Judge gives teen 15-year prison term


Rebecca Carrasco was relieved when she walked out of a Valencia County courtroom on Tuesday.

Carrasco is the niece of Ferlin Lucero, a 51-year-old man who died after he was severely beaten in 2009.

She whispered an emphatic "yes" moments after Judge William Sanchez sentenced Steven Ayers to a maximum sentence of 15 years with the New Mexico Department of Corrections for Lucero's death.

A jury found Ayers, 18, guilty of second-degree murder for the death of Lucero, a man he severely beat in Los Lunas on Aug. 7, 2009. Lucero died in the hospital a few weeks later.

Ayers has been in custody for three years and will get credit for time served, which amounts to 12 years behind bars.

Sanchez called the crime a "horrific offense," and said he agreed with defense attorney Rachel Walker Al-Yasi that the then-15-year-old had a lack of guidance and supervision before the incident.

"But, at some point, Mr. Ayers has to make decisions on his own to behave himself," Sanchez said. "I really don't see a lot of remorse on his face."

Sanchez denied a request from Al-Yasi for Ayers to be placed on probation at the Delancey Street Foundation, an organization that rehabilitates certain individuals, such as substance abusers and those who have committed crimes.

Ayers was found not to be amenable to treatment.

That night, Ayers apparently became upset after Lucero refused to tell him where his mother was located.

During the trial in December 2011, a man who let Lucero stay at his RV, testified that he came home to find Ayers, who lived close by, beating on Lucero outside in the parking lot of his Los Lunas residence.

The man testified he was able to pull Ayers off of Lucero and called police a short time later. He told the jury he told police where Ayers lived.

The man said Ayers threatened that he would "kill him" if he told anyone about the incident.

Two Los Lunas police officers testified that there was spattered blood spread throughout the interior of the RV, including on couch cushions, linens and cabinets where the incident took place. Photos showed to the jury included Lucero's battered, bloody face.

A forensic pathologist for the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator testified that Lucero sustained fractures to the sternum and rib cage. He also had fractures to cheek and nasal bones.

He said Lucero's pancreas, spleen and left kidney were removed in an attempt to keep the man alive during his three-week hospital stay.

The pathologist testified that the autopsy showed Lucero died from complications of his blunt force injuries. The death was classified as a homicide.

On Tuesday, Carrasco told the judge a tattoo on Lucero's arm was the only way she could recognize her uncle because of the extent of his injuries. She described Lucero as a gentle and kind man who was a free spirit.

"You took him from us much too early," Carrasco said in a statement directed at Ayers. "He was a father, brother and uncle. No one should ever have to go through such a traumatic experience."

Shortly after, Ayers gave a brief statement where he said he "was truly sorry for what happened that day."

The judge said he sentenced Ayers to the maximum sentence because he couldn't "take a chance" that he would be released and potentially be harmful to the public.

Al-Yasi unsuccessfully argued her client "fell through the cracks" and needed psychiatric care.

She showed the judge a transcript of a GED Ayers earned while in custody. She said her client is unable to show much emotion because of his mental health issues.

John Martinez, Lucero's older brother, said he was happy with the judge's decision.

"He is protecting the public instead of feeling sorry for this kid."

Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez said the sentencing of Ayers sends a "clear message" that juveniles aren't always going to serve a short period of time for a serious crime.

"I think it was very good for (Ayers) to get a maximum sentence," Martinez said. "A message has to be sent to our children that if you commit a serious crime, you will be punished like (an adult)."

-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.