Tommy Lee Mitchell will spend the rest of his life in jail, and Judge Jeffrey Wilson scolded him during sentencing Wednesday for ending one life and wasting his own over $740 in a drug deal.
“You committed a murder over nothing,” Wilson told Mitchell, 21, who was given life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Joey Benavidez nearly two years ago southwest of Ignacio.
Also at the sentencing, the Benavidez family described their anguish while Mitchell’s family complained that the convicted man did not get a fair trial.
On April 3, 2012, Mitchell entered Benavidez’s home near Ignacio with his friend Elijah Anglin in an attempted robbery in connection with a marijuana purchase. Benavidez, 39, was shot multiple times with a .22-caliber handgun and a .38-caliber handgun while trying to flee.
Others involved in the incident included Jeremiah Mason, Armondo Yazzie and Shanice Smith. They all have been sentenced after signing plea agreements with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, and each received at least a six-year prison term.
Mitchell, who is from Farmington, also was found guilty of first-degree burglary, theft, distribution of marijuana and intimidating a witness.
Three members of the Benavidez family – Joey’s sister, cousin and daughter – took the opportunity Wednesday to directly address Mitchell before his sentencing.
Melissa Benavidez, Joey’s sister, expressed her family’s pain through the whole ordeal and said her duty was to be the voice of her brother.
“Some people have no love, no remorse and no conscience,” she said.
Esperanza Benavidez, Joey’s daughter, expressed sadness in knowing her father would never have the opportunity to see her get married.
“I hope you lock (Mitchell) up for the rest of his life,” she said.
Joey Benavidez was killed before his daughter’s 11th birthday.
Mitchell declined to address the Benavidez family in any form.
Wilson told Mitchell he hopes he finds meaning in his life, but that would never happen outside of the Department of Corrections. He also addressed the Benavidez family and thanked them for their exemplary behavior throughout the trial.
Aaron Benavidez, Joey’s father, said he finally felt a sense of relief.
“I’m glad he’s locked up for the rest of his life,” he said.
However, the ordeal is not yet over for the Mitchell family.
Tommy Lee Mitchell’s aunt, Mary Mitchell, said in an interview after the sentencing that her nephew did not receive a fair trial. She said one of the jurors was a neighbor of Shanice Smith, one of Mitchell’s cohorts, thus creating a conflict. Mary Mitchell also expressed her distaste for how her nephew’s cohorts “snitched” to get time off their sentences.
“Oh, he didn’t get a fair trial at all,” Mary Mitchell said.
She said the Mitchell family is planning to appeal the case and said it had the resources to do so.