Dominic Murphy was sentenced to a minimum of 60 years in prison Tuesday for the killings of Alex Rodriguez, 29, and Wesley Griest, 39. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Dominic Murphy showed no emotion Tuesday when he was sentenced to two life terms in connection with the 2003 shooting deaths of two Clovis men.
He will have to serve 60 years in prison before being eligible for parole, according to state law.
Murphy, 26, of Clovis, was convicted by a Curry County jury in January of what prosecutors called the “execution style” killings of Alex Rodriguez, 29, and Wesley Griest, 39, over a drug debt.
Murphy’s lawyer and mother maintained his innocence during Tuesday’s sentencing phase of the trial. Meanwhile, family members of the victims tearfully asked for the maximum sentence.
Teresa Rodriguez delivered a sharp censure of Murphy, calling him an animal who deliberately chose to take the life of her brother.
“He deserves to rot in prison,” she said before the court. After the 60-year sentence was delivered, she remained resolute. “He couldn’t even make a statement on his behalf. I’m glad he’s not going to be around, but it still doesn’t bring my brother back.”
Murphy did not testify on his behalf in his trial or during the sentencing hearing. No alternative theories for the shootings or an alibi for Murphy were offered during the trial.
District Judge Joe Parker could have chosen to let the two life sentences run concurrently, so that Murphy would have effectively received 30 years in prison.
District Attorney Matthew Chandler fought for the sentences to run consecutively, and started the sentencing hearing by reciting the facts of the case and Murphy’s criminal history.
Chandler said the slayings resulted from a $150 drug debt owed by one of the slain men. Citing a presentence diagnostic report, Chandler revealed Murphy was arrested for burglary as a juvenile and had been in prison in 1999, but never completed his probation upon release.
Additionally, he said he had been on drugs since he was 14, and had taken LSD more than 100 times.
However, Murphy’s lawyer, Abigail Aragon, said her client only began taking methamphetamine when he met Joey Martinez, who is serving a 29 1/2-year sentence in prison in connection with the case. Martinez pleaded guilty to accessory to second-degree murder in December of 2003.
To give perspective to the amount of time being discussed, Aragon said 30 years ago America was still involved in the Vietnam War. Sixty years back, the nation was just exiting World War II. She asked Parker only send her client away for 30 years, so that when Murphy exits the penal system he could still make a positive difference.
Murphy’s mother, Mary Murphy, told the court her son is innocent of the charges and described her bewilderment when he was convicted in January.
“The hardest thing for us to know is that he could spend his life in jail for something he didn’t do,” she said. “Why would he show remorse for something he didn’t do?”
In a letter to the Clovis News Journal written from prison, Murphy said his conviction was based on the testimony of only one eye witness, Martinez, who he said is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.
“There was no physical evidence, no weapon, no fingerprints and no DNA to place me at the crime scene,” he wrote. “This evidence may have existed to clear me of the crime, but it was never tested for.”
However, prosecutors say plenty of evidence existed and the reason the jury deliberated so long was the amount of information they were asked to consider. Chandler said jurors had 40 hours of testimony and evidence to consider in making their decision.
“The evidence in this case was obviously strong enough for 12 independent jurors to examine the evidence and return convictions on all counts,” Chandler said. He cited shoe print evidence, paint transfer evidence and other physical evidence that prosecutors argued connected Murphy to the scene. He also cited witnesses who placed Murphy and Martinez together before and after the slayings.
In a poignant moment Tuesday morning, a letter was read from the 4-year-old daughter of Griest.
“I will never sit in my daddy’s lap,” she wrote, “(and) talk to him and show him what I’ve learned.”
The child’s mother and Griest’s ex-wife, Raelynn Griest, tearfully asked the judge to show no mercy to Murphy. After the sentencing, she remained somber.
“I’m glad he’s put away,” she said. “I don’t think there is any such thing as closure, because (my daughter) is going to have to deal with this for years.”
Murphy will get an automatic appeal, Chandler said.
“We are pleased that justice prevailed in a case like this,” Chandler said. “We are comfortable with the decision, and comfortable that Dominic Murphy will serve his natural life in prison.”