Roswell man sentenced to 48 years for murder

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Brandon Barela waves to his family Monday after receiving his sentence of 48 years for the death of Ron Hittson. Barela will be eligible for parole after he completes a 30-year life sentence and 85 percent of an 18-year term.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A 25-year-old Roswell man was sentenced Monday to a life sentence plus 18 years in prison for the 2009 robbery and murder of a Tucumcari truck driver.

Brandon Barela will be required to serve 30 years plus 85 percent of an additional 18 years before he is eligible for parole.

Ron Hittson’s body was found April 2 near the intersection of Sugarbeet Road and State Road 523 in Curry County.

He had been beaten in the face with a concrete block, leaving his features unrecognizable.

Barela was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and two counts of tampering with evidence in December.

The sentence was rendered by 9th Judicial District Judge Stephen Quinn following a near two-hour hearing in which family members of Barela and Hittson spoke.

“There’s nothing that Mr. Hittson did that night that warranted what happened,” Quinn told the crowded courtroom.

Quinn said based on Barela’s background, the act seemed to be an “anomaly,” but it, “shows an element of savagery.”

Prosecutors had asked Quinn to give Barela the maximum sentence possible of life plus 36 years.

Prosecutor Chamille Chavez pointed out to the court that Barela had never apologized or admitted wrongdoing, but instead spoke only of himself and minimized the killing.

“This wasn’t a fight, this wasn’t a mistake, this wasn’t a bad situation,” Chavez said, arguing that Barela cannot be rehabilitated.

“I don’t know how much more you can show somebody you are not a good candidate for parole or probation than to kill somebody while you’re on probation … He decided it was appropriate to kill somebody for a couple hundred dollars. There’s absolutely no reason for what he did other than he’s greedy and violent.”

Hittson, 51, had stopped in Clovis the night of April 1 to relax on his way to Albuquerque. Chavez said previously, while at Webb’s Watering Hole on Mabry Drive, he met up with Barela and two other Roswell men in town working for a dairy testing company.

Prosecutors have said Barela set Hittson at ease with friendly conversation and alcohol, then lured him into a vehicle under the guise of finding drugs with the intention of robbing him.

About half a dozen of Barela’s family members spoke, describing him as a hard-working and caring father to two young daughters.

At the time of the murder, he was making $50,000 a year and was supporting his daughters and living a good, hard-working life.

“He made a terrible mistake and we’re all paying for it,” his mother, Gloria Barela, said. “When they say this stuff about my son, that’s not my son. He had too much going for him. … I don’t know what went wrong. If I could take back that day, I would.”

Barela told the court the murder changed him. He vowed to serve his life as a preacher, sharing the word of God.

“The day I lost everything, I gained everything. The day I came to jail, I found Jesus Christ,” he said. “Someday I’ll help save lives. I’ll make an influence the rest of my life with my testimony. … That Bible will not leave my side.”

Barela turned to his family and told them he appreciated their love and support and that he would do good with his life.

“Mom, I wont let you down. I will preach the word of God no matter where I go,” he said.

Hittson’s family asked the judge for the maximum sentence.

“Brandon Barela took Ronnie away from his family for the amount of $300,” his brother, Gary Hittson, said. “He was taken away from us in such a savage way. … I hope that while he sits in prison he thinks about what he did for the rest of his life.”

In a letter read to the court by District Attorney Matt Chandler, Hittson’s brother Jackie Hittson asked for, “No leniency, zero tolerance.

“All of our hope is gone. … It is our belief that given the chance, he will do the same again.”

Quinn said he opted for the possibility of parole because of Barela’s age and lack of a criminal record.