- Suspect: Troy Livingston
- Victim: Tyler Lamebear, 19
- Charges: First-degree murder pleaded down to second-degree murder
- Status: Plea to second-degree murder. Appeal pending
- Sentence: 20 years
- Date of incident: April 6, 2019
- Investigating agency: FBI
- Prosecutor: David Cowen
- Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office
- Defense attorney: Theresa Duncan
- Plea judge (magistrate): Laura Fashing
- Sentencing judge (district): William Johnson
- Location: 53 Rodeo Road, Breadsprings, Navajo Nation, NM
- County: McKinley County
- Magistrate case number: 19-mj-00971
- District case number: 20-cr-00316
- Pathologist: Lori Proe
On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston, 18 at the time, beat his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, to death with his fists, feet and a flashlight after she said she had slept with one of his friends, according to court documents.
On Jan. 29, 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Livingston on a charge of first-degree murder for Lamebear’s death.
On Aug. 4, 2020, he pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder.
On Sept. 8, 2021, Chief District Judge William Johnson sentenced Livingston to 20 years in prison. Just 12 days later, his attorney, Theresa Duncan, appealed his sentence because it was above the federal guideline range of 17.5 years. His appeal is pending.
On April 6, 2019, Troy Livingston’s mother, Gertrude Livingston, identified in charging documents as G.L., was at home when her son and his girlfriend, Tyler Lamebear, came home to her Rodeo Road home in Breadsprings, FBI Agent Monty Waldron wrote in a statement of probable cause for Livingston’s arrest.
At 3 a.m., Livingston and his girlfriend, Lamebear, were arguing and Gertrude Livingston could “sense tension” between them, he wrote.
Lamebear is identified as T.L. or “Jane Doe” in charging documents.
“G.L. heard crying from the bedroom and went in to see LIVINGSTON on top of Jane Doe with his fist raised,” Waldron wrote. “G.L. believes Jane Doe had already been hit because she was crying. Livingston told G.L. to get out of the bedroom which she did.”
When she heard more crying, she went into the bedroom and saw her son allegedly stomping his girlfriend with his foot and described the girlfriend as being in a ball, her arms and hands around her head, he wrote.
“Again LIVINGSTON told G.L. to get out, so G.L. left the house,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON locked the door behind G.L. From outside, G.L. could hear screaming, thumping and banging.”
When it was quiet, the mother went back into the house. She heard wheezing from inside the bedroom door, but did not know who was wheezing, he wrote.
At some point, she called the Navajo Police Department to report a violent “dispute” between Lamebear and her son, he wrote.
About 30 minutes after she went back into the house, Navajo police officers arrived and knocked on the door. When no one answered, they looked through the windows and saw blood on the floor. The mother then opened the door. Officers could see “lots of blood on the floor between the bedroom and the bathroom,” Waldron wrote.
Officers found the girlfriend laying on the floor, covered in blood, badly beaten. They asked her who beat her and she responded, “Troy did this to me.” Livingston was lying on the bed next to this 2-1/2-year-old toddler, who was not harmed, he wrote.
Medics transported the girlfriend to the Gallup Indian Medical Center. She either died at the hospital or before she arrived, he wrote.
“I just got mad and took it too far, way too far,” Livingston said, according to Waldron’s statement of probable cause.
Livingston also allegedly said “I still can’t believe it, I killed her,” he wrote.
“LIVINGSTON stated that he was mad at her for sleeping with his friend as Jane Doe had finally admitted to doing,” Waldron wrote. “LIVINGSTON stated he ‘just started hitting her’ and took it too far. Livingston stated he hit Jane Doe with a flashlight and also used his foot.”
Livingston allegedly said he beat her in the bedroom and bathroom, he wrote.
FBI agents searched the house and found a flashlight with blood on it and photographs of Lamebear showed circular wounds that appeared to be consistent with the end of a flashlight, he wrote.
According to the autopsy report by Lori Proe, Lamebear had multiple “bruises, scrapes and skin tears of the face and scalp” and many of them had a distinctive shape, like that of a flashlight. Her nose was broken and there was bleeding in the deep tissues of her scalp and bleeding over the surface of her brain, which was swollen, “a change that can occur when the organ is damaged and/or deprived of oxygen.”
Multiple ribs were broken and she was bleeding in her chest and what would be a bite mark on her left shoulder, Proe wrote.
According to a deputy field investigation by Harolynn Yazzie, she was covered in dried blood and her clothing was soaked in blood.
The indictment and plea
On Aug. 4, 2020, Livingston pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for beating Lamebear to death.
According to the plea deal signed by prosecutor David Cowen, Livingston will be entitled to a two-level reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines, although where that puts his sentence is unknown pending the outcome of a pre-sentence report.
