited hearing to have Peshlakai released because of the threat of the coronavirus.

Peshlakai is an at-risk detainee because of his permanent closed head injury and all his medications, he wrote.

He asked that his client be released to his daughter, Jennifer Peshlakai, in Oklahoma, or his mother, in Churchrock.

Jaros wrote in a response that Bustamante did not argue that his client is no longer a flight risk or a danger to the community and that the pandemic would not make it less likely he would violate court orders and drink or harm others if released from custody.

“The COVID-19 pandemic simply has no bearing on whether conditions of release can reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court and the safety of the community,” Jaros wrote.

She wrote that Peshlakai is also not particularly at risk from the coronavirus, citing a New York case where a man with dementia and a history of strokes and heart attacks was denied pre-trial release during the pandemic.

“It would be pure speculation for the Court to presume that Defendant’s underlying conditions pose a greater risk to his safety than if he was released back into the public, where he could resume drinking,” Jaros wrote.

She wrote that when he was arrested, he also had three outstanding warrants. One was a New Mexico probation violation case, although she did not specify if it was federally issued or a state case, and two for failing to appear in court in Oklahoma.

Release request denied

District Judge Judith Herrera held a hearing on June 4, 2020, and denied Peshlakai’s request for release.

According to minutes from the June 4, 2020 hearing, conducted via Zoom, Bustamante asked for his client to be released to the third-party custody of his sister in Oklahoma.

Jaros provided an update on the status of coronavirus cases in the Cibola County Detention Center and asked Peshlakai remain in jail, according to the minutes.

According to the minutes, U.S. Marshal Deputy G. McCoy “provides information re: COVID-19 cases, status of employee’s health at Cibola and outlines medical treatment defendants receive upon entry/release from center.”

Jaros brought one exhibit, entered onto the record, but it was uploaded to PACER and the minutes do not state what it was.

At the end of the 45-minute hearing, District Judge Judith Herrera ordered Peshlakai continue to be held as a danger to the community, according to the minutes.

“Court finds defendant has not shown there is an elevated risk to him in contracting COVID-19, outlines reasons and denies request for release,” the minutes state. “Ms. Jaros to submit order”

 

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Taylor James Enriquez receives 19 1/2 years for killing Alberto Nunez after guilty plea

See the full case here

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — District Court Judge Douglas Driggers sentenced Taylor James Enriquez to 19 1/2 years, July 6, 2018, the maximum sentence after he pleaded guilty, April 10, 2018, to charges of second-degree murder, false imprisonment and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm. Driggers’ sentence was the maximum under the plea deal.

Enriquez stabbed Alberto Nunez in the neck with a broken bottle, killing him, on Feb. 26, 2017, according to court documents.

Taylor Enriquez

He also attacked Manuel Lopez Polanco, who had injuries to his face. The attack on Lopez Polanco was the basis of the aggravated battery charge.

According to the plea agreement, signed by prosecutor Rebecca Duffin, Enriquez was going to face a maximum sentence of 19 1/2 years in prison and that the sentences for each crime would run consecutively, or one after another. His defense attorney, James Baiamonte, agreed that he would argue for a minimum sentence of 15 years followed by five years of supervised probation while prosecutors would argue for 19 1/2 years.

On July 9, 2018, Driggers sentenced Enriquez to the maximum allowed, 19 1/2 years. Although second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, Enriquez was also sentenced to the maximum sentences on the charges of false imprisonment and aggravated battery.

Continue reading “Taylor James Enriquez receives 19 1/2 years for killing Alberto Nunez after guilty plea”

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

Suspect: Allister Danzig Quintana

Suspect: Andrew Bettelyoun

Victim: Travis Howland, 28

Date of incident: Feb. 2, 2018

Investigative agencies: Federal Bureau of Investigations

Location: 66 Navajo Street, Dulce, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Rio Arriba County

Federal search warrant case number: 18-mr-00578

Prosecutor: Joseph Spindle

Prosecuting agency: US Attorney’s Office

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 June 22. No hearing date is set for Bettelyoun’s sentencing.

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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.

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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See all the documents for Allister Quintana or Andrew Bettelyoun on Google Drive.

View the case files of Allister Quintana or Andrew Bettelyoun on Document Cloud.

Matthew Rodriguez: Mitchell Daniel — 3-25-2017

Suspect: Matthew Rodriguez, 34

Victim: Mitchell Daniel, 64

Charges: First-degree murder, aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence; pleaded down down to second-degree murder

Status: Plea to second-degree murder

Sentence: 10 years followed by 5 years supervised probation

Date of incident: March 25, 2017

Agency: Santa Fe Police Department

Location: 1713 Fifth Street, Santa Fe

Magistrate case number: M-49-FR-2017-319

District case number: D-101-CR-2017-311

Judicial district: First judicial district

 

Summary

On March 25, 2017, Matthew Rodriguez, 34 at the time, allegedly stabbed his 64-year-old neighbor, Mitchell Daniel, in the chest repeatedly, compelled by the voices in his head. He allegedly admitted to stabbing the man, who appeared to be living in a van outside of Rodriguez’s apartment complex.

On Oct. 19 or Oct. 22, 2018, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for Daniel’s death and, per the plea deal, received a sentence of 10 years followed by five years of supervised probation.

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The incident

On March 25, 2017, Matthew Rodriguez, 34 at the time, allegedly stabbed his 64-year-old neighbor, Mitchell Daniel, in the chest repeatedly, compelled by the voices in his head.

Although Daniel was transported after the stabbing to the hospital, he died from his injuries shortly thereafter.

Officers were first called to the scene following a 911 call that a man had been either shot or stabbed. Rodriguez allegedly took credit for making the call after he had been arrested, Detective Tony Trujillo wrote in a statement of probable cause for Rodriguez’s arrest.

Matthew Rodriguez

Officers found four men at the scene when they arrived, including Rodriguez and took all four of them into custody.

After Rodriguez was put into the back of the police car, he allegedly started punching himself in the face. After being handcuffed, he then allegedly started banging his head on the divider in the police unit. He was taken to the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center for his head injury.

“While in the emergency room at the hospital being treated by the attending physician and nursing staff Matthew Rodriguez made a statement ‘how’s the fuck I stabbed doing’? and ‘I called 911 about the stabbing; I didn’t realize that I did it,” Trujillo wrote. “These statements were heard by attending physician and nursing staff.”

At the police department, Trujillo talked to Gary Brown, who described himself as an acquaintance and told Trujillo that he was one of the people who called 911.

“Mr. Brown was at the apartment with Matthew Rodriguez approximately one hour prior to making the 911 emergency call. Mr. Brown stated Matthew Rodriguez suddenly told him ‘you need to leave,’ and ‘fucking neighbor,'” Trujillo wrote. “Mr. Brown told Affiant Matthew Rodriguez is schizophrenic and hears voices in his head. Mr. Brown told Affiant this was not unusual to him because Matthew Rodriguez on other occasions had told him ‘you need to leave’ for no reason at all.”

