Belen man receives 12-year prison sentence

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A 44-year-old Belen man was sentenced to 12 years with the New Mexico Corrections Department following several documented incidents where he assaulted his girlfriend.

District Court Judge Violet Otero sentenced Paul Apodaca immediately following a court date where he pleaded guilty last month to lesser charges of false imprisonment and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.

The aggravated battery charge was dropped as part of the plea deal.

On one occasion in February, the victim told Belen police Apodaca threatened to kill her and that she was in fear for her life, according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint said the victim told police Apodaca punched her in the face, chest and the rest of her body. She had visible signs of bruising on her face and her forehead was split open.

Apodaca took the woman's car after she went inside to tell the clerk about the incident. Shortly after, he was arrested at the woman's house and charged with aggravated battery, false imprisonment and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, the complaint said.

In July 2011, Apodaca was charged with aggravated assault and battery against a household member following an incident where the victim told police he held a knife to her neck and strangled her during a fight at her Belen home. When officers arrived, they found Apodaca hiding underneath a bed.

Another case from last year was also included in the plea deal. The case involves an incident where police said Apodaca took lottery tickets and cigarettes and beef jerky from the Kicks 66 gas station in Belen in August 2011. He tried to cash in the tickets at another gas station in Albuquerque.

According to a criminal complaint, Apodaca told police he used a tire iron to break the glass of the front entrance of the gas station.

He said he broke into the business "due to hard times and because he needed the money," the report said. He was charged with burglary and tampering with evidence in that case.

Assistant District Attorney Darlene Weed said Apodaca is a "habitual offender" who kept hurting the same victim on multiple occasions.

Weed said she is content with the guilty plea and the fact that the case didn't have to go to trial. She said the victim has suffered from nightmares and flashbacks of horrifying events that involved Apodaca.

"I'm very happy," Weed said. "One of the worst parts is that you take a victim to trial and then they have to live through (the pain) again," Weed said. "Her life has changed because of this man."

She said the district attorney's office had enough evidence to support charges in a trial setting. She said in many cases, the victims never leave the circle of violence.

Weed said the sentence should make potential offenders think twice about committing a crime that involves domestic violence.

"It sends a signal that the DA's office will do everything we can to fight domestic violence," she said.


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