A district court judge on Friday sentenced Alex Rios to 67 and one-half years in prison for beating two homeless Navajo men to death with cinder blocks and other objects in July 2014.
Rios, who was 18 at the time of the attack, is one of three teens accused of killing Alison Gorman and Kee Thompson as they slept in an open field in northwest Albuquerque. Rios was found guilty in December of two counts of second-degree murder – each of which carried a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. He was also convicted of aggravated assault, tampering with evidence and armed robbery.
Now 20, Rios addressed the families of his victims in court, apologizing for his actions and begging for mercy. The two men were beaten so brutally they were unrecognizable.
“I can’t even call this a killing,” District Judge Briana Zamora said as she handed Rios the maximum sentence allowed by law. “This was torture.”
Rios, along with Nathaniel Carrillo, then 16, and Gilbert Tafoya, then 15, was arrested after Gorman and Kee were found dead in the early morning hours of July 19, 2014. During initial interviews, the teens told police they were looking for “someone to beat up.” Tafoya reported that he was upset because he had recently broken up with a longtime girlfriend.
The teens tied black T-shirts around their faces then walked to a nearby field, where they found three men sleeping on mattresses. One of the potential victims ran away, but the teens beat the other two men.
The assault lasted about an hour, according to testimony given in court. After the first 30 minutes, the teens left the scene to get knives. They beat the two men with their hands and feet, as well as cinder blocks, wooden sticks and a fence post.
Tafoya, now 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a plea deal that required him to testify against Rios and Carrillo and allows him the possibility of release after he turns 21. According to Tafoya’s statement to police, the teens “took turns picking [up] cinder blocks over their heads and smashing them into the male subjects’ faces.” Tafoya admitted to using the cinder block as a weapon more than 10 times.
The attack prompted Albuquerque city officials to establish a task force designed to tackle issues of Native American homelessness. Gorman and Kee both had traveled from the Navajo Nation to Albuquerque in search of work.
In his statements to court Friday, Prosecutor Vincent Martinez called the murders vicious.
“These gentlemen were on a mattress,” he told the court. “They were completely helpless. They were asleep. They could not defend themselves. They were true victims. They never had a chance.”
Carrillo’s trial is scheduled for September.