Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details that might be disturbing to readers.The Colorado Court of Appeals has denied an appeal of a 2008 conviction of a man charged with felony murder and sexual assault for the brutal 2007 death of Nicole Leigh Redhorse.
Carlton Yazzie, who is serving a 48-year prison sentence after being found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and sexual assault, appealed his conviction on the grounds that his attorney was ineffective for failing to consult and present testimony from an expert in forensic pathology. After a post-conviction state court denied his appeal, Yazzie asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to grant him a new jury trial.
“We are not persuaded that counsel’s representation was ineffective,” Appellate Judge Nancy J. Lichtenstein wrote in a terse, one-paragraph discussion of Yazzie’s argument that the post-conviction court erred in denying his appeal.
Yazzie is one of three defendants convicted of sexually assaulting Redhorse, 34, of Durango, until she died sometime on June 6 or 7, 2007, at Spanish Trails Inn & Suites, 3141 Main Ave. Two co-defendants, Derrick Nelson Begaye and Harold Nakai, were convicted with Yazzie in 2008.
Nakai appealed his conviction and was granted a new trial after the Colorado Court of Appeals said some of the statements he made to police were involuntary and should have been suppressed at trial. Nakai was tried twice more in 2016 before being convicted of sexual assault. He was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
The three men were accused of feeding Redhorse copious amounts of vodka to the point where she could no longer consent to or resist advances by the men. Yazzie is suspected of using a blunt object to rape Redhorse.
Redhorse was bleeding profusely when Nakai moved her to the bathroom, where she was put in the shower and left there with the water running for about an hour. Nakai told police she was having a miscarriage. He then took her out of the bathroom, wrapped her in a blanket, put her at the foot of the bed, removed the bloody sheets from the bed and flipped the bloody mattress before falling asleep.
When Yazzie was found later that morning and questioned about Redhorse’s death, he lied to police about his identity. At a jury trial, prosecutors argued that evidence of Redhorse’s blood on Yazzie’s boxers and Yazzie’s blood on Redhorse’s underwear put him in the room the night that Redhorse died. Yazzie was found guilty of sexual assault causing serious bodily injury of a victim incapable of appraising the nature of her conduct and false reporting.
He was sentenced to 48 years in prison, a sentence upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals this week.