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Man pleads guilty to 2014 felony charges; State recommends 36 years in prison

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Kenneth Whiteside, right, makes a solemn return back to his seat in Chaves County Court followed by defense attorney Gary C. Mitchell after confirming with District Judge Kea W. Riggs of his decision to plead guilty to felony charges of attempted murder, aggravated burglary and criminal sexual penetration Monday morning. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

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A two-week jury trial for a man accused of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon and criminal sexual penetration in the first degree has been canceled due to the defendant’s change of plea, dismissing a count of first-degree kidnapping and a third-degree bribery of a witness charge in the process.

According to previous reports, in January 2014, 18-year-old Kenneth Whiteside allegedly broke into a 40-year-old woman’s home, where he raped her, stabbed her in the neck and sides and beat her beyond recognition on top of stealing jewelry and electronics from the home.

Whiteside, now 22, entered a guilty plea before Chaves County District Judge Kea W. Riggs while next to defense attorney, Gary C. Mitchell, Monday morning.

Riggs stated before the courtroom that after Whiteside serves his sentence, he will be subject to an indeterminate period of parole ranging anywhere from five years to life.

“This offense is classified as a serious violent offense pursuant to 33-2-34 NMSA 1978,” Riggs said. “Therefore, your meritorious deductions for any period of imprisonment will not exceed a maximum of four days per month of time served.”

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Riggs also told Whiteside he would have to serve as a sex offender for life, also pursuant to New Mexico statutes.

Out of the three felony charges Whiteside pleaded guilty to, the criminal sexual penetration count is considered a Serious Violent Offense (SVO).

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce, who was accompanied by deputy DA Matthew Stone, said while Whiteside’s sentencing date has not been set due to Mitchell’s calendar, Whiteside will potentially be looking at 36 years.

“Eighteen of that will be called an SVO, where he has to serve 85 percent (of his sentence,) and then he will basically have lifetime registration (as a sex offender) and basically — lifetime parole.”

After Riggs called for recess, friends and family of the victim approached the DA for clarification on what this meant for Whiteside.

The Daily Record asked Luce if there was a degree of relief for the victim as a result.

“I think there’s satisfaction for closure,” Luce said. “This happened on Jan. 4, 2014, and so it’s been four years, a month, and a day, almost. That’s a really long time for her — and she’s been to a lot of hearings.

“There’s really not a sentence for her and what she went through that could probably ever feel like it’s truly justice.”

Mitchell chose not to comment on the case.

Luce, reflecting on the victim’s behalf, said she thinks Whiteside should be sentenced to life in prison for his actions.

“But the reality is, some of the statutes in New Mexico sentences are fairly light,” Luce said. “Attempted first-degree murder is nine years?

“So, if a person got convicted, went to the department of corrections — they’re only going to serve four and a half years — that’s a pretty insignificant sentence in the scheme of someone trying to kill you. Especially the facts of this case.”

Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.