Judge issues sentence for man who pleaded guilty to 2019 murder

Justin Garcia
Las Cruces Sun-News
Murder suspect Isaac Vargas arrives in Third Judicial District Court on Monday Nov. 18, 2019.

LAS CRUCES - A man who pled guilty to killing another man in 2019 was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday afternoon. 

Isaac Vargas, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter, one count of tampering with evidence, and one count of possession of a firearm as a felon on March 17. Police believe Vargas shot and killed Isaiah Lara, 33, at the Telshor Manor apartments on Nov. 11, 2019. 

A grand jury indicted Vargas on charges of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and possession of a firearm as a felon. According to a plea agreement discussed during a hearing in March, prosecutors agreed to reduce the first-degree murder charge to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for a guilty plea. 

On Friday, the court heard letters from two family members. One, from Vargas' wife, requested that the judge be lenient on Vargas. The other, from Lara's family, called on the judge to condemn the man to the fullest available prison sentence. 

Matthew Jude Bradburn started the sentencing hearing by reading the letter from Vargas' wife. In the letter, she told the judge that Vargas was a good man and that their children needed a father. The woman told the court that Vargas was a critical component of their family structure even though he'd been held in jail without bond for the last three years. 

"Clearly this plea agreement represents Mr. Vargas taking responsibility," Bradburn said, adding that the facts of the case suggested that Vargas and Lara were fighting at the time of Lara's death. 

Bradburn also argued that Vargas was getting older and thus aging out of some of the restrictions around sentencing. But a woman speaking on behalf of Lara's family painted a different picture. She called Vargas a murderer and said Lara was no threat to Vargas when he died. 

"You took our brother. You took our friend, our cousin, our nephew, and our grandson," the woman said. "I just hope that when you go to bed tonight, tomorrow, and every night afterward that you remember the last words he said before you took him away."

Samuel Rosten, an assistant district attorney, said that the nature of the circumstances warranted a stern sentence. Rosten pointed out that Vargas had a total of six felony convictions including aggravated battery and robbery. He asked the judge for the full nine-year sentence. 

Ultimately, 3rd Judicial District Judge Douglas Driggers sentenced Vargas to six years for the voluntary manslaughter charge and one and half years each for the tampering with evidence charge and felon in possession of a firearm charge. The time in prison will run consecutively, Driggers ordered. 

Driggers also granted Vargas time served. Vargas has been in jail for over two years. once he's released, Vargas is set to be placed on parole for four years. 

Justin Garcia is a public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at

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