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Suspected gunman sentenced in home-invasion case

Judge gives defendant maximum penalty allowed under plea agreement
Flores

An Arizona man was sentenced to 32 years in prison Thursday for his role in a home-invasion robbery and shooting death of a Fort Lewis College student.

Alvin Flores, 23, showed little reaction, as if he expected the maximum possible penalty in accordance with a plea agreement he signed with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The plea agreement called for 18 to 32 years in prison, and District Judge William Herringer left little doubt he planned to sentence Flores to the upper limit of the plea agreement. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, robbery and burglary.

In statements leading up to sentencing, Herringer said the evidence suggests Flores “more likely than not” pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Samuel Xarius Gordon, 20. Flores then deflected responsibility and lied about what happened, which speaks to his lack of remorse, Herringer said.

“It’s such a senseless loss,” he said. “It’s hard to come to terms with it. It’s hard to stop thinking about it.”

Flores is the third of four defendants to be sentenced for the shooting death, which occurred May 24, 2016, at 253 Jenkins Ranch Road in the SkyRidge subdivision east of downtown.

The other defendants are Daniel Nelson Wright, who was sentenced in April to 17 years, and Kuauhtleko Garcia, who was sentenced last week to 24 years. The fourth defendant, Kodi “Maz” E. Kuauhtli, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial.

Prosecutors said all four men devised a plan to enter Gordon’s home and rob him of his marijuana. The burglary occurred about 3:40 a.m., while Gordon and roommates were asleep.

Flores and Garcia went upstairs to confront Gordon, but one of them apparently became spooked when they saw Gordon exit his bedroom with a flare gun. Gordon was shot once in the abdomen and died a few hours later during surgery.

Prosecutors charged all four men with first-degree murder. Under state law, it doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger if all four participated in the crime. But courts are allowed to consider levels of culpability when it comes to sentencing.

During a previous sentencing hearing, Judge Herringer asked Garcia to explain what happened. He didn’t afford Flores that opportunity Thursday, saying he had no confidence Flores would be truthful or shed any light on what happened.

Assistant District Attorney David Ottman said Flores and his co-defendants targeted “hippie kids” who they believed would be an “easy mark.” Ottman asked Herringer to impose the maximum possible penalty.

“They took advantage of his (Gordon’s) kindness, good heart and generosity,” Ottman said. “That’s why they were there that night, and I do think that is aggravating.”

Flores’ public defense lawyer, Beale Tejada, said Flores made a mistake that can never be undone, but the entirety of his life shouldn’t be judged on one incident.

Several family members said Flores’ actions don’t speak to his true character. Flores had an abusive father who made him smuggle drugs as a child. His dad eventually left the family, and Flores assumed a parental role. He took care of his siblings and provided financially for the family.

Gordon’s mother, Jeanette Phillips, said she’s tired of hearing stories about defendants who had difficult childhoods or past traumas. Many other children, including her son, had difficult upbringings, but they don’t decide to rob someone in the middle of the night.

After Thursday’s hearing, Phillips said the crime was about greed. Her son graduated from high school, was close to graduating college, and wanted to make a positive difference in the world, she said.

shane@durangoherald.com

Jun 24, 2021
Fourth man sentenced in slaying of Fort Lewis College student
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