A Farmington man suspected of shooting and killing an Ignacio man last year was sentenced Thursday to 38 years in prison – twice his age.
Elijah Anglin, 19, appeared weepy and unsteady as he read from a prepared statement in 6th Judicial District Court in Durango.
He apologized to the family of Joey Benavidez, who was shot and killed April 3 in his own home on Mountain Dew Circle, about two miles southwest of Ignacio.
“I believe that if I was not intoxicated that day, things would not have happened the way they did,” Anglin said.
He was facing 24 to 48 years in prison after signing a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Prosecutors said Anglin drove co-defendant Tommy Lee Mitchell from Farmington to Ignacio to pay revenge on Benavidez, who owed $740 as part of a drug deal.
Both men entered the house and fired multiple shots, hitting Benavidez numerous times in the back as he tried to flee, according to statements made Thursday in court.
Mitchell, whom prosecutors describe as the ringleader, is charged with first-degree murder. He is scheduled for trial in mid-October.
Family members said Anglin had a rough childhood. His mother said he struggled with a learning disability, didn’t have a father figure, watched his mother endure an abusive relationship and lacked self-worth.
But District Attorney Todd Risberg said a lot of people have had rotten childhoods who don’t commit murders.
He called it a senseless crime.
“This didn’t have to happen,” Risberg said. “A series of bad decisions led him here today, and they are his decisions.”
Despite the violent crime, Risberg said there are good reasons why Anglin shouldn’t spend the rest of his life behind bars, including his sincere remorse, willingness to cooperate with prosecutors, minimal criminal history and his young age.
Public defense lawyer Kent Pace said Anglin turned 18 only 19 days before the shooting. He asked Judge Greg Lyman to consider Anglin’s life as a whole and not define him by the single action of killing Benavidez.
“Kids don’t turn into adults on their 18th birthdays,” he said.
Mitchell gave Anglin drugs – crack, methamphetamine and marijuana – in exchange for car rides, Pace said. His criminal history consists of two speeding tickets, a careless driving ticket and a citation for possession of marijuana, Pace said.
“This is his only violent interaction,” he said.
He was arrested about 20 minutes after the shooting. Investigators questioned him and released him. But Anglin voluntarily returned to the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and confessed, Pace said. He also has agreed to testify against Mitchell.
Criminal defendants typically serve about three-fourths of their prison sentence before becoming eligible for early release. Anglin will receive 466 days’ credit for time already served.