Kevin Lossiah's family didn't celebrate when Justin Mark was convicted of first-degree murder on Friday.
“I'm not happy. It's sad,” Daniel Tso, Lossiah's uncle, said after the verdict was read. “There's no reason to be happy.”
Lossiah was 40 years old when he was bludgeoned in his living room on May 29, 2011. He was asleep on his couch in a small apartment at 2700 Apache St. when Mark and his alleged accomplice entered
Lossiah's residence, brutally beat him with a stick and stole his car keys, cell phone and wallet.
Lossiah's skull was smashed. When he was found, the area around him was soaked in blood and parts of his brain. He died at the hospital 12 hours after the attack.
Mark, 25, and another man were trying to find a ride back to their homes on the Navajo Nation when they robbed and killed Lossiah, according to evidence presented during the trial.
Donovan King, a 23-year-old man from Red Valley, Ariz., is scheduled to go to trial in January to face a first-degree murder charge in Lossiah's death.
“They didn't have to kill Kevin,” Tso said. “He would have given them a ride.”
Lossiah's mother, uncle and other relatives watched the four-day trial that ended Friday morning when the jury returned with a verdict after more than six hours of deliberations.
Tso said the family is struggling to cope with how senseless his death was.
“If he had died of a heart attack, or in a car accident, the pain wouldn't have been so bad,” said Nora Lossiah, the victim's mother. “To have his life taken was the most painful thing a mother could go through.”
Nora Lossiah created a collage of pictures of her son growing up that she gave to Deputy District Attorney Robert Gentile and Assistant District Attorney Ken Stalter while they prosecuted the case.
Lossiah was raised in Torreon, a Navajo community near Cuba, by his aunt and grandmother in a traditional Navajo household.
Tso said Lossiah was a good student in his younger years. He dropped out of high school but later returned to earn a diploma and he took college courses at North Dakota State, Tso said.
He was living alone in Farmington and working nights at the Walmart in Durango, Colo., at the time of his death.
One of his favorite hobbies was playing in a drum circle group called the Southern Outlawz that performed in small venues on the reservation, Tso said.
“He was a very likable person. I don't think he ever got in a fight,” Tso said. “That's why there is extraordinary pain we are experiencing.”
Mark hasn't offered an explanation for the death.
The jury never heard that Mark confessed to the crime hours after he was arrested because District Judge John Dean ruled the confession was inadmissible in court. Before confessing, Mark told police he didn't want to answer questions and requested an attorney, according to court documents.
He didn't testify at trial and the defense didn't present evidence.
Their theory was there was not enough evidence to convict.
No one witnessed the crime, but Mark was linked to the murder because he had drops of Lossiah's blood on his clothes and he was holding the victim's keys when he was caught by police near Lossiah's home two hours after the crime.
The jury also found Mark guilty of armed robbery, which meant he could have been convicted of first-degree murder because the death was the result of a felony.
The jury declined to comment on its decision after the trial.
After the verdict was read, Mark briefly spoke to his family members who attended the trial. He passed on goodbyes to family that wasn't there and spoke hopefully of a possible appeal in several years.
Dean will sentence Mark sometime next month. A first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Mark won't be eligible for parole until he serves 30 years.
“As a defense team, we are disappointed,” said Tom Clark, Mark's attorney. “That's not to say I didn't think he was going to be convicted of something. I'm disappointed he was convicted in the first degree. I believe the evidence showed this was a fight between intoxicated men ... and that's a classic case of second-degree murder.”
A second-degree murder conviction has a 15-year prison sentence.
“That being said, there was compelling evidence that was difficult to overcome,” Clark said. “Had it not been for the (victim's) keys in my guy's pocket, I'm not sure the jury could have reached this verdict.”