He gathered his belongings and left the apartment. While outside, he heard someone yelling to call 911 and he went up to the apartment and saw Daniel lying on the ground, bleeding.

“Mr. Brown called 911,” Trujillo wrote. “Mr. Brown also told Affiant that Matthew Rodriguez always carries a kitchen knife with him.”

While Rodriguez was being held at the police department, an officer walked up and asked if he wanted a cup of water.

“Matthew Rodriguez responded ‘the person that I stabbed,
what’s going on with him?'” Trujillo wrote.

Later on, Rodriguez was interviewed and he agreed to waive his Miranda rights.

“In this statement Matthew Rodriguez admitted to stabbing Mitchell Daniel,” Trujillo wrote. “Matthew Rodriguez stated he did not mean to kill him, saying ‘I was just angry at the voices in my head.'”

He allegedly described the knife as being nine inches long with a black handle and he allegedly threw it into the sink after the stabbing, Trujillo wrote.

“Matthew Rodriguez stated he stabbed Mitchell Daniel inside Mitchell Daniel’s van which Mitchell Daniel had been living out of and parked in the driveway of 1713 Fifth Street,” Trujillo wrote.

Below is the statement of probable cause for Matthew Rodriguez’s arrest.

 

PC-CC - Matthew Rodriguez - 3-27-2017

 

Indictment, competency and plea deal

On April 13, 2017, Rodriguez was indicted on charges of:

  • First-degree murder under the depraved-mind theory
  • Aggravated burglary: a kitchen knife
  • Tampering with evidence

At his May 1, 2017 arraignment, District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington placed a no-bond hold on him.

Bisbee Court, Santa Fe, NM. Photo by Wheeler Cowperthwaite. CC BY

On May 5, 2017, a notice was filed that Rodriguez’s competency was in question and on July 5, 2017, Ellington suspended the proceedings.

On Feb. 9, 2018, Rodriguez’s attorney withdrew the question of his competency and filed a notice that Rodriguez would plead not guilty by reason of insanity and an incapacity to form specific intent.

On April 17, 2018, prosecutors filed a motion to have Rodriguez moved from the Santa Fe Detention Center to the custody of the Department of Corrections, as well as a motion to close the courtroom to hear the motion.

On April 24, 2018, the Santa Fe Reporter published an article by Justin Horwath about Rodriguez’s confinement in the Santa Fe Detention Center and his extensive stay in solitary confinement.

According to the article, on Sept. 21, 2017, Rodriguez attacked two separate inmates, who declined to press charges against him.

Judge's portrait
First Judicial District Judge T. Glenn Ellington

“A corrections officer wrote in an incident report that Rodriguez said he assaulted the two inmates because they ‘are mind-control freaks,'” Horwath wrote.

On Sept. 21, 2018, prosecutors and the defense reached an agreement for a plea deal. That plea deal was signed by Ellington on Oct. 19, 2018 although the docket states the hearing took place on Oct. 22.

During that hearing, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

According to the plea deal, which Ellington accepted, Rodriguez will spend 10 years in prison, sans credit for time served. Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence.

Ellington, acting according to the plea deal, sentenced Rodriguez to a total of 15 years, but suspended five and ordered that they be served on intensive supervised probation.

According to the judgement and sentence, Ellington ordered that the Department of Corrections place Rodriguez in “an appropriate Mental Health Unit where Defendant’s medical regimen can be fulfilled by the New Mexico Department of Corrections” and receive his required medication and mental health treatment.

 

See the documents on Google Drive

Taylor James Enriquez: Alberto Nunez — 2-26-2017

Suspect: Taylor James Enriquez

Victim: Alberto Nunez

Non-fatal victim: Manuel Lopez Polanco

Charges: First-degree murder, false imprisonment and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm

Status: Guilty plea to second-degree murder, false imprisonment and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm

Sentence: 19 1/2 years

Date of incident:  Feb. 26, 2017

Agency: Las Cruces Police Department

Location: 600 block of South Manzanita Street, Las Cruces

Magistrate case number: M-14-Fr-2017-170

District case number: D-307-CR-2017-272

Summary

On Feb. 26, 2017, Taylor Enriquez allegedly walked into the back yard of his friends house and, after a short fight, stabbed Alberto Nunez repeatedly in the neck with a broken bottle, killing him.

Enriquez pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder, false imprisonment and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm on April 10, 2018, accepted by District Court Judge Douglas Driggers, with a maximum sentence of 19 1/2 years.

On July 9, 2018, Driggers sentenced Enriquez to the maximum allowed, 19 1/2 years.

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The incident

On Feb. 26, 2017, Las Cruces Police Department officers were sent to a house on South Manzanita Street following the report of a fight, Detective Felix Guerra wrote in a statement of probable cause for Taylor Enriquez’s arrest.

Taylor Enriquez

At the scene, they find Jennifer Barraza, Manuel Lopez Polanco, Edwin Lopez and Enriquez.

Lopez Polanco, Edwin Lopez’s father, had injuries to his face and was transported to the hospital and Enriquez also had facial injuries. He was not wearing a shirt but his pants and shoes were allegedly covered in blood, more than would be consistent with his injuries, Guerra wrote.

When officers checked the back of the house, they found Alberto Nunez with alleged stab wounds to the neck.

“The officers could see signs of a struggle in the back yard and a broken wooden handle,” Guerra wrote. “The jagged end of the broken wooden handle was covered in a red substance believed to be blood.”

Interview with Jennifer Barraza

Barraza told Guerra that she lives at the house with her boyfriend, Edwin Lopez, and Lopez’s father, Manuel Lopez Polanco, and her 1-year-old daughter.

The day of the alleged killing, Lopez and herself were invited to a party at Peter Piper Pizza but before going, they met with Nunez, Edwin Lopez’s cousin. Nunez wanted to come back with them to see his cousin, Lopez Polanco, Guerra wrote.

They left him at the house so they could to go the birthday party. When they came back, she found Lopez Polanco had an injury to his eye and was bloody and another man she only knew as “T. J.”

“She notices that T.J. has a black eye and he has a blank look on his face,” Guerra wrote. “She asked what happened and T.J. said ‘he killed him.'”

She went to tell Lopez that T.J. hit his father and Lopez begin to hit Enriquez.

“When she looks on the side of the house she sees Alberto on the ground,” Guerra wrote. “She asks T.J. what happened. T.J. tells her Edwin’s dad killed him. Edwin goes outside and sees Alberto on the ground. Edwin touches Alberto and says Alberto is dead. She goes to the front of the house and calls the police.”

Interview with Edwin Lopez

Lopez repeated much of what Barraza told Guerra, about picking Nunez up and going to the party.

