Murder trial underway in Ignacio shooting

Man accused of killing 39-year-old during an attempted robbery

Mitchell Enlarge photo

Mitchell

A murder trial expected to last three weeks is underway in the 6th Judicial District Court in Durango.

Tommy Lee Mitchell, 21, of Farmington, is charged with 24 counts, including first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery and distribution of marijuana.

He faces life in prison if found guilty of first-degree murder. District Attorney Todd Risberg is not seeking the death penalty.

Mitchell is suspected of shooting and killing 39-year-old Joey Benavidez of Ignacio during an attempted robbery. Prosecutors say Mitchell was accompanied by Jeremiah Mason, Armondo Yazzie, Shanice Smith and Elijah Anglin when they entered Benavidez’s home to rob him of the $740 he owed in drug money.

The incident occurred April 3, 2012, about two miles southwest of Ignacio.

Anglin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced July 11 to 38 years in prison after signing a plea agreement.

Mason and Yazzie pleaded guilty to being accessories to murder in April 2013; Mason was sentenced to six years in prison, and Yazzie was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Smith pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder and was sentenced in February 2013 to eight years in prison after signing a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office.

Jury selection in Mitchell’s trial began Monday, and opening statements were made Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors are expected to call witnesses through much of next week before giving Mitchell’s public defense lawyers a chance to present their case.

vguthrie@durangoherald.com

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