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Man sentenced to 24 years for home-invasion murder

4 participated in robbery that killed student

An Arizona man was sentenced to 24 years in prison Friday for his role in a home-invasion robbery that resulted in the death of a Fort Lewis College student.

Kuauhtleko Garcia, 22, showed little reaction to District Judge William Herringer’s sentencing order.

He received 16 years for second-degree murder, eight years for burglary and eight years for robbery. But one of the eight-year sentences will be served concurrently and the other will be served consecutively, meaning it will be tacked onto the end of the 16-year prison sentence, resulting in 24 years total.

Garcia, who has a 2-year-old son, faced 18 to 32 years in prison after signing a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Before sentencing, Garcia apologized to the victim’s family, the community and the courts.

“At this time, I’d just like to apologize to them and send my prayers out to them,” he said, referring to the victim’s family.

Judge Herringer stopped Garcia and asked him to describe what happened early May 24, 2016, in the SkyRidge subdivision.

Garcia said he entered a house, went upstairs, held a man and a woman hostage and then heard a gunshot. He intended to rob Samuel Xarius Gordon, 20, of his marijuana and money.

Gordon was shot once in the abdomen and died a few hours later.

Garcia is one of four men arrested in connection with the robbery and shooting death. The others are Daniel Wright, who was sentenced in January to 17 years in prison; Alvin Flores, who is set for sentencing next month; and Kodi “Maz” E. Kuauhtli, who is scheduled for trial.

Garcia was given the same plea deal as Flores, who faces 18 to 32 years.

Only Garcia and Flores are suspected of going upstairs where Gordon was shot, and Judge Herringer said Friday he doesn’t believe Garcia is the one who pulled the trigger. Garcia had a “high level” of culpability, but not “ultimate” culpability, Herringer said.

Tom Williamson, Garcia’s public defense lawyer, also said his client didn’t shoot Gordon. Witnesses described the shooter as wearing different clothes than Garcia, and Flores’ fingerprint was found on a box of ammunition, Williamson said.

Williamson also played audio of an interview Wright gave to police a day after the shooting. In the interview, Wright said Flores explained his actions during a brief and hectic car ride while fleeing the scene. According to Wright, Flores said Gordon reached for a gun in explaining what had gone wrong.

The shooting occurred shortly after 3:30 a.m. at 253 Jenkins Ranch Road. The four men tried to flee in a rental car, but they drove the wrong direction in the sprawling SkyRidge subdivision, which has one way in and one way out.

Police stopped the car after it turned around and headed toward the exit.

Gordon’s mother, Jeanette Phillips, who has shown up to nearly every court hearing, asked Herringer to impose the maximum possible penalty. She faulted police for not testing the defendants for gunpowder residue.

“This was a well-devised plan,” she said. “... Everyday I mourn for my son.”


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