Convicted murderer gets life
Daniel Murrell III, who was convicted of first-degree murder by a Curry County grand jury on Aug. 7, was sentenced to life in prison plus 31 years Friday afternoon.
The murder conviction stems from a Jan. 4, 2013, mugging, in which Murrell, 25, of Clovis, beat 61-year-old Joe Garcia, also of Clovis, behind an Allsup’s store on 11th and Mitchell streets.
According to police, Murrell stole Garcia’s cell phone, wallet and knife. Garcia, who had been left with a jaw broken in two places, fractured ribs, and a black eye, died three days later.
Murrell was also found guilty of armed robbery in the case of a mugging that took place Jan. 2, 2013. In this incident, police said Murrell hit David Shober, 82, of Clovis, twice on the head with a handgun before taking the man’s wallet.
The incident took place at Shober’s home. Shober was unable to be at court Friday due to a family emergency.
Members of Garcia’s family were allowed to give a statement. Two women who said they were Garcia’s sisters as well as a woman who said she was his daughter gave tearful statements of what Garcia meant to them and their family.
Garcia was described as a loving, special person.
After Garcia’s daughter noted twice that Murrell kept his back turned to members of her family as they spoke, Murrell stood, looked at them and gave a statement.
Murrell maintained his innocence, stating that he was “not going to take nobody’s lie.”
During the trial, Defense Attorney Anna Aragon tried to make the case that it was Terrill Smolar, 21 — who had accompanied Murrell during the mugging of Garcia and of Shober — who had beaten Garcia.
Smolar pleaded guilty to charges connected to the muggings and is awaiting sentencing.
Murrell said that the person responsible for the beating “took two people’s life — mine, and (Joe Garcia’s).
“I’m not here to argue with the court,” Murrell said. “I was raised in a Christian home. … I was raised better than that.”
Judge Fred Van Soelen also gave a statement.
“You may feel the system is corrupt, but this is the system we have,” Van Soelen said to Murrell.
Van Soelen said that, during the hearing of testimony, he had been struck by what he believed was Murrell’s lack of empathy.
“You’re a large man,” Van Soelen said to Murrell. “If you wanted to rob (Garcia and Shober), you could. … You didn’t have to (beat) them.”
A life sentence in New Mexico is 30 years, and Murrell will not be eligible for parole during that time. Murrell was sentenced to the additional 31 years for other counts related to the case as well as extra years for being a habitual offender.
District Attorney Andrea Reeb filed a supplemental criminal information report with the court, which described Murrell’s prior felony convictions, which added additional years to his sentence. These included a charge of possession of a controlled substance and the unlawful use of a debit card.
Reeb said that because he was sentenced for a capital offense, Murrell will have an automatic appeal to his sentence.
Reeb said it will be up to the Court of Appeals whether to affirm or reverse the sentence.
Although the notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the sentencing, it will likely be years before the appeal is decided, Reeb said.