A Durango man who murdered a Southern Ute Indian woman and severely injured another woman is expected to be resentenced next month in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that prohibits juveniles from being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Raymond Cain was convicted in December 1995 of felony murder for the shooting death of Sadie Frost, 18. He was 17 at the time of the killing.
In accordance with state law, Cain was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But in 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole, and in January, the court expanded its ruling to make it retroactive – meaning juveniles already serving such sentences can petition the court for resentencing.
Cain’s lawyer filed a petition seeking relief earlier this year in Grand Junction, where Cain was tried and convicted. In response to the motion, 6th District Attorney Todd Risberg agreed that Cain appears eligible for a reconsideration of sentencing. District Judge Brian Flynn of Grand Junction scheduled a hearing to review the case at 9 a.m. Oct. 20 in La Plata County.
If Flynn concludes Cain meets the requirements – essentially that he was a juvenile at the time of his crime – he will likely be resentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years, making him eligible for release in about 2035, at the age of 57.
Cain, now 38, is being held at an undisclosed prison outside Colorado as part of an interstate compact agreement. As such, the Colorado Department of Corrections declined to release any information about Cain, including his mugshot.
Cain is one of three men convicted of felony murder for the Jan. 31 or Feb. 1, 1995, shooting that killed Frost and wounded Shawnda Baker, 20. Both women were shot in the back of the head with a .22-caliber handgun that was never recovered. The women were found about 7:30 a.m. Feb. 1 in Frost’s car near a power substation behind the Centennial Center in Bodo Industrial Park.
Durango resident Jim Murch said he was on a morning drive when he came across the car. The driver’s side door was wide open, and a layer of frost had formed on the inside and the outside of the silver compact car, he said Thursday in an interview with The Durango Herald.
“I just happened to be driving by and the door was wide open and it was freezing cold,” he said. “I said something is not right here. I could see a person in the passenger seat slumped over.”
He immediately contacted the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.
Prosecutors said Cain and his co-defendants, Gabriel Rivera and Forest Porter, robbed Baker of more than $2,000 – about a third of the money given to her by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe as a per-capita payment for her 19th birthday.
Prosecutors said Cain fired the gun, while Rivera and Porter conspired in the robbery. Rivera and Porter were offered plea deals with a cap of 20 years in prison, but they rejected the offers.
All three men went to trial and were convicted of felony murder. All three were initially sentenced to life in prison without parole, but an appeals court said jurors were improperly instructed, and granted new trials to Rivera and Porter. Rather than take their chances at a second trial, they struck a plea deal and were sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Cain was unsuccessful in his appeal.
The case received significant community attention – so much that Cain’s trial was moved to Grand Junction to help ensure a fair and impartial jury.
The victims in the case, including Baker, her mother and Frost’s mother, declined to comment for this story.
Cain’s lawyer, Richard Bednarski of Colorado Springs, did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment. In 2011, while pursuing an unrelated appeal in Cain’s case, Bednarski expressed doubts about Cain’s involvement.
“I don’t believe Mr. Cain was in anyway involved,” he said. “I believe it was Forest Porter and Gabe Rivera.”
Durango resident Frank Viehmann, Cain’s public defense lawyer at the time, declined to comment last week about his client or the case. But he said it exposed a seedy underbelly that existed during the mid-1990s in Durango as it related to youth and drugs.
“It was a really sad episode,” Viehmann said.
Murch, who testified in all three trials, said he hopes Cain never gets paroled.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s a juvenile, he knew right from wrong,” Murch said. “I don’t think society owes him any favors.”