“His girlfriend goes in the house first,” Guerra wrote. “He can hear her yelling “Babe, Babe, Demon is hitting your dad!” he enters the house and he sees that his dad Manuel Lopez Polanco has injuries to his face.”

When he asked what happened, Lopez Polanco allegedly said that the guy “did it.”

“He asks Taylor what happened,” Guerra wrote. “Taylor tells him ‘the Guero did it.’ He looks toward the side of the house and he sees his cousin Alberto on the ground. He sees that he is bloody and not moving. He touches Alberto’s ch in and shakes Alberto’s face . He tries to get Alberto to open his eyes. Alberto does not respond and he can feel that Alberto is cold to the touch.”

Lopez told Guerra he began to panic and called his brother Hector and his cousin, Danny, who is Nunez’s brother. He then grabbed Enriquez and held him until police arrived.

Interview with Manuel Lopez Polanco

Lopez Polanco left the house around 9 in the morning and had a few beers and returned home around sunset. He walked to the back yard and once inside, he saw his nephew on the ground and a “young man” allegedly standing over him, Guerra wrote.

“The young man rushes him and grabs him by the wrists,” Guerra wrote. “The young man knocks him down to the ground and begins to punch his face. The young man puts his knee on his chest pinning him down. The young man continues to punch him on the face as he tells the man to stop. He tells the young man to stop hitting him and the man stops and lets him up. He walks to the side of the house and he is alone with the man for at least 30 minutes.”

Interview with Taylor Enriquez

The day of the incident, Enriquez allegedly said that he walked to the back yard of the house on South Manzanita Street.

“He sees a man in the back yard and they are singing and talking together,” Guerra wrote. “The man started talking about the man’s mom and grandma.”

Guerra does not specify who “they” are.

“The man started tripping so he postured up to him,” Guerra wrote. “He threw a punch and hit the man on the face. The man threw a punch at him. He ducked and spun around the man and flipped him over. The man fell on the ground. The man picked up a shovel and tried to hit him with the shovel. He ducked and avoided the strike.”

He allegedly took the shovel away from Nunez, then used it to hit him in the side of the neck. He then allegedly found a bottle on the ground, picked it up and hit him on the head with it, Guerra wrote.

“The bottle breaks and he then stabs the man on the neck with the bottle,” Guerra wrote. “The man falls to the ground and the man is still breathing.”

Lopez Polanco then allegedly walked up, saw the dead man and asked what Enriquez had done.

“Manuel throws a punch at him and he moves out of the way,” Guerra wrote. “He grabs Manuel and throws Manuel to the ground. He grabs Manuel’s wrists and he puts his knee on Manuel’s chest. He holds Manuel down and he punches Manuel on the face. Manuel tells him to stop and he holds Manuel down for around 20 minutes.”

When Barraza and Lopez arrive, he allegedly let Lopez Polanco get up and then Lopez tried to fight with him.

“Edwin kicks him on the chest and he falls down and hits his face on the sidewalk,” Guerra wrote. “A short time later the police arrive.”

Injuries all around

Guerra wrote that Lopez Polanco required stitches to his face and he also had several bruises.

Officers also located a neighbor with surveillance cameras that faced the back yard.

“The video footage is dark but has audio recording of the incident,” Guerra wrote. “The audio had the sounds of someone telling another person to stop several times as the sounds of a person being struck is hard.”

The sounds of striking stopped and a few minutes later and someone arrived at the house. Then, the screaming started.

“Someone is heard asking what did you do, and who killed him, you killed my cousin, you’re not going anywhere, why would you do that T.J., you killed my cousin, T.J,” Guerra wrote.

Enriquez, while being escorted to the hospital, yelled at Barrazas that what he did was in self defense.

After leaving the hospital, he was taken back for an apparent drug overdose. Officers found he was foaming at the mouth, shaking and mumbling, Guerra wrote.

Enriquez was arraigned two days later, Feb., 28, 2017, and placed on a no-bond hold.

Below is the statement of probable cause written by Guerra.

PC - Taylor Enriquez_Redacted

 

The indictment

On March 9, 2017, a grand jury indicted Taylor Enriquez on charges of:

  • First-degree murder
  • False imprisonment
  • Aggravated battery causing great bodily harm

 

Plea and sentencing

Enriquez pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder, false imprisonment and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm on April 10, 2018, accepted by District Court Judge Douglas Driggers.

Judge Douglas Driggers

According to the plea agreement, Enriquez was going to face a maximum sentence of 19 1/2 years in prison and that the sentences for each crime would run consecutively, or one after another. His defense attorney, James Baiamonte, agreed that he would argue for a minimum sentence of 15 years followed by five years of supervised probation while prosecutors would argue for 19 1/2 years.

On July 9, 2018, Driggers sentenced Enriquez to the maximum allowed, 19 1/2 years. Although second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, Enriquez was also sentenced to the maximum sentences on the charges of false imprisonment and aggravated battery.

Both aggravated battery and second-degree murder are serious violent offenses, meaning Enriquez will have to serve 85 percent of those sentences (15 and three years, respectively) before he will be eligible for parole. The charge of false imprisonment, of a year and a half, was not considered a serious violent offense and he must only serve half of that sentence.

Driggers also gave Enriquez credit for time served while awaiting trial, one year and 130 days. He was also ordered to have no contact with the victim’s family.

 

See the documents on Google Drive

James Finch: David Finch — 8-24-2015

Suspect: James Finch

Victim: David Finch, 60

Non-fatal victim: Kathy Finch

Charges: Second-degree murder, attempt to commit first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, aggravated burglary

Status: No contest plea to second-degree murder, attempt to commit first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, aggravated burglary

Sentence: 27 years followed by 5 years supervised probation

Date of incident: Aug. 24, 2015

Relation to victim: Son

Agency: Albuquerque Police Department

Location: 1200 block of Grove Street NE, Albuquerque

District case number: D-202-CR-201502502

Magistrate case number: T-4-CR-2015011995

Judicial district: Second Judicial District

 

Summary

James Finch allegedly stabbed his father to death and stabbed his mother, but not fatally, on Aug. 24, 2015.

On March 3, 2017, Finch pleaded no contest to charges of second-degree murder, attempt to commit first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and aggravated burglary. Per his plea, he will spend 27 years in prison and spend six years on supervised probation following his release from prison.

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The case

Four days before James Finch stabbed his father to death and beat and stabbed his mother, he dug a grave in his parent’s back yard.

On Aug. 24, 2015, he broke into their house on Grove Street around 3 a.m. and attacked his parents.

James Finch

His parents were so afraid of him they took out a restraining order and after he was released from jail a few days before he killed his father, David Finch, the latter went around his neighborhood, telling everyone to watch out for his son, Detective Leah Acata wrote in a statement of probable cause/criminal complaint for James Finch’s arrest.

