A Farmington man who was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of murdering an Ignacio man has been resentenced to 24 years behind bars after having his conviction overturned and pleading guilty to lesser charges.
Senior Judge John N. McMullen sentenced Tommy Mitchell, 26, earlier this month on a second-degree murder conviction related to the death of Joey Lee Benavidez, 39, more than six years ago. Mitchell pleaded guilty in August, avoiding trial and a possible conviction on 13 other counts. He pleaded not guilty to 25 criminal charges in 2012.
Law enforcement in 2012 accused Mitchell, who was 19 at the time, of shooting and killing Benavidez after a drug deal at the victim’s home near Ignacio turned violent. Benavidez’s body was found riddled with wounds from a .22-caliber handgun and a .38-caliber handgun.
District Court Judge Jeffery Wilson sentenced Mitchell to life in prison in March 2014 after a 12-person jury found him guilty of felony murder, first-degree burglary, theft, distribution of marijuana and intimidating a witness.
The Colorado Court of Appeals overturned Mitchell’s conviction late last year citing judicial bias and sent the case to the 6th Judicial District Court for retrial. Mitchell was transfered from prison to the La Plata County Jail pending trial.
Prosecutors dismissed 11 of Mitchell’s 25 charges – including accusations of felony burglary and robbery – in June after the appeals court decision. Mitchell pleaded guilty to second-degree murder at the end of July, agreeing to a prison sentence of no more than 34 years.
As of Oct. 10, Mitchell was given credit for 713 days – or almost two years – of time served to be taken off his sentence. He also owed more than $2,500 of his more than $3,600 in assessed court fines, fees and surcharges at the time. Defense attorney John Baxter could not immediately be reached for comment.
District Attorney Christian Champagne said his office sought the maximum sentence and that the Benavidez family “was disappointed in the sentencing outcome.”
“Mr. Mitchell has a chance to turn his life around,” Champagne said. “Joey Benavidez never got that chance. The family – they’re stuck with this loss of a family member for the rest of their lives. As a prosecutor, it’s important to focus on the impact on families of a victim.”