Man sentenced for killing homeless man along river

A man who once faced a life sentence in the beating death of a homeless man was sentenced instead Friday to nine years in prison.

Michael Bateman, 43, a five-time convicted felon who also was homeless, originally was charged with second-degree murder and faced up to 96 years in prison for the December beating death of 45-year-old Todd Pierce at a transient camp on the Colorado River. Bateman, however, pleaded guilty in July to a reduced charge of manslaughter under a plea agreement with the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

“Thank you very much, your honor,” Bateman told District Judge Brian Flynn after the hearing. “Have a nice day.”

When questioned by the judge about the district attorney’s willingness to enter into a plea bargain, Chief Deputy District Attorney Tammy Eret said conflicting statements from witnesses — many of whom were drunk during and immediately after the assault on Pierce when interviewed by police — made it difficult to prove murder.

Pierce was found dead Dec. 19 at a homeless camp near the 100 block of Power Road along the Colorado River. He had been beaten and kicked in the chest and head. The Mesa County Coroner’s Office ruled Pierce died after a cracked rib ruptured his spleen.

Further complicating the case, Eret said, was the fact investigators found evidence that Pierce had assaulted Bateman with a frying pan in an argument over alcohol days before Pierce’s death, and had set fire to a tent that Bateman had used.

Bateman and Arthur Boyer, 45, who has pleaded guilty as an accessory to manslaughter, were also drinking around the time of the assault. An autopsy showed Pierce’s blood-alcohol content was three times Colorado’s legal limit for driving.

Boyer is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.


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