When officers F. Duran and E. Bumphrey arrived at the house, after the 911 center received a call of a woman asking for help, Duran looked through a small window in the door and saw a naked man inside the house.

“The nude male ran from the south side of the residence,” Acata wrote. “Officer Duran stated he observed a large amount of blood inside of the residence. Officer Duran observed a female lying face up in a pool of blood.”

The woman, Kathy Finch, was calling out for help.

The two officers called for an ambulance and found they were unable to break through the front door so they went to the back of the house and jumped a wall.

“Officer Duran stated (he) observed bloody foot prints on the back porch (of the house),” Acata wrote. “Officer Duran stated he followed the foot prints where he observed a nude male, wearing only socks, hiding under a white table with a glass top. The table was located on the back porch of the residence.”

The two officers demanded that James Finch come out from the table and saw that he was covered in blood and had a cut on his hand. He did not fight them when he was arrested.

“James stated to police, ‘They are trying to kill us,’ ‘They are trying to kill my parents,’ ‘Please don’t leave me,’ ‘Please help me’ and ‘I don’t want to die,'” Acata wrote.

After arresting James Finch, Duran found that a back window at the house was broken out.

Sandia mountains covered in snow. Photo by John Fowler/Flickr. CC BY

“Officer duran stated it appeared as if someone through (sic) a chair from the outside of the back window to the inside of the back window,” Acata wrote. “Officer Duran entered into the residence through the open back door due to hearing the continued cries for help from a female in the (house).”

Kathy Finch had multiple stab wounds and told Duran that her son attacked her. Next to her was David Finch, already dead, face down on a piece of a cinder block.

“Officer Duran observed another piece of cinder block lying next to Kathy which appeared to have blood and hair attached to the cinder block,” Acata wrote.

Duran found the master bedroom was “covered” in blood and found bloody clothing in the bathroom. The shower was running.

Next to David Finch, they found a 7-inch knife, covered in blood.

“Officer Duran stated both David and Kathy were nude when he located them,” Acata wrote.

Neighbor Tony Martinez told the officers about the grave the Finches found in their back yard, 3 feet wide and 9 feet long and said the Finches placed a note in their son’s former room stating that his personal belongings were in the shed. He was not allowed in the house and they had a restraining order against him.

Another witness, Lynn Russo, told the detectives that David and Kathy Finch had a solid door, with deadbolts, put into their bedroom because they were afraid of their son.

“Lynn stated she heard screaming from (the house) around 0300 hours on this date,” Acata wrote.

When interviewed by Bumphrey at the hospital which does not state if he was read his Miranda rights, including his right to remain silent, he told the officer that three men in masks picked him up from the homeless shelter. He described the three men as wearing all black.

“James stated the males drove him to his parent’s house, placed a gun in his mouth and told him he had to stab his parents or they would kill his parents,” Acata wrote. “James stated he did not want to kill his parents but he was forced to do it. No officer observed any subjects matching the description of the three unknown males in the area (of Grove Street NE).”

He was charged, in Albuquerque Metropolitan Court, on charges of open murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated burglary.

PC- James Finch - 8-24-2015

Court proceedings

The indictment

On Sept. 17, 2015, an Albuquerque grand jury indicted James Finch on eight charges, and even more step down in-the-alternative charges.

  • Count 1: First-degree murder or felony murder (a killing committed during the commission of another felony).
  • Count 2: Attempted first-degree murder and a series of alternative counts, including aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm, for his attack on Kathy Finch.
  • Count 3: Aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon.
  • Count 4: Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for his attack on his father, David Finch.
  • Count 5: Tampering with evidence.
  • Count 6: Aggravated stalking
  • Count 7: Violation of a protection order
  • Count 8: Violation of a protection order

Acata was the only person to testify.

Motions

On Jan. 12, 2016, prosecutor Spirit Gaines filed a motion to stay the case on the grounds that James Finch’s competency was in question.

Gaines wrote that his competency had been raised in a different case. The two cases were consolidated until his competency was determined.

On Oct. 14, 2016, the Albuquerque District Judge Brett Loveless found him competent to stand trial and lifted the hold on the case.

The Plea

Portrait of District Judge Brett Loveless
District Judge Brett Loveless

On March 3, 2017, James Finch pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree murder, a serious violent offense, attempt to commit first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon.

According to the plea agreement, James Finch will spend 27 years in prison, with five years of his 36 year sentence suspended, and to be spent on supervised probation.

According to the plea, the only count to be considered a serious violent offense is the charge of second-degree murder.

In addition, according to the plea, he was to serve the sentences for each crime consecutively, meaning one after the other, with the last eight years suspended in favor of five years of supervised probation.

Because second-degree murder is a serious violent offense, James Finch must serve 85 percent of the first 15 years of his sentence. Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

After he serves 85 percent of the first 15 years, he then begins to accrue good time at a rate of 50 percent and, after that point, he will be eligible for release after he has served half of the remaining 12 years on his sentence: six years.

Plea agreement - James Finch - 3-3-2017

The sentencing

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Kathy Finch spoke during the sentencing and said that it may not be a long enough sentence, but she would be dead by the time James Finch is released from prison.

 

See the case documents on Google Drive or on Document Cloud

Richmond Sam: Jefferson Herrera — 7-30-2015

Suspect: Richmond Sam

Victim: Jefferson Herrera

Charges: Second-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, using a firearm to commit a violent offense

Status: Guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter

Sentence: 1 year, 3 months (15 months)

Date of incident: July 30, 2015

Agency: FBI

Location: Counselor, Navajo Nation, San Juan County

District case number: 15-cr-03051

 

The summary

On July 30, 2015, Jefferson Herrera, 29, and his three brothers went to Richmond Sam’s house, trying to get him outside to fight and destroying his property. Sam went to a neighbor’s house, got a gun and started shooting. He hit no one the first time he shot, according to court records.

Sam claims he was fired upon first. The people involved, described as being unreliable witnesses, said they never shot first, according to court records.

He then opened fire a second time, after the assailants, including Herrera, were driving away. He may, or may not have, fired the shot that killed him. According to court records, the autopsy report casts doubt that Sam was low enough to the ground, or close enough, for the trajectory of the bullet that killed him, according to court records.

Sam’s lawyer posited that it is possible one of Herrera’s own brothers accidentally shot him while fleeing, according to court records.

Sam was initially charged with second-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to court records.

He took a plea for involuntary manslaughter with a minimum sentence of 15 months and a maximum of 21. Federal District Judge James Browning gave him the minimum, 15 months, according to court records.

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The incident

On July 29, 2015, a group of four men, all brothers, bought some Old English malt liquor and started drinking. The victim’s brother, only identified as JH, told his brothers, one of whom was victim Jefferson Herrera, Richmond Sam owed him $45 for gas money. The debt was accrued several months prior, FBI Agent Ross Zuercher wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

Photo taken near Counselor, NM
Near Counselor, NM. Photo by Chris Sale/Flickr. CC BY

“Around midnight of July 30, 2015, the four men arrived at SAM’s residence shouting that he owed JH money, and to pay his debts,” Zuercher wrote. “The men tried to call SAM out of the residence to confront him.”

