Guilty verdicts returned for brutal murders of Navajo Nation men

Booking photo of Alex Rios from Bernalillo County Detention Center

A 20-year-old New Mexico man was found guilty in connection with the brutal murders of two Navajo Nation men.

Alex Rios was 18 at the time of the attacks on Alison Gorman, 44, and Kee Thompson, 45, in July 2014. He was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and 21 other charges for beating the two men to death so badly that authorities said their bodies were unrecognizable.

“When this tragedy occurred, it touched the hearts of many of our Diné Citizens, including my colleagues on the Navajo Nation Council," Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates said in a press release. "With today’s verdict, I hope the families feel that a certain level of justice has prevailed."

Rios faces 15-year sentences for the second-degree murder charges. Had he been convicted of first-degree murder -- an option that was on the table but which the jury rejected -- the sentence would have been mandatory life in prison.

"Alex Rios, the eldest of the three teens who attacked Gorman and Thompson, was held accountable for his actions in these deaths," said Leonard Gorman, the executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. "A verdict was rendered in this case and we now await the sentencing phase which we believe will tell us if justice is indeed served."

Rios did not take the stand during the trial, which began on December 4, but prosecutors called another co-defendant -- Gilbert Tafoya, who was 15 years old at the time of the incident -- to testify about his role in the crime. Tafoya has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, assault and tampering with evidence. He awaits sentencing.

A third teen, Nathaniel Carillo, is scheduled to go to trial in September 2016, The Albuquerque Journal reported. He was 15 years old at the time of the attack.

The brutal crime drew attention to the mistreatment of Native Americans, some of them homeless, in New Mexico's largest city. At the urging of Navajo leaders, the city formed a task force that issued 14 recommendations, including the appointment of a tribal liaison.

Get the Story:
Rios found guilty of second-degree murder in homeless beating deaths (The Albuquerque Journal 12/10)
Prosecutor: We got justice for the victims and their family (KRQE 12/9)
Man convicted in beating deaths of 2 transients (KOAT 12/9)
New Mexico man convicted of beating deaths of 2 transients (AP 12/9)
Jury in double homicide case sends out questions (The Albuquerque Journal 12/9)

Related Stories
Trial wraps up into brutal murders of Navajo men in New Mexico (12/8)
Teen admits guilt for brutal murders of two Navajo Nation men (09/17)
Melanie Yazzie: Border town violence connected to colonization (8/22)
Column: Seeking answers for brutal murders of two Navajo men (08/07)
Memorial for Navajo men who were murdered in New Mexico (8/4)
Navajo Nation president calls for FBI probe of brutal murders (07/25)
Navajo Nation president to discuss brutal murders with mayor (7/24)
Navajo Nation officials seek meeting in response to murders (7/23)
Bail set at $5M for teens accused of murdering Navajo men (7/22)
Teens accused of killing homeless Navajo men in New Mexico (7/21)

Join the Conversation