According to the minutes, Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing asked why the plea needed to be held so soon, and made findings as to why the plea hearing was held, but not what those findings were. The final acceptance of the plea was deferred until the sentencing hearing in front of a district court judge.
A sentencing hearing is set for Nov. 12, 2020.
According to the federal sentencing table, with little or no criminal history, that puts Livingston’s proposed sentence, sans any increases or decreases, at 16 to 20 years. At a base offense level of 38, the range increases to 20 to 24 years.
According to New Mexico and federal court records, Livingston has one past criminal case, for intoxicated driving and child endangerment from March 2019. Prosecutors dismissed that the case at the magistrate level, without prejudice, on May 8, 2019 in a form dismissal and wrote that Livingston was in federal custody for “an alleged capital offense.” His past arrests or convictions in tribal court is unknown.
Although sentencing in the case was originally set for Nov. 12, 2020, it has been delayed multiple times, both at the request of Livingston’s defense attorney, Duncan, as well as at the behest of sentencing judge, Johnson, who gave no reason for the delay.
Sentenced on Sept. 8, 2021
According to detailed minutes from Livingston’s sentencing hearing, prosecutor David Cowen presented 30 exhibits, had three family members to testify and called FBI Agent David Loos to testify.
Among the exhibits were the 911 audio call, a police body cam, photos of the rooms and of the bloody flashlight, the autopsy report, photos of the victim, reports detailing Livingston damaging Lamebear’s car, prosecuted tribally, as well as photos of the damage he caused, and an interview with the victim, although it is not clear if it is from the night she died or from prior, according to the minutes.
Cowen asked for an upward departure, of 27 to nearly 34 years in prison, while Duncan wanted a sentence of 10 to 12 years.
Cowen said Livingston’s behavior was an example of “extreme conduct” but more of his position is not outlined in the minutes and Cowen appears to have filed his sentencing memorandum under seal without a judge’s required permission, against the federal court’s own rules, which appear to be rarely, if ever, enforced, according to an NM InDepth investigation.
Like Cowen’s reasoning, Duncan’s reasoning is not in the the minutes and her sentencing memorandum was filed under seal, without a judge’s permission, a violation of the court rules.
According to Quintana’s plea deal, he waived some of his appeal rights, but he is still explicitly allowed to appeal the judge’s sentence, if and when it went beyond the sentencing guidelines.
Chief Judge William Johnson found Quintana’s offense level was 35, and a criminal history of level of I, putting his sentence range at 14 to 17.5 years. However, Johnson sentenced Quintana to 20 years, 2.5 years above the sentencing guideline.
Sentencing documents kept secret
Many of the most important documents in the case appear to have been filed improperly under seal, either by Cowen or Duncan, according to an unredacted docket filed in the case that shows all the entries missing from the public docket.
Those missing entries include a motion to seal something, under the federal rules for grand jury secrecy, but what specifically is unknown, as well as an order granting the sealing.
A litany of other documents were sealed, and it appears all without a judge’s order, per local sealing rules. Those documents include:
- Cowen’s sentencing memorandum
- Objections to the presentence report, including Livingston’s statement to law enforcement, Gertrude Livingston’s statement, 911 call logs, and artwork by Livingston. Also included, but which is required to be sealed, is grand jury transcripts.
- Livingston’s own sentencing memorandum, where he presumably asks for a large reduction in sentence
- Cowen’s response to Livingston’s objections to the presentence investigation report
- Notice of exhibits filed by Cowen relating to his sentencing memo
- Livingston’s response to Cowen’s sentencing memo, including pages from the public Office of the Medical Investigator report and booking information
- Letters from Livingston’s family
In the New Mexico local rules for the federal court, an attorney must file a request to deal a document and a judge must grant that request. In the long list of sealed documents, only a sealed motion relating to grand jury material was filed. However, it’s not clear why Johnson granted the motion, what it covered, or why, because the motion, and the order, were both sealed.
The order’s docket is only visible because it was added as an exhibit and merely requests an order “pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 6(e),” which referrers to the rules around grand jury secrecy.
A 2010 guide put out by the Federal Judicial Center lays out a seven-point “procedural checklist” for documents to be sealed in federal court, including that motions to seal should be docketed publicly, as should the order to seal.
Johnson, overseeing the case and who signed off on the secret sealing order, is the court’s chief justice. Johnson was recently exposed, by Phaedra Haywood in the Santa Fe New Mexican, as being in photographs with a confederate flag during his time at the Virginia Military Institute in the late 1970s. He claimed in a written statement to the New Mexican of having no memory of posing with the flag, after recanting on an agreement to be interviewed.
NM Homicide has repeatedly reported on improperly sealed documents in the federal courts, as they appear to be a reoccurring issue.