After Sam refused to come out, they started smashing the windows of the two cars parked at his house.

“The windows were smashed with iron fence posts obtained from the property,” Zuercher wrote. “JH stated that he saw a man, although he could not make out his face, begin to fire live ammunition at the four brothers.”

After being shot at, the men got into their own car and fled. Herrera was driving, he wrote.

Herrera is not identified in court records but he is identified in his obituary and in his autopsy report.

“As the vehicle sped away down SAM’s driveway, several more shots were fired at the vehicle,” Zuercher wrote. “One round broke the back window of the vehicle. One of the rounds fired entered the back of John Doe’s neck, and exited the oral cavity. JH stated that he saw his brother, John Doe, slump forward with blood coming out of his mouth. John Doe had made painful moaning noises as he slumped forward.”

The car crashed into a ditch, JH got out of the vehicle, grabbed Herrera from the driver’s seat and put him in the rear.

“JH could not recall where the other two brothers went,” Zuercher wrote.

JH then drove to their mother’s house, four miles away. At 5 a.m. that same morning, Sam surrendered at the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

When officers conducted a search of his property, they found an AK-47 and a loaded drum magazine.

“The rifle was found wrapped in a blanket and placed inside a bush,” he wrote.

In his own statement to officers, Sam said he had been watching a movie when he heard a loud commotion coming from outside, and someone trying to break his door down.

“SAM held the door shut with his body weight,” Zuercher wrote. “While holding the door closed, SAM said that he heard a loud bang that sounded like a gunshot. Eventually the intruders lost interest into gaining access to the residence. SAM said that he heard a vehicle shift into drive, and believed it to be the best chance to escape from his residence.”

Sam told the officers he then ran to his cousin’s house, told him about the intruders and asked for a weapon and his cousin gave him the AK-47. He went back to his own house and positioned himself next to a wood pile.

“SAM then said that he was fired upon twice by what he believed to be a rifle,” Zuercher wrote. “SAM said that he thought it was a rifle because he could see the light reflecting off what looked to be a long barrel. SAM said he returned fire and shot approximately five times. SAM saw approximately four to six men scatter.”

He saw them get into a car and begin to drive away. He then moved closer, to a metal structure, and fired five more times. After he heard the vehicle crash, he wrapped the gun in a blanket and put it in a bush, he wrote.

Below if the affidavit for an arrest warrant.

Criminal Complaint - Richmond Sam - D.N.M._1-15-cr-03051_2_0

Court proceedings

Previous incident

Richmond Sam was on probation for previously shooting at a deputy who tried to pull him over for drunk driving. When he killed Herrera, he was still on probation.

Indictment and plea

On Aug. 24, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Richmond Sam on charges of second-degree murder, felon in possession of a firearm and using a firearm during a crime of violence.

After a series of motions and the case was about to go to a jury trial, Sam pleaded guilty, instead, to involuntary manslaughter on Dec. 31, 2015.

In federal law, involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison. However, the plea agreement, which District Judge James Browning signed, dictated that Sam would receive a sentence of a year and three months (15 months) to a year and nine months (21 months).

Prosecutors filed a criminal information, dropping the other charges and decreasing second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.

Plea - Richmond Sam - D.N.M._1-15-cr-03051_53_0

Sentencing

When it came to sentencing, U.S. Attorney David Adams requested Browning sentence Sam to the maximum, according to the plea deal.

“Acknowledging that the plea agreement radically reduces the defendant’s exposure to incarceration, the United States urges the Court to accept the agreement based on the fact that grounds for the plea are significantly tied to the facts of the case and the detrimental impact proceeding to trial would likely have on all parties involved,” Adams wrote.

The three brothers were unreliable witnesses and Adams was not sure if they would even show up, if the case went to trial, he wrote. In addition, they had little credibility, considering they attacked Sam’s property.

Photo taken near Counselor, NM
Near Counselor, NM. Photo by Chris Sale/Flickr. CC BY

“If one of the witnesses decided not to show, the government’s case in chief would collapse, the jury would more likely rely upon the Defendant and his version of events, which was well articulated in his statement to law enforcement,” Adams wrote. “A spokesperson for the family had conveyed to the government that the brothers would likely be a no show at the day of trial. The allegation by the Defendant that one of the brothers was firing a rifle from the vehicle would become an even more difficult obstacle to overcome if one of the witnesses decided not to show. The government wasn’t privy to what defenses witnesses would testify to, but the defense had eluded to the fact that one of their witnesses would testify that they heard or saw another weapon being fired, corroborating the Defendant’s version of events.”

Sam’s attorney, Robert Gorence, argued that Sam had a legitimate claim to self defense, Adams wrote.

‘”The United States agrees with the analysis that the Defendant’s self-defense claim could have resulted in an acquittal or at the very least a step down to involuntary manslaughter which would have resulted in a sentence of two to three years,” Adams wrote. “Taking those things into consideration, as well as the criminal history of the victim and his brothers, the parties negotiated a plea that reconciled what would have otherwise been an indeterminate trial dynamic.”

US Sentencing Memo - Richmond Sam - D.N.M._1-15-cr-03051_59_0

Gorence wrote in his own sentencing memorandum that it was a highly contested case, as evidenced by his release appeal (Sam spent the entire time before trial in jail) and the FBI hardly did its own job, and that he wanted Sam to be sentenced at the low end of the sentence spectrum:

“Mr. Sam’s investigation in this case revealed the following that had not been uncovered by the FBI:
1. Mr. Sam had been the victim of repeated threats and violence directed against him and his property;
2. On the night of July 30, 2016, Mr. Sam was not intoxicated and was peaceably minding his business at his residence;
3. That the alleged victim in this case and his brothers, close to midnight, began what would be called an ‘attempted home invasion,’ and, when unsuccessful in breaching the residence, the alleged victim and his brothers proceeded to smash a house window and the windows of Mr. Sam’s vehicles.”

In addition, Sam was not armed in his own house and only retrieved a gun from his neighbor, who tried himself to call 911, but was unable to. In addition, three different neighbors would corroborate that they heard Sam being shot at before he returned fire, Gorence wrote.

“Perhaps of greatest significance in this case is the odd autopsy findings cursorily set forth in paragraph 17 of the PSR (Pre-sentence report),” Gorence wrote. “Although Mr. Sam was at least 15 feet higher in elevation than the alleged victim, the autopsy identified that the alleged victim died from a single bullet which entered his left upper back, went through his left shoulder blade and the left side of his neck, into his oral cavity and exited the right side of his mouth. Given the difference in elevation, this trial would have established great uncertainty as to whether or not Mr. Sam actually fired the fatal shot. Quite conceivably the alleged victim was accidentally shot by one of his brothers either in the vehicle or before entering it. This would explain the bizarre behavior of the victim’s brothers in not transporting him immediately to a hospital and instead going to a sister’s house for a very lengthy period of time. The argument would have been made at trial that the prolonged stay at the alleged victim’s sister’s house was an attempt by his brothers to cleanse themselves of his blood and hide other critical evidence, namely their firearm.”

