A man in the United States illegally was sentenced Wednesday in connection with the nearly two-year-old fatal shooting of a co-worker on a ranch in Hagerman.
District Judge Dustin Hunter agreed to the state’s recommendation in imposing a sentence of 15 years on Jose Dominguez on one count of second-degree murder. Dominguez will serve nine years in prison with the remaining six suspended.
The recommendation was the product of a change of plea and disposition agreement in which Dominguez changed his plea from not guilty to no contest on the murder charge. As part of the deal, a criminal charge of tampering with evidence was dismissed.
Hunter said Dominguez will be required to serve 86% of his prison sentence before being eligible for release.
He added a hold by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been placed on Dominguez who is from Mexico. Upon completion of his prison sentence, Dominguez will be transferred to the custody of ICE and deported back to Mexico.
The charges stem from the March 19, 2018 fatal shooting of Luciano Sifuentes, 46. Documents filed in Chaves County Magistrate Court state Dominguez had initially admitted to investigators with the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office that he had shot Dominguez and disposed of the murder weapon.
Documents state after the shooting, Dominguez admitted he had shot Sifuentes, who he referred to as Luis, a man he worked with on a ranch in the 7500 block of Wiggins Road. He said Sifuentes had been “disrespecting him” and that while getting horses some water, he grew scared Sifuentes was going to hit him or stab him with a knife that he had attached to the side of his body.
Dominguez said he responded by firing a warning shot and then shooting Sifuentes two times. The victim was later pronounced dead.
Court documents state Sifuentes then fled the scene and threw the .45 semi-automatic Hi-Point handgun used in the crime into a ditch near the intersection of Wiggins and Chickasaw roads.
Deputies then later stopped a white Chevy Tahoe on U.S. 285 driven by Dominguez. He was subsequently taken into custody.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Matthew Stone, chief deputy with the Chaves County District Attorney’s Office, and William Nedbalek, Dominguez’s defense attorney, urged Judge Hunter to decide in favor of their sentencing recommendation, calling it a reasonable resolution.
Had the case gone to trial, Hunter said Dominguez would have faced a maximum of 15 years in prison on the murder charge and another three years for tampering with evidence.
Family members of the Sifuentes family at Wednesday’s hearing pleaded with the judge to impose the 18-year sentence rather than the one recommended as part of the plea deal.
Speaking before the court Wednesday, the victim’s sister-in-law said her family was devastated by Sifuentes’ death. She described Sifuentes as a loving father who had come to the United States from Mexico in 2013 to help his family economically and nurtured dreams of seeing his daughter graduate from college and also of one day owning a modest two-bedroom house.
“Luciano will never be able to enjoy his home, due to the fact his life was shot down too soon,” the sister-in-law said. She added Dominguez should get the maximum sentence.
Dominguez, speaking through a translator, sobbed when he addressed the court before sentencing. He said he thought Sifuentes was going to attack him at the time, so he shot him.
“He did not understand, I was scared and nervous. I did not mean to do this, I got scared,” Dominguez said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.