Man sentenced to prison for death and meth
After nearly 2 1/2 years, the waiting is over for a victim’s family.
Lonnie Dean, 48, of Belen, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison by a district court judge Wednesday morning, after he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide.
On May 26, 2011, Dean fled from DEA agents after they tried to arrest him at the Giant gas station on N.M. 314 in Belen.
Dean was one of 12 individuals from Valencia and Socorro counties charged with federal methamphetamine trafficking charges in May and June 2011, after a 16-month investigation led by the DEA and the Los Lunas Police Department, code-named “Vanilla Sky.”
According to court filings, Dean was part of a large-scale methamphetamine trafficking organization that operated in Valencia County.
When Dean ran from the agents, who were not pursuing him, he ended up at the intersection of Lopez and Don Felipe roads in Belen.
Roberta Lynn Torres, 40, of Belen, was at the intersection in her silver Chrysler Sebring when Dean’s red Ford Mustang slammed into her car at a high rate of speed, killing Torres.
Before Dean was sentenced, Torres’ sister, Juanita Apodaca, addressed the court. Through tears, she spoke about her younger sister, “Bert.”
“She lost her life doing a good deed,” Apodaca said.
The day she died, Apodaca said Torres was taking a friend, Ashley Wright, to a Belen business so Wright could pick up a job application. Wright suffered only minor injuries.
The day her sister was killed, Apodaca said Torres stopped by her office in Socorro before heading to Belen.
“For some reason, I cried when I saw her,” she said. “We cried together and hugged. Then she said, ‘Mita, I have to go. I love you.’”
Apodaca called what happened a “senseless crime, a waste of our time and a life.”
After District Judge Violet Otero announced Dean’s sentence, Apodaca said she was glad it was over.
“It’s done. No more talking about it. It’s in the past,” Apodaca said.
No one spoke on Dean’s behalf at the sentencing hearing, but he did address Torres’ family.
“I know what I did can never be changed. I apologize to your family and, if I could, I would take it back,” Dean said, facing the family in the gallery, including Torres’ two children.
“I want you to know, since the day that it happened, I am not the same man I was; I walk with Christ.”
A Valencia County grand jury indicted Dean on vehicular homicide charges in January 2012, after he was indicted in June 2011 on separate federal charges of intent to distribute methamphetamine and assaulting a federal officer.
On April 2, Dean pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and assaulting a federal officer with a dangerous weapon.
He was sentenced on Tuesday to 20 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release for his conviction on methamphetamine trafficking and assault on a federal officer charges.
The 10-year sentence Dean received was a combination of two convictions — six years for the vehicular homicide charge and a mandatory four years for two previous felony convictions for possession and distribution of a controlled substance.
Otero had the discretion to sentence Dean to less than the six years, but did not. None of the sentence was suspended.
The state sentence imposed by Otero on Wednesday will run concurrent to the federal prison time.
Jackie Robbins, the federal prosecutor at Dean’s plea and sentencing hearing, said Otero could order the state sentence run consecutive to the federal sentence, meaning it would start after the 20 years, but then Dean could withdraw his federal plea agreement.
Dean’s attorney Greg Gaudette told the judge that while Dean had been in custody for quite some time, he was willing to waive his credit for time served.
Under New Mexico law, time spent incarcerated before sentencing can be applied to an inmate’s final sentence, thus shortening the total amount of time spent in prison.
After she announced the sentence, Otero extended her condolences to the Torres family.
“But none of what happened here today can change what happened and that’s unfortunate,” Otero said.
-- Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.