AZTEC — A jury deliberated for about an hour Thursday evening before convicting Donovan King of first-degree murder for the death of Kevin Lossiah.
King, 24, was convicted of breaking into Lossiah's home on May 29, 2011, and beating him to death with a stick and a sock with a rock in it. Lossiah died of severe head trauma.
In New Mexico, a first-degree murder conviction automatically carries a sentence of life in prison. King will be sentenced to life in prison and won't be eligible for parole for at least 30 years. He was also convicted Thursday of conspiracy to commit murder, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and tampering with evidence.
"There was a few questions about if we had enough evidence and if we were having to speculate, but, for the most part, it was cut and dry," said Alisha Kalmbach, a Farmington woman who was part of the jury, which consisted of nine woman and three men.
Kalmbach said the evidence that stuck out to her was a blood-soaked pillow with one white spot where Lossiah was resting his head when he was attacked.
"It was completely drenched, and there was blood all around the floor, and the one spot where his head never moved stayed white," Kalmbach said. "That part will stay with me for a long time. ... From what it looked like to me, he was in his house sleeping and these guys came in a beat him to death."
In November 2012, King's co-defendant Justin Mark, 25, was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.
During King's four-day trial, assistant district attorneys Ken Stalter and David Cowen used witnesses to place King outside Lossiah's apartment the morning of the attack and show that Mark and King were found with Lossiah's blood on them and in possession of some of his items shortly after police were called to the scene. They showed the jury murder weapons with Lossiah's blood on them. And they played an audio recording of King telling a friend that he killed a man during a jail-house phone call.
Cosme Ripol, King's attorney, unsuccessfully argued that Mark was the primary aggressor in the attack. He also tried to convince the jury that police mishandled aspects of the investigation and Lossiah's death may have been the result of a party gone awry, not a planned murder. He said Mark and King were in a relationship and implied in his closing argument that Lossiah's death may have resulted from a love triangle.
"The defense promised you a story of passion, romance and some torrid affair," Stalter said. "That story is there, but not in the way he wants to tell. It's there because two people who were in a relationship crossed a line together."
Cowen asked the jury to narrow their attention to four facts as they deliberated: King had Lossiah's keys, King had Lossiah's blood on him, Lossiah was killed and "the defendant told you he did it."
Lossiah's family declined to comment after the verdict. One of King's relatives said the family respected the judicial process but declined to comment further.
"It's very difficult when you have a client who admits to killing someone on a jail-house telephone after being warned that it's being recorded," Ripol said after the trial.
Ripol said King was offered a chance to plead guilty to second-degree murder and two second-degree felonies but turned down the deal.
"I advised him to take the deal, and he wanted to go to trial, and I respect his choice. The verdict is the verdict," Ripol said. "I believe in the system. The jury heard the evidence. I did everything I could to represent Donovan King, and I respect the jury's verdict."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.