Log In

Reset Password
News Education Local News Nation & World New Mexico

Ignacio man sentenced to prison for murder of pregnant wife

Prosecutor says case was about domestic violence, not self-defense

An Ignacio man was sentenced Thursday to 35 years in prison for the 2022 murder of Raeanna “Nikki” Burch-Woodhull.

Luis Valenzuela, 35, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in accordance with a plea agreement.

The 28-year-old Burch-Woodhull was pregnant and in her second trimester at the time of her murder, which factored into the plea. Burch-Woodhull was also married to Valenzuela, but the couple had an estranged on-again off-again relationship, according to family members and court documents.

Valenzuela stabbed Burch-Woodhull when she entered his home in search of a missing purse on the night of Nov. 27, 2022. He then disposed of her body near U.S. Highway 550 and County Road 310 in the Bondad area south of Durango.

Defense lawyers had raised the prospect of invoking Colorado’s “Make My Day” law, which allows the use of force and even deadly force against an intruder if there is reason to believe the intruder is committing a crime or presents a physical danger to the rightful occupants.

Jeffrey Wilson, chief judge of the 6th Judicial District, accepted the plea agreement. He said Valenzuela’s actions were some of the most anger-filled and violent that he has seen in a murder case.

Family members told the court that Burch-Woodhull was stabbed more than 60 times.

District Attorney Sean Murray said it is unreasonable to claim self-defense given the facts of the case. It is a case about domestic violence, he said.

Family members said Valenzuela would track Burch-Woodhull’s cellphone and became angry if she was intoxicated.

The victim’s sister, Felicia Munguia, said she didn’t agree with the sentence in the plea agreement and felt that Valenzuela should spend the rest of his life in prison.

Three other family members also made statements to the court.

“This man ain’t worthy of my tears, so I’m not going to cry about it,” said Raehanna Fournier, Burch-Woodhill’s niece.

Another family member, Kierra Fournier, said it is sad that Burch-Woodhull will not be able to participate in special moments with her kids because of Valenzuela’s actions.

Valenzuela looked down at his cuffed hands while the family members read their statements.

Public defender Kellen Schmelz said Valenzuela has owned up to what he did, unlike many murder defendants.

He painted a picture of Valenzuela as being a self-made man who left school at 13 and worked with his stepfather to learn a variety of trades.

“If this case had gone to trial, he could have very well died in prison,” Schmelz said.

Before sentencing, Valenzuela was given an opportunity to address the court. In a brief statement, he apologized to the people he hurt and said he isn’t a violent person.

He received credit for 502 days served.


Reader Comments