Suspect pleads guilty in beating death outside bar in downtown
Family members of slain 32-year-old Richard Lee Martinez fought back tears Friday, winding their arms around each others’ backs in the front row of the courtroom.
Though loved ones had been bracing for a summer trial for the man accused of beating Martinez to death near a downtown Grand Junction bar, the assailant’s guilty plea Friday saved family some time, and possibly some further heartache.
Sahr Benjamin Mbawa, 27, faces 32 years in prison, according to set terms of his plea: guilty on two felony counts of reckless manslaughter and second-degree assault.
The length of his prison term is extended because he is being prosecuted as a habitual criminal for three previous drug-related felony convictions.
Asked Friday by Mesa County District Court Judge Brian Flynn why he was pleading guilty, Mbawa answered, “Because if I go to trial, I’ll lose.”
“Do you feel you’re guilty of what you’re pleading to?” Flynn asked.
“Yes,” Mbawa replied after a short pause.
Witnesses told police in an arrest warrant affidavit that Mbawa repeatedly punched and kicked Martinez in an early morning fight Nov. 3 near Quincy Bar, and the fight spilled into the nearby intersection of Sixth and Main streets.
Mbawa was arrested in Denver three days later.
Mbawa pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder charges and manslaughter during a February hearing. He will be sentenced April 16.