Sentencing Memo Richmond Sam - D.N.M._1-15-cr-03051_60_0

When he was sentenced, Browning gave him the minimum sentence: 15 months followed by three years of supervised probation.

See all the documents on Google Drive or view the case on CourtListener.com

Daniel Hood: Frank Pauline — 4-27-2015

Suspect: Daniel Hood

Victim: Frank Pauline

Charges: Second-degree murder, possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner

Status: Guilty plea to second-degree murder, possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner

Sentence: 15 years

Date of incident: April 27, 2015

Agency: State Police

Location: Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, Las Cruces

Magistrate case number: M-14-FR-2015-00352 (File destroyed)

District case number: D-307-CR-2015-00523

 

 

Summary

On April 27, 2015, Daniel Hood, serving time for another murder, attacked and killed Frank Pauline by beating him three times in the back of the head with a rock while they were all out in the recreation yard at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces.

Pauline was transferred to New Mexico from Hawaii in 2012, where he was serving a sentence for the rape and killing of a woman in 1996.

Despite that conviction, the Hawaii Innocence Project was looking into his conviction and who the DNA found on the victim in that case belonged to, thanks to new technologies.

Hood himself was serving a 180 year sentence for first and second degree murder from two killings in 1996 in Minnesota.

District Judge Fernando Macias sentenced Hood to the maximum under the plea deal, 15 years, that he must serve after finishing out his 180-year Minnesota sentence.

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The incident

Daniel Hood had a plan. He was going to hit his fellow inmate, Frank Pauline, in the back of the head with a rock, either severely injuring him or killing him, according to court documents.

Daniel Hood

Hood thought Pauline knew things that were going on, had information and that the tension with him had been building up for months, State Police Investigations Bureau Agent N. Alvarado wrote in a statement of probable cause for Hood’s arrest.

State Police Sgt. Chad Pierce, the Department’s spokesman, wrote in a press release that Hood’s motivations were based on Hood’s behavior.

“Mr. Hood claimed he killed Mr. Pauline because he thought Pauline was a snitch and he walked around like he owned the place,” Pierce wrote.

On April 27, 2015, he decided to move forward with the attack, Alvarado wrote, based on his interview with Hood. The interview, on May 7, 2015, lasted 43 minutes.

Hood was handcuffed during the interview, which led to his attorney filing a motion to suppress because Hood was not read his Miranda rights before the interview. That motion was dismissed by the judge and no appeal was filed.

At some point, prison guards search Hood’s cell and found blood on his shoes and his sweatshirt top.

“Mr. Hood said that he went out there with a plan,” Alvarado wrote. “As soon as he went out to the yard, he got a rock and placed it by the cement slab. Mr. Hood said that he waited.”

Hood waited for the shift change so there were only two guards in the area.

“Mr. Hood stated after he saw the correctional officers conduct their perimeter check, he looked for Mr. Pauline,” Alvarado wrote.

Hood found Pauline walking laps around the recreational yard. There were a lot of people around him, what he wanted.

“Mr. Hood stated he expected to be caught, but he did not want to make a scene and he did not want this to become a fight,” Alvarado wrote. “Mr. Hood stated he waited until Mr. Pauline was talking to other people that way he was not paying attention as he would be distracted.”

Hood told Alvarado it took him half a lap to catch up to Pauline, because he was walking fast.

“Mr. Hood said his intention was to come up behind him and hit him in the side of the head,” Alvarado wrote. “Mr. Hood stated Mr. Pauline was walking right around the light post when he hit him. Mr. Hood said Mr. Pauline dropped straight forward.”

Hood hit him twice more in the back of the head, threw the rock and kept on walking.

Hood told Alvarado that he had grabbed the rock from west side of the yard.

“Mr. Pauline said he took his green shirt off and wrapped the rock in it,” Alvarado wrote. “Mr. Hood stated the first hit made contact in the back of Mr. Pauline’s head. Mr. Hood stated he thinks Pauline was dead when he hit the ground. He then hit him twice more.”

His sole intention was complete.

“Mr. Hood added that he did not want Mr. Pauline to walk the line again,” Alvarado wrote.

Even after killing Pauline, he walked another full lap, passing the corpse.

“Mr. Hood said the whole purpose of this attack was to prevent Mr. Pauline from defending himself or fighting,” Alvarado wrote.

Hood told Alvarado that he did not hit Pauline as hard as he could because he did not want the blood to splatter.

“Mr. Hood recalls that when he hit Mr. Pauline, he saw Mr. Pauline’s head crack,” Alvarado wrote.

Another man, William Gentry Mater, was implicated in the killing but never charged.

A guard in the jail listened to Mater’s phone calls and heard him call an unidentified woman and ask her to look up Pauline on Google and he would call her back to see what she was able to find out.

“The unidentified female tells him that Mr. Pauline had several criminal charges when he was a minor,” Alvarado wrote. “She proceeds to tell Mr. Mater that Mr. Pauline also had charges for murdering and raping a 23 year old female. At this time Mr. Mater tell the female that those charges are bad.”

Daniel Hood - Affidavit for arrest warrant - 5-14-2015

 

Past crimes

Frank Pauline’s past

Frank Pauline was serving a sentence for the 1991 rape and killing of Dana Ireland in Hawaii, according to news reports.

He was transferred to New Mexico in 2012 and his death was covered extensively in Hawaii.

Just days before Hood killed him, the Hawaii Innocence Project announced that DNA evidence in the old case could point to a different attacker than the three men sent to prison.

Daniel Hood’s past murder conviction

According to the supplemental criminal information filed on June 29, 2015 in Hood’s case, he was convicted of murder on July 10, 1998 in Kandiyohi County, Minn. for killing two people on Oct. 30, 1996.

According to the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn., Hood killed Bruce Johnson, 51, and Grace Christiansen, 81, from New London, Minn. He is serving a 180 year sentence.

 

Court proceedings

Motion to suppress

Hood’s attorney, Mario Esparza, wrote in his Nov. 23, 2015 motion to suppress his client’s interview with Alvarado.

Hood was never read his Miranda rights, and was therefore unable to waive them. He was also handcuffed while talking to the two agents conducting the interview, Esparza wrote.

Esparza argued this was a custodial interrogation. To admit a custodial interview at trial, the defendant has to be advised of his Miranda rights, as decided in State v. Verdugo, 2007- NMCA-095, 142 N.M. 267, State v. Salazar, 1997-NMCA-044, 123 N.M. 778 and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1996).

