By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
A 19-year-old Portales man decided against a plea agreement Monday in court and instead will face a murder trial in connection with the death of a city teen.
Baca pleaded not guilty Monday to a first-degree murder charge and two counts of tampering with evidence. He is accused of killing Amber Robinson, 19, of Portales in April 2004.
Ninth Judicial District Judge Stephen Quinn told Baca on Monday that under a plea agreement he signed, he would serve 25 years in prison — 15 years for second-degree murder, a four-year addition because the crime would be considered an aggravated offense, plus six years for the counts of tampering with evidence.
Quinn showed Baca the agreement and asked Baca if he had read it, or had it read to him, before signing it. Baca said no both times.
“I understood (the plea agreement’s sentence) to be 21 years and no aggravation,” Baca said.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said he didn’t know where Baca got the idea he was agreeing to a 21-year sentence.
“We never offered a plea agreement of that nature,” Chandler said.
Baca said he was told by members of the district attorney’s office he would serve 21 years with no additional time for aggravated circumstances.
Quinn said Baca signed the plea agreement Friday for 25 years.
“The DA’s office offered 21 years last week,” Nellie Baca, Richard’s sister, said. “Richard came in here with the intent to accept a 21-year plea agreement.”
Even if Baca would have agreed to serve 25 years in prison, Robinson’s mother, Joann Martinez, would have opposed the sentence for not being severe enough.
“I didn’t agree to the plea agreement,” Martinez said. “I was going to say that in my statement.”
If Richard Baca is found guilty, he could be sentenced to 30 years for the first-degree murder charge alone, according to Chandler.
Baca’s attorney, Ray Floersheim, said he would not comment on the case.
Chandler said the trial would be at least one-and-a-half weeks. He said the trial is scheduled to begin during the last week of September — the first open block on Quinn’s docket.
Clifford Baca, Richard’s 20-year-old brother, is facing charges of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in connection with Robinson’s death. Chandler said Clifford Baca’s trial is scheduled for December.
Both are currently being held in the Roosevelt County Detention Center.