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The hearing occurred on Oct. 9 in Aztec District Court

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FARMINGTON — A Farmington man charged in the death of his uncle has pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter as part of a plea agreement and will have five years of probation.

Joshua Benally, 25, pleaded no contest to the fourth-degree felony during an Oct. 9 hearing in Aztec District Court in front of Chief District Court Judge Karen Townsend, according to San Juan County Chief Assistant District Attorney Dustin O'Brien.

The defendant will have five years of supervised probation and was not given a prison sentence.

Joshua was initially charged with a third-degree felony count of voluntary manslaughter on Jan. 27, 2017 in the death of his uncle Marcus Benally, who died on July 21, 2016, according to The Daily Times archives.

The defendant was accused of strangling Marcus during a fight on July 20, 2016, in the 2500 block of Lee Avenue in Farmington.

Arlon Stoker, Joshua's attorney, said his client had a strong defense in the case and that Joshua didn't want to put his family through a trial.

"Everyone believed it was an appropriate resolution to the case," Stoker said.

O'Brien stated he believed the five years of supervised probation was a fair resolution in the case as it wasn't the defendant's intention to kill the victim and there wasn't enough evidence to suggest the act was an intentional killing.

Marcus appeared intoxicated prior to getting into a fight with Joshua, according to witnesses interviewed by police.

Joshua told officers he was shoved by Marcus then his uncle started to punch him.

The two started to fight, which led to Joshua wrapping his arm around Marcus' neck in an attempt to calm him down.

Witnesses saw two men and Joshua hold down Marcus.

The victim was found outside an apartment by officers arriving on the scene and he had stopped breathing.

Paramedics performed CPR on Marcus for about 10 minutes before transporting him to San Juan Regional Medical Center. He died on the next day in the intensive care unit.

Marcus' cause of death was listed as traumatic asphyxia and manual strangulation.

The prosecution and defense agreed to a conditional discharge of Joshua's conviction, which could allow the defendant to avoid the felony conviction on his criminal record if he successfully completes a term of probation.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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