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Man convicted of smothering 5-year-old son with a pillow gets prison sentence

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Fernando Azofeifa was convicted of killing his 5-year-old son Azarius LaMotte by smothering him with a pillow
  • Azofeifa pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and no contest to the aggravated assault
  • Azarius's mother was the only family member to speaking during the sentencing

AZTEC — A Farmington man convicted of murdering his five-year-old son was sentenced to 22 years in prison in what a San Juan County Sheriff's Office lieutenant described as the most heinous crime he's ever witnessed.

Fernando Azofeifa, 46, was charged on April 1, 2019, with a first-degree felony count of murder and a fourth-degree felony count of aggravated assault, according to court documents.

Azofeifa was convicted of killing his five-year-old son Azarius LaMotte by smothering him with a pillow. He was also convicted of pointing a firearm at a man.

The defendant entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder and no contest plea to the aggravated assault charge during a hearing on the morning of Oct. 6 in front of Chief District Court Judge Karen Townsend in Aztec District Court.

Fernando Azofeifa

The murder charge was reduced as part of a plea agreement signed by the prosecution and Azofeifa. A conviction for first-degree murder carries a basic sentence of life in prison.

Azofeifa was sentenced to 20 years in the New Mexico Department of Corrections on the second-degree murder conviction and two years on the aggravated assault charges.

"This was a difficult case to make a plea offer on," San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien told The Daily Times. "We discussed it with the mother of the victim on multiple occasions and her wishes were that we make the offer we did."

Mother speaks

Samantha LaMotte, Azarius' mother, was the only family member to speak during the sentencing.

She said she agreed with the plea agreement and also read a letter to Azofeifa from her family, stating they still loved him and forgave him.

Samantha stated Jesus will love him and that the family hopes "the Lord" forgives Azofeifa for what he did.

MORE:Candlelight vigil held in honor of slain 5-year-old boy

Judge Townsend said this was a difficult case and justice needed to be served for the death of Azarius, but she felt she could not impose a sentence to adequately address the crime.

She cited the testimony of San Juan County Sheriff's Office Lt. Justin Rieker, who described the crime as one of the worst and most heinous crimes he's ever witnessed.

Azofeifa briefly addressed the court, stating he loved his son and wanted to protect him. He stated he didn't see any other option, as the only person he thought could take care of Azarius was God.

The case

Marissa Etcitty, left, and Billy Freeman, right, hold their candles during a vigil for five-year-old Azarius LaMotte Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the Village Apartment complex. Lamotte's father Fernando Azofeifa was convicted of killing Azarius.

Azofeifa's aggravated assault charges stems from a March 30, 2019, incident where he pointed a rifle at a man during a custody exchange involving Samantha in Kirtland.

Azofeifa smothered his son to death with a pillow at approximately 9 a.m. March 31, 2019. He was taken into custody later that day in the 2600 block of North Dustin Avenue in Farmington.

San Juan County Sheriff's Office Detective Mike Rietz previously testified in an April 4, 2019, hearing that the defendant confessed to killing his son with a pillow. Azarius' body was found in a bathtub in an apartment.

MORE:Farmington man accused of murdering five-year-old son appears in court

Azofeifa was previously a golf professional at Riverview Golf Course in Kirtland and the head golf coach at Navajo Preparatory School.

Lamotte's murder prompted dozens of people on April 4, 2019, to host a candlelight vigil at the Coronado Apartments at 2600 N. Dustin Ave.

Azofeifa has been held at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center since March 31, 2019 and will get credit for time served. After he completes his prison sentence, he will be deported back to Costa Rica, according to O'Brien said.

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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