By Darrell Todd Maurina
Following tearful and bitter pleas by family and friends of a Clovis man killed in April 2001, 9th District Court Judge Stephen Quinn sentenced Pedro Joaquin Amaro, 30, of Clovis, to life in prison plus 31 years.
Amaro also must make an undetermined amount of restitution to the family of his victim, 46-year-old Kenneth Smith, in the event Amaro is ever released from prison.
New Mexico law required the life sentence after Amaro was convicted of first-degree murder on March 10. Without the extra prison time, Amaro could have been eligible for parole in 30 years. District attorney Brett Carter asked the judge to sentence Amaro to the maximum possible penalty on nine additional charges with further time added for being a habitual offender.
The effect, according to Carter, is that Amaro should not be eligible for parole for at least 50 years.
Carter showed grisly pictures of the crime scene while making his presentation.
“He pulled the head of the victim up by the hair and casually began to saw at it as if it were a piece of wood,” Carter said. “You can’t take the monster out of this person, but you can take this person off the streets for the maximum time possible.”
Carter cited Amaro’s police record in two states, arguing that his crimes had become progressively more violent and that he showed no remorse, even though Amaro and Smith had been friends before the 2001 incident.
“If he can do this to a friend, just imagine what he could do to somebody in the community who he regarded as an enemy,” Carter said.
Sgt. Roger Grah of the Clovis Police Department concurred, noting that in his eight years on the department he had seen a number of homicide cases.
“By far and away this was the very worst one,” Grah told the court. “It was shocking at the scene and it is shocking now.”
As audience members sobbed, the victim’s daughter, Amber Smith, read the judge a letter she had written to her father after his death.
“We can’t tell each other we love each other again,” Smith read. “I never realized what a huge part you played in my life until you were no longer in it.”
“There will be no words to express how much we miss Ken’s birthday, which we celebrate by putting flowers on his grave,” said the victim’s father, Richard Smith. “This animal needs to be put away for life so he can never hurt another human being.”
The victim’s mother, Barb Smith, asked the judge to consider a special request. “Your Honor, if at all possible, please let Pedro Amaro live with a large picture of Ken Smith the way he left him,” Smith asked the judge. “Looking at Ken day and night may help Mr. Amaro to see just a little but of the horror and grief he has caused.”
Responding to the victim impact statements, Amaro denied being guilty and said he would appeal.
“I do feel bad about what happened, but I did not commit the crime I am accused of,” Amaro said. “The truth has not come out in the court; it has been buried under every stick and stone around.”
While not granting the request of Ken Smith’s mother, Quinn said he would impose a life sentence even if not required to do so by law, and denied a request by Amaro’s attorney to make the extra 31 years run concurrently with his life sentence.
“The court has found nothing that would require suspending or running concurrently these sentences, due to the brutality and savagery of the crime,” Quinn said.