Chris Meier gives an emotional statement to the widow of his victim shortly before being sentenced Monday to six years in prison. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)
By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
A district court judge denied an impassioned plea for leniency and forgiveness and sentenced 20-year-old Chris Meier to six years in prison Monday for his role in the shooting death of another Clovis man.
Judge Ted Hartley told the defendant he didn’t believe he “was a bad-to-the core person” but he did commit a serious crime.
“I just cannot have shooting on the streets in the town I grew up in,” Hartley said.
The sentence, which followed a plea agreement for voluntary manslaughter, was the maximum Hartley could have given under New Mexico law.
Meier was one of three men who participated in a car chase and shootout that resulted in the death of Carlos Murillo, 27, of Clovis on Jan. 4, 2004, according to police.
Meier pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in June, according to the district attorney’s office.
Murillo’s widow, Eleisa Luero-Murillo, said during Monday’s sentencing hearing in district court that emotional wounds don’t leave visible scars but they take a long time to heal.
She went on to describe her husband as an amazing person. “He wasn’t perfect,” Luero-Murillo said. “But I am a better person for knowing him.”
Luero-Murillo was three months pregnant when her husband was killed. “He wasn’t there to see his daughter born and he will never see her smile.” she said.
Meier told police the shooting was self-defense.
District Attorney Matt Chandler said numerous shots were exchanged between Murillo and a vehicle driven by Meier’s co-defendant, Eric Duran, during the half-mile chase near the North Plains Mall.
Earlier this year, Duran pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and Santiago Calbert pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting. Duran was sentenced to 15 years in prison and Calbert six years.
Luero-Murillo said she didn’t believe Meier committed the crime out of fear.
“He had a choice,” Luero-Murillo said. “He had a gun in his hand.”
Luero-Murillo went on to say she hoped one day Meier would feel the full weight of the consequences of his actions.
Given an opportunity to speak on the defendant’s behalf, Meier’s father and several aunts and uncles apologized to the victim’s family. The Meier family emotionally described Chris Meier as a multi-talented music lover who had never been in trouble before. Meier’s father, John, asked the judge to “break the cycle of hatred and violence.”
Chris Meier took the podium and addressed the victim’s family.
“I am deeply remorseful for my involvement.” he said. Meier went on to say he didn’t even know Carlos Murillo. “I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I believe anyone would have done the same thing.”
Meier asked God and both families for forgiveness. He asked Hartley for leniency and promised he would never be seen in court again.
Defense attorney Tye Harmon requested permission to play a song called “Made Up,” which was written, composed and recorded by Meier on July 15.
The Meier family openly cried as they listened to the recording.
Harmon closed by asking the judge to consider options other than prison.
“He has been the only one to show remorse for this crime,” Harmon said.
Meier will be required to serve 85 percent of his sentence under New Mexico law.
“I’m happy for the maximum exposure,” Chandler said. “Six years doesn’t seem like justice.”
Harmon requested Meier be given until at 5 p.m. Wednesday so he could spend 48 hours with his family before being booked into the Department of Corrections.
Hartley denied the request and the defendant was led away in handcuffs as his family members fell to their knees and sobbed.