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Man sentenced to 3 years in prison for fatal shooting

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A 20-year-old man will serve three years in prison and four on probation after pleading guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter in a shooting last October, despite some of the victim’s family calling for a tougher sentence.

Judge Dustin K. Hunter of New Mexico’s Fifth Judicial District on Thursday followed the recommendation of the District Attorney’s Office and sentenced Bobby Gonzales of Roswell to a term of seven years, with four years suspended.

Gonzales will be incarcerated at the New Mexico Department of Corrections for the first three years of his sentence. Upon release from prison, he will be placed on supervised probation for four years and parole for two years.

Gonzales and Ernest Rivera, 17, of Roswell were originally charged with second-degree murder in the Oct. 29, 2019 shooting death of Joe Paul Martinez, 40, of Roswell.

Martinez was shot three times — once in the lower abdomen and once on the upper part of each arm — during a physical confrontation outside the 2000 block of North Mississippi Avenue residence where Martinez was staying with his wife, the two suspects and some other individuals.

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Gonzales and Rivera in April pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter — which carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison — as part of a plea and disposition agreement. The sentence was enhanced by one year since a firearm was used in commission of the crime.

The plea agreement stipulated that at least four years would be served on supervised probation, Timothy Rose, deputy district attorney, said.

No electronic records on whether Rivera has been sentenced were available.

Before announcing his decision, Hunter described the death of Martinez as a tragedy.

“My heart goes out to the family of the victim knowing that your brother, son, cousin, significant other will just no longer be there,” he said. “And no words the court says can assist with that.”

He added the case was also a tragedy for Gonzales, who was young at the time of the shooting and had “minimal if any prior criminal history.”

Some members of Martinez’s family spoke during the hearing, describing Martinez as a well-known mechanic with a kind heart who was always eager to help others.

They also pleaded with Hunter to impose a tougher sentence than the one prescribed by prosecutors, with one family member saying the family was not in agreement with the plea deal.

“We would rather it go to court or go to trial where people can know what happened,” he said.

Rose apologized to the family, and said the sentence under the plea deal was the best they could get because of the limited evidence in the case, constraints of the law and conflicting accounts offered by the two witnesses.

“We had problems with being able to prove whether it was Bobby Gonzales or Ernest Rivera who shot the gun or both of them at different points,” Rose said.

Todd Holmes, Gonzales’ attorney, also said if the case had gone to trial, the prosecution would have had to prove Gonzales did not act in self-defense and that he was not in fear of his life or of great bodily harm at the time.

Members of Gonzales’ family also spoke before the sentence was announced, describing a defendant who had little education and a rough childhood that included the death of his mother at a young age and a father who was frequently in prison.

Holmes urged the court to allow Gonzales to serve six years of his sentence on probation, with the remaining year to be served at the Chaves County Detention Center where Gonzales was held without bond since his arrest last October.

Probation and counseling, he said, would be the best option in the longterm to help Gonzales eventually become a functioning member of society, noting Gonzales’ age.

Rose also urged the court to recommend that Gonzales earn his GED while in prison, undergo therapy and help him construct a plan for when he is released from prison.

Hunter agreed to including that recommendation from the prosecution. He did reject the request for Gonzales to serve his time at the Chaves County Detention Center because, Hunter said, Gonzales would have better access to services at the New Mexico Department of Corrections.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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