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.

 

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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