Gov. Susana Martinez, a former district attorney, is known as a tough law-and-order politician without sympathy for violent felons.
“Call them boomerang thugs, turnstile thugs, whatever,” the governor said. “We have vicious, heinous criminals among us who are willing to take the lives of our greatest heroes, and who have no business being out on our streets. … With what we’ve seen this past year, there should be no more excuses for light sentences and automatic bail for violent offenders.”
One of the fallen lawmen was Officer Daniel Webster of Albuquerque who was shot during a traffic stop in October.
And Martinez should be familiar with the “boomerang thug” who police say killed him — Davon Lymon.
When Martinez was district attorney in Las Cruces, her office prosecuted Lymon and entered into a plea deal with him in a case in which he was convicted in 2002 of voluntary manslaughter and other charges. The charges related to the 2001 shooting death in Albuquerque of Ron Chanslor Jr., grandson of Blake Chanslor, who founded the Blake’s Lotaburger restaurant chain.
Lymon, 35, served more than 10 years in prison for the Chanslor killing. But he could have been imprisoned for more than 30 years had he gone to trial and been convicted on the original charge, first-degree murder.
Susan Riedel, who was Martinez’s chief deputy district attorney, was the attorney of record in the Chanslor case, according to court records. Amy Orlando — who Martinez later appointed district attorney in Las Cruces after Martinez was elected governor in 2011 — was the prosecutor who signed the plea deal with Lymon.
Riedel became the Republican candidate for state attorney general in 2014. She has been appointed twice by Martinez to the state Public Defender Commission.
Chanslor’s mother still is angry about the plea deal. “We weren’t even notified about the sentencing hearing,” Dawn Parsons said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I don’t know how you shoot somebody in the back twice and get voluntary manslaughter.”
She said she cried for a week when she learned about Webster’s killing. “My worst nightmare was that another family would have to go through this,” she said.
A spokesman for Martinez said Monday the actual evidence in the Chanslor case was weak.
“First, there was a lack of physical and forensic evidence — no fingerprints and no DNA confirming it was Lymon,” spokesman Michael Lonergan said in an email. “Second, the case lacked a reliable eyewitness. In fact, the one witness was alleged to have been a gang member, and he never even saw the gunman’s face. The gunman was wearing a mask, at night, and the witness thought it was Lymon and another man based on their build and the way they moved.”
Lonergan also said that prior to 2001, Lymon only had a fraud case on his record in which he received a slap on the wrist and probation. “This case, however, made him a convicted killer and put him in prison for the first time for a violent offense,” the spokesman said.
Martinez’s office took over the case because the Albuquerque District Attorney’s Office had a conflict of interest.
An Albuquerque grand jury indicted Lymon in late September 2001, just three weeks after he killed Chanslor near The University of New Mexico campus after an argument.
In August 2002, Lymon entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors that took first and second-degree murder off the table. Lymon would plead guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony, with a firearm enhancement of one year.
The agreement also included “no contest” pleas to charges of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery.
A second aggravated battery count against Lymon was dismissed in the plea deal.
Lymon also agreed to admit he had a prior fraud conviction in Rio Arriba County in 2001. But as part of the deal the state agreed not to seek a habitual-offender enhancement unless Lymon violated the law before completing his sentence.
The Chanslor killing was not the last time Lymon appeared to get a break while in the criminal justice system.
According to several news reports, he was charged in 2012 for an armed robbery in Española, but the charge was dismissed. The same thing happened with a misdemeanor shoplifting charge in Albuquerque in 2013.
In December 2014 Lymon was charged in Albuquerque with kidnapping, two aggravated battery charges and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. But all those charges were dismissed by prosecutors in February 2015.
After Lymon was arrested for the Webster killing, Albuquerque District Attorney Kari Brandenburg blamed her decision not to prosecute the 2014 case on the New Mexico Supreme Court for issuing new rules related to speedy trials.
An “open letter” from Brandenburg published by KOB-TV in October said, “Regarding Lymon, because law enforcement could not provide complete discovery as required by the [Supreme Court’s Case Management Order] , felony charges against him were dismissed in early 2015.”
The dispute between Brandenburg and the Supreme Court sparked current legislative proposals for a constitutional amendment to allow judges to deny bail to those charged with violent crimes.
After his arrest in the Webster killing, the federal government indicted Lymon on four federal firearm charges. One of the counts is being a felon in possession of a firearm on Oct. 21, 2015, the day Webster was killed.
“If convicted, Lymon faces a statutory maximum penalty of ten years in federal prison on each of the four counts in the indictment,” an FBI news release said. State charges in the Webster case have yet to be filed.
While Parsons is still critical of the plea deal made with her son’s killer in 2002, she agrees with Martinez on one thing. “Turnstile thug is the word for [Lymon],” she said. “Something has to be done. The system is broken.”