Slaying suspect returned to jail

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A homicide suspect in a Christmas Eve shooting was returned to jail Monday after a district court revoked his bond over concerns about the conditions of his house arrest.

Judge Joe Parker ordered Jimmy Bentley, 72, of Farmington held without bail at the Curry County Adult Detention Center. He cited a lack of confidence in an ankle-bracelet-monitoring system used to track the suspect while he was under house arrest. Bentley is charged with the shooting death of Joseph Phillips, 48, of Guthrie, Okla., at the Econo Lodge on Mabry Drive.

“I don’t want leniency; I want completeness,” Parker said. “I am not confident in the system enough to leave it in place.”

Parker’s decision came after hearing almost an hour of testimony and arguments.

A review of records shows periods of time between Feb. 22 and April 18 during which Bentley’s whereabouts were unknown.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said his office opposed Bentley’s house arrest from the outset.

“We were concerned about the safety of others and believe that he was quite possibly a flight risk since he’s not from this area,” Chandler said.
Bentley’s attorney, Randy Knudson of Portales, said his client has cooperated fully and shouldn’t be punished for a technological issue.
Knudson could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Richard Barry, a cab driver who said he was threatened by Bentley after witnessing the shooting, asked the judge to put Bentley back in jail.

“In my estimation, if any lapse is evident or circumstantial, it will diminish the state’s credibility,” said Sara Phillips, the victim’s mother, by telephone at the hearing. “The state of New Mexico must not condescend to playing games of trial and error.”

Denatalie Phillips, the victim’s sister, also spoke to the judge by telephone. She told of the family’s frustration at knowing Bentley has been free while awaiting trial and the added concern of knowing that his monitoring device was not tracking him correctly.

“I don’t have confidence in an experiment under these circumstances,” she said.

The owner of the ankle-bracelet-monitoring company told Parker during a hearing last week structural issues within Bentley’s home were causing interference with the device. She said she had personally verified Bentley was at home in each instance the system did not detect his ankle bracelet.

Duffield said she has since installed a new GPS system at Bentley’s residence capable of pinpointing Bentley’s location more accurately.
Duffield said she was trying to work with the court to give them assurance Bentley was being carefully monitored and had hoped he would not have to return to jail.

“I was disappointed that that was the decision they made,” she said.