The Los Lunas man charged with murdering a Belen veteran in 2019 has been sentenced to more than three decades in prison.
Francisco Gomez, 39, pleaded guilty to and was sentenced on numerous charges — including second-degree murder — in relation to the shooting death of Matthew Gurule, 32, a Belen Marine veteran, before 13th Judicial District Court Judge James Lawrence Sanchez this morning, Thursday, Sept. 9.
Gomez was sentenced to 40 years, with eight years suspended, for a total of 32 years in prison.
In regards to the sentence, Gurule’s younger sister, Rheanna Gurule, said she was grateful Gomez was “able to admit he did wrong, instead of sitting through a trial and fighting, saying he didn’t do it and possibly getting away with murder.
“I’m at peace with it. I’m glad we got the opportunity to speak today so (Gomez) could hear how we were affected. The day I lost Matthew, I lost my mother too. She never came back from it.”
On Friday, Sept. 3, Gomez’ girlfriend, Jeannine Willard, 47, pleaded guilty to seven counts for her involvement in the murder of Gurule. Willard has not been sentenced at this time and is being held at the Valencia County Detention Center awaiting sentencing.
According to the plea and disposition agreement filed with the court, there is an initial sentencing agreement to cap Willard’s incarceration at 18 years.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jessica Martinez said Willard’s plea was based on her full cooperation and truthful testimony against Gomez.
“Once she took the plea and entered into an agreement, things moved quickly and dominoed into Francisco (Gomez) pleading,” Martinez said. “Pleas are always hard. We have to look at the affect it is going to have on victims and the family. We have to at the evidence and the credibility of witnesses. You put all that together and determine what is a reasonable plea. The good thing with a plea is you have a guaranteed outcome, but with a trial, you never know. In this case, we have an out come and I just hope the family can begin to heal.”
For more detailed coverage of this case, read the Sept. 16 issue of the News-Bulletin.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.