On a warm July night in 2014, two men slept on mattresses in a vacant lot near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Kee Thompson and Allison Gorman, both in their mid-40s, had homes in the Navajo Nation reservation, but had come to the city to find work. They never found what they were looking for.
Sometime after midnight on July 19, multiple assailants attacked the sleeping men. They were punched, kicked and beaten with cinderblocks and fenceposts.
Police soon arrested 18-year-old Alex Rios and two younger teens, then ages 15 and 16. They were each charged with two counts of murder, tampering with evidence, three counts of aggravated batter with a deadly weapon, and robbery.
The youngest teen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against the other two defendants. The trial against Rios began on Dec. 2.
A Grisly Murder
In opening statements last week, prosecutors laid out the case against Rios.
“You’re going to hear about how they planned it,” prosecutor Vincent Martinez told the jury, according to KRQE. “You’re going to hear about how they put masks around their face. Then, [the youngest suspect] will testify that they went back to get some knives to go back and make sure they got the job done.”
During the trial, jurors saw graphic photos of the two men’s injuries. “They were beaten so badly,” Martinez said in court, “that they were unrecognizable.”
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The youngest assailant then testified that the attacks were originally his idea, but that Rios had also beaten and stabbed the two men. Once I hit him, after like seven times, Alex picked it up and started hitting him, he told the jury.
According to the criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE, the attack lasted more than an hour.
Rios maintained his innocence, claiming that he was at the scene, but did not participate in the crime.
“The other two boys are literally covered in blood from head to toe,” defense attorney Daniel Salazar said in court. “Alex Rios wasn’t. The only thing we know for sure about Alex Rios is that he was drunk and that when the police interviewed him, he had no blood on him.”
On multiple occasions in court, Salazar said that prosecutors’ plea deal with the youngest defendant was “like making a deal with the devil.”
Salazar admitted that Rios’ DNA was discovered on a pile of clothes that was linked to the crime, but insisted that the evidence didn’t prove his client’s guilt.
In the end, a jury sided with the defense. Rios was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder. Each count carries a 15-year sentence. Prosecutors say they plan to argue that the sentences should be served concurrently.
The third suspect, who was 16 at the time of the attack, faces trial next September.