Further, the burden of proof that the Miranda rights were read is on the state, he wrote.

“The New Mexico Court of Appeals has found ‘unless or until such warnings and waiver are demonstrated by the prosecution at trial, no evidence obtained as a result of interrogation can be used against [the defendant],'” Esparza wrote.

The crux of Esparza’s argument was that Hood was “in custody” when he was interviewed. If someone is not “in custody” or arrested, that is, if someone can voluntarily leave, officers do not have to read the Miranda rights.

“Defendant was serving a life sentence in Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility,” Esparza wrote. “Defendant was handcuffed during the interrogation. Defendant was ordered to remove himself from his cell and speak with individuals who wanted to speak with him. Based on the totality of the circumstances here, Defendant was in custody for purposes of Miranda.”

Prosecutor Cynthia Clark wrote in a response that Hood requested to speak with the State Police agents.

Clark cited State v. Lopez, 2000-NMCA-069, 129 N.M. 352, 8 P.3d 154, where the New Mexico Court of Appeals decided that when it comes to the rights of prisoners, to decide if they are in a custodial interrogation depends on what additional restrains to their freedom of movement have been implemented.

“The court in Lopez did not find that handcuffing the suspect or interviewing in an office to be an ‘appreciable measure of pressure or
coercion beyond the usual prison environment,” Clark wrote. “See Conley, 779 F.2d at 973-94 (handcuffs were standard procedure for transporting inmates)’ Id at, 10. Similar to the facts in Lopez, the defendant was handcuffed and transported to an office at the prison, which is customary procedure in a correctional facility.”

In addition, Alvarado did not threaten or cajole Hood.

“Thus, based on the totality of the circumstances, the defendant was not subjected to any additional pressure of a kind and intensity that would render subsequent statements by the defendant to be the product of unfair coercion,” Clark wrote. “Therefore, the defendant was not in custodial interrogation under which Miranda warnings were required and his statements to Agent Alvarado were not tainted and thus, do not require suppression.”

District Judge Fernando Macias wrote in his order denying the motion to suppress that Hood was not in custody for purposes of his Miranda rights because the shackles he was in were normal for a prisoner at his threat level and that the room they were in was not cramped.

“On balance, and in view of the totality of the circumstances, the hearing evidence did not establish that Defendant was questioned in a custodial setting for Miranda purposes,” Macias wrote. “Where either the “custody” or ‘interrogation’ prong is absent, the cautionary warnings formulated in Miranda are not required.”

 

Daniel Hood - Motion to supress

The plea and sentence

 

Portrait of District Judge Fernando Macias
Judge Fernando Macias

On Jan. 18, 2017, Hood pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner, both second-degree felonies, although second-degree murder carries a higher penalty of 15 years in prison to possession’s nine years.

According to the plea, whatever sentence he received for both charges would run concurrent to each other, that is, they would both be served at the same time, but they would be served consecutive to Hood’s sentence in the 1996 murder.

That meant Hood would have to be eligible for release on the 1996 murder conviction before he would begin to serve the second-degree murder and possession of a deadly weapon charges.

Following the plea, Macias sentenced Hood to the maximum: 15 years in prison.

Because he is already serving a 180 year sentence, whatever sentence Macias gave him means almost nothing.

 

Daniel Hood - REPEAT OFFENDER PLEA AND DISPOSITION AGREEMENT_Redacted

 

Daniel Hood - Judgement Redacted

 

See the case files on Google Drive or Document Cloud

Listen to the case interviews on Youtube:

 

For more on this and other cases, see the following links:

http://www.staradvertiser.com/2015/05/19/breaking-news/man-charged-with-killing-hawaii-inmate-frank-pauline-jr/

http://www.dps.state.nm.us/index.php/murder-charges-filed/#more-12524

https://www.abqjournal.com/587428/new-evidence-could-clear-convict-ndash-too-late.html

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/local/courts/2017/01/18/man-pleads-guilty-murder-killing-fellow-prisoner/96746658/

 

 

Dennis Lovato sentenced to 12 years for killing man on the Kewa Pueblo

  • Sentence was set per a plea agreement accepted by the judge

The summary of the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On Oct. 24, 2013, Dennis Lovato pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for beating Joseph Melvin Lucero to death outside Lucero’s home.

Historic Kewa/Santo Domingo Indian Trading Post. Photo by Killbox/Flickr. CC BY-NC

In the plea, negotiated by federal prosecutor Mark Baker and accepted by Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough, Lovato received a 12-year sentence followed by five years of supervised release.

In his sentencing memorandum, Lovato’s attorney, John Moon Samore asked the judge to accept the plea and described the victim as a 61-year-old alcoholic bent on hurting Lovato.

“The Pre-Sentence Report fairly describes Mr. Lovato’s promising childhood, his disconcerting slide into youthful alcohol abuse, and his presence in the hours leading up to the fatal confrontation in the company of two middle-aged, severe alcoholics with long criminal histories,” Samore wrote.  “Whatever the precipitating factor, Mr. Lovato wound up in a ‘fight for his life’ with yet another middle-aged alcoholic, who was bent on hurting Mr. Lovato. Mr. Lucero’s extensive criminal history and violent past is fairly summarized in the PSR and Addendum. Mr. Lovato eventually overwhelmed Mr. Lucero, and the evidence indicated he administered more blows than necessary to defend himself.”

Baker wrote his own sentencing memorandum, asking the judge to accept the plea.

Continue reading “Dennis Lovato sentenced to 12 years for killing man on the Kewa Pueblo”

Dennis Lovato: Joseph Melvin Lucero — 4-15-2011

Suspect: Dennis Lovato

Victim: Joseph Melvin Lucero

Charges: Second-degree murder

Date of incident: April 15, 2011

Status: Guilty plea to second-degree murder

Sentence: 12 years, per plea agreement

Investigating Agency: FBI

Location: Kewa Pueblo, outside victim’s house, Sandoval County

Federal district case number: 11­-CR-­01213

Estimated release date: Sept. 27, 2021

Current prison: Yazoo City, Mississippi

 

Summary

On April 15, 2011, Dennis Lovato beat Joseph Melvin Lucero to death. Although he was initially found by his neighbor’s son, the son took it to be a drunk person who had passed out. When the neighbor arrived home, he found that Lucero was dead. Lovato was arrested following the deadly beating for drunk driving and talked about getting into a fight, for his life, with Lucero, but Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal police officers did not connect Lovato’s report of a fight with Lucero’s death until Lucero was reported as dead.

On Oct. 24, 2013, Lovato pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Per the plea deal, he received a sentence of 12 years followed by five years of supervised probation.

