crime

Farmington man draws 10-year sentence in murder of cousin

Mitch Lopez
Mitch Lopez
San Juan County Adult Detention Center

Story highlights

  • As part of the plea agreement, Mitch Lopez will serve 10 years in prison, then five years on supervised probation.
  • The cause of Charley's death was ruled a homicide from blunt head trauma with acute alcohol intoxication as a contributing factor on June 9, 2015.
  • Three charges across three separate criminal cases, including the murder case, were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
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Mitch Lopez entered Alford plea in death of Benjamin Charley

FARMINGTON — A 23-year-old Farmington man will serve 10 years in prison after agreeing to a plea agreement in the death of his cousin.

Mitch Lopez entered an Alford plea, similar to a no contest plea, to a second-degree felony count of murder during a Feb. 26 hearing in Aztec District Court in front of District Judge John Dean Jr., according to court documents.

Lopez was arrested and accused of beating up 28-year-old Benjamin Charley on the night of April 18, 2015, at Lopez's apartment in the 2800 block of E. 22nd St. in Farmington, according to The Daily Times archives.

As part of the plea agreement, Lopez will serve 10 years in prison, then five years on supervised probation, according to a copy of Dean's order filed on March 1.

The basic sentence for second-degree murder is 15 years in prison.

Dustin O'Brien, San Juan County chief deputy district attorney, said a cap of 10 years in prison was agreed upon by the defense and prosecution.

Marie Legrand Miller, one of Lopez's attorneys, declined comment on the plea agreement.

"There were some difficult facts in this case that made this resolution one we believe was positive for the state and the victim's family," O'Brien said.

Both men were intoxicated at the time of the incident, according to court documents.

Charley was in critical condition at the San Juan Regional Medical Center for two days before his death on April 21, 2015. He was treated for numerous injuries, including fractured bones in his face and bruising on his head and body.

The cause of Charley's death was ruled a homicide from blunt head trauma with acute alcohol intoxication as a contributing factor on June 9, 2015.

Angelisa Mud, Charley's girlfriend, told police she received a call from Lopez, who stated he and Charley got in a fight, and he needed to be picked up, according to The Daily Times archives.

Charley was unconscious on his back near the entrance of the residence when Mud arrived.

When Mud wanted to call an ambulance, Mud told police Lopez urged her not to because he was on probation. They moved Charley, who they said was snoring at the time, inside the residence and went to a restaurant.

When the two returned, Charley was no longer breathing, and Mud said she then called 911.

Three charges across three separate criminal cases, including the murder case, were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Counts of tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit bringing contraband into jail and possession of a deadly weapon or explosive by a prisoner were dismissed.

Lopez will be given a credit of presentence confinement for 636 days as part of plea agreement.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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