Aztec man pleads to manslaughter in fistfight

Shawn Pickerill, 26, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter in the slaying of Brandon Manchester, 32, in October 2014

Steve Garrison
At center, Shawn Pickerill, stands before the start of his change of plea hearing on Monday at Aztec District Court.
  • The man accused of killing Brandon Manchester in 2014 pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter.
  • The offense is punishable by 1 1/2 years in prison, and Manchester's family asked for the maximum.
  • The judge ordered Shawn Pickerill to undergo a 60-day evaluation by the state corrections department.
  • Pickerill has been accused of punching Manchester, who died two days later at the hospital.

AZTEC — Shawn Pickerill, the 26-year-old Aztec man charged with killing Brandon Manchester during a fistfight in October 2014, pleaded no contest this afternoon to involuntary manslaughter.

Judge Karen Townsend heard testimony from the family of both men at today's hearing, but she did not immediately sentence Pickerill for the offense, which is punishable by up to 1 1/2 years in prison.

Townsend instead ordered Pickerill to undergo a 60-day evaluation by the New Mexico Department of Corrections.

Pickerill was arrested last May on charges of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery on allegations he punched Manchester in the face at a funeral gathering on Oct. 19, 2014, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Manchester was transported after the fight to San Juan Regional Medical Center and treated for cardiac arrest and acute alcohol intoxication. He died at the hospital two days later, but it took medical investigators several months to rule Manchester's death a homicide. Alcohol was determined to be a significant contributing factor in the death, according to an autopsy report.

Manchester was 32.

At center, 11th Judicial District Court Judge Karen Townsend speaks to Shawn Pickerill, left, and his attorney, Arlon Stoker, right, on Monday at Aztec District Court.

Pickerill told detectives Manchester twice tried to pick a fight with him that evening and other guests described Manchester as drunk and belligerent. Pickerill admitted to consuming approximately 18 beers throughout the night, according to the affidavit.

The voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery charges were dismissed in December in favor of a single count of second-degree murder, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Pickerill told the judge at today's hearing he pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter against the advice of his attorney, Arlon Stoker. He said he did so to avoid trial on the murder charge.

Manchester's parents, sister and wife requested the judge sentence Pickerill to the maximum sentence.

"He was the sunshine of my soul," Vicki Morrow, Manchester's mother, said about her son.

Shawn Pickerill, left, talks with his attorney, Arlon Stoker, on Monday at Aztec District Court.

Patrick Manchester, the deceased man's father, said his son was "a good kid" who would "light up a room." He lamented the loss of his son in a fight that "went too far."

"I think 18 months is justifiable, because I'll never have my son back," he said.

Danielle Pickerill said in her brother's defense he had never before been in similar trouble with the law.

"My brother has a good heart," she said. "He is a good man and provider to two young children and a wife."

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.