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The incident

On April 15, 2011, Santo Domingo Tribal Police officers Samson Bailan and Nathanial Pacheco tried to pull over a blue Dodge Durango on Cochiti Lane because the driver appeared to be intoxicated. The driver fled and Bureau of Indian Affairs officers were called to try to stop the driver, FBI Agent David Kice wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

Historic Kewa/Santo Domingo Indian Trading Post. Photo by Killbox/Flickr. CC BY-NC

In 2010, Santo Domingo Pueblo changed its name to Kewa Pueblo.

BIA Officer Earl Chicharello caught up to the vehicle, driven by Dennis Lovato, and managed to get him to pull over. He arrested him for drunk driving. Two other men in the car were arrested. They were Eddie Garcia and Nelson Garcia.

“Upon arrest, Lovato advised Officer Chicharello that he had just been involved in a fight with ‘Youngblood,’ later identified as Joseph Melvin Lucero, YOB (1949), also a Tribal Member of Santo Domingo Pueblo,” Kice wrote. “Lovato stated that the fight occurred at Lucero’s residence, located on Santo Domingo Pueblo. The arresting officer noted that Lovato’s shirt and hands were covered in blood, and that Lovato had a cut on a finger on his right hand. Lovato told Officer Chicharello that he was, ‘fighting for his life.'”

While at the Indian Health Services in Santa Fe, having his cut hand fixed up, Lovato allegedly made physical threats to BIA officers, claimed he was defending himself and that he got into a fight with “Youngblood.” Lucero’s nickname was “Youngblood.”

He also allegedly was overheard saying “I got scared,” “I got paranoid” and “I just left.”

At 9:45 p.m., the neighbor’s son, Ray Rosetta, noticed someone was in lying in front of Lucero’s house, between the house and the road.

“Ray noted that Lucero was known to have parties and he beleived that whoever it was had just passed out,” Kice wrote. “Later, when Ray’s father, Martin Rosetta, arrived home, he notified Santo Domingo Pueblo Tribal Officials of the body laying outside of Lucero’s residence.”

On April 16, 2011, Kice interviewed Eddie Garcia.

“Eddie stated that he was so intoxicated that he did not recall going to Lucero’s residence, nor did he call a fight between Lovato and Lucero,” Kice wrote.

Nelson Garcia told Kice that Lovato and Eddie Garcia picked him up from the train earlier that night and when they came back, they drove past Lucero’s house.

“Nelson stated that Lovato and Lucero had been in an argument a long time ago,” Kice wrote. “Nelson overheard Lovato say that he (Lovato) was ‘gonna get him (Lucero).”

Lovato then got out of the car and starting fighting with Lucero, Eddie Garcia told Kice.

Nelson Garcia then told Eddie Garcia that they needed to intervene and they separated the two men and Lovato got back into the truck. He then got out and started beating on Lucero again.

“Lucero was already down on the ground when Lovato was kicking him,” Kice wrote. “When Lovato returned to the vehicle, he stated, ‘I think I hit him hard; I think I killed him.’ They then ‘took off real fast,’ and Nelson was scared that they would flip the vehicle over.”

That same day, April 16, 2011, Kice went to interview Lovato at the Sandoval County Detention Center.

Lovato’s attorney, John Moon Samore, moved to have that interview suppressed in a motion dated Aug. 23, 2013. The judge denied that motion.

In that motion to suppress, Samore wrote that Eddie Garcia and Lovato began drinking in “midday.”

“(Over) the course of the next twelve hours (they) consumed a prodigious amount of alcohol,” Samore wrote. “About ten hours later, Eddie Garcia was passed out in the front passenger seat, and Mr. Lovato was driving Nelson Garcia, another drunken man who had joined Eddie and Dennis in the evening, to the Tesuque Street residence of Mr. Lucero.”

Lovato was still too drunk to consent to the interview, he wrote.

“No doubt can exist that he was in custody, and, considering the volumes of alcohol consumed, still under the influence of alcohol, and it makes no difference for purposes of this Motion, whether the consumption of alcohol was voluntary or not,” Samore wrote. “While the Defense does not contend the intoxication was involuntary, Mr. Lovato’s will was “overborne” under the circumstances.”

Lovato claimed in the interview they stopped at Lucero’s house because Nelson Garcia wanted to stop and that Nelson got out and he and Eddie waited for him in the car.

“Lovato exited the vehicle when he saw Lucero shoving Nelson,” Kice wrote. “Lovato stated that he hit Lucero twice and knocked him down, where he then kicked him. Lovato then got on top of Lucero and began punching Lucero through Lucero’s fists as he was trying to cover his face.”

He hit Lucero several times while on the ground and kicked him twice in the head after he finished punching him.

Lovato initially stated that Lucero had a knife when Lucero was fighting with Nelson; however, he did not know what happened to it when he and Lucero were fighting,” Kice wrote.  There was no knife found at the crime scene; however, a folding knife was found upon search of the vehicle which was conducted on April 18, 2011.”

At the autopsy, the pathologist found that Lucero died from multiple blunt force traumas.

 

 

Indictment, plea and sentence

On May 11, 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Lovato on a single charge of second-degree murder, the charge he would eventually plead guilty to.

On Oct. 24, 2013, Lovato pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

In the plea, negotiated by prosecutor Mark Baker and accepted by Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough, Lovato received a 12-year sentence followed by five years of supervised release.

In his sentencing memorandum, Samore asked the judge to accept the plea and described the victim as a 61-year-old alcoholic bent on hurting Lovato.

“The Pre-Sentence Report fairly describes Mr. Lovato’s promising childhood, his disconcerting slide into youthful alcohol abuse, and his presence in the hours leading up to the fatal confrontation in the company of two middle-aged, severe alcoholics with long criminal histories,” Samore wrote. “Whatever the precipitating factor, Mr. Lovato wound up in a ‘fight for his life’ with yet another middle-aged alcoholic, who was bent on hurting Mr. Lovato. Mr. Lucero’s extensive criminal history and violent past is fairly summarized in the PSR and Addendum. Mr. Lovato eventually overwhelmed Mr. Lucero, and the evidence indicated he administered more blows than necessary to defend himself.”

Baker wrote his own sentencing memorandum, asking the judge to accept the plea.

“Before entering the plea agreement, the United States closely reviewed the evidence and the law, and discussed this disposition with the victim’s son,” Baker wrote. “During a call with undersigned counsel, the victim’s son indicated that, although no sentence would be enough to make right what happened, he did not object to the plea. The proposed sentence of 144 months is lower than the advisory guideline sentence if Lovato pled to the indictment without an agreement, but is well above the advisory guideline sentence for a plea to Voluntary Manslaughter.”

He must serve 85 percent of his sentence, or just over 10 years.

According to the Bureau of Prisons website, he is set to be released on Sept. 27, 2021. He is currently being housed at the Yazoo City medium security prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

 

See the documents on Google Drive or on Document Cloud

 

 

 

The Albuquerque federal criminal courthouse. Ken Lund/Flickr. License CC BY-SA 2.0.