For the third time, a convicted killer has been denied parole, 37 years after he kidnapped two University of New Mexico students, raping and killing one of them and nearly killing the other.
But why Michael Anthony Guzman has any chance of parole still outrages and re-traumatizes family and friends of his victims – including the one who lived.
“I did not ask for this,” Colene Bush said Friday in a phone call, her voice steeped in disgust. “I did not ask to go to war. I was forced to be at war, and I was left to die and my friend did die. What he did to her was horrid.”
What he did to Bush was horrid, too.
Guzman’s night of savagery happened in April 1981, so you would be forgiven if his name or his crime isn’t familiar. He was an 18-year-old dishwasher when he abducted Bush, 20, and Julie Jackson, 19, at knifepoint near the Frontier restaurant, where the two friends had been studying and talking over cinnamon rolls and coffee.
He forced the women into the back seat of a car rigged with no door handles and no escape and drove them to a dark and steep arroyo in Tijeras Canyon. There, he stripped, stabbed, raped and killed Jackson, smashing her face into the dirt as she struggled to breathe.
He left Bush fighting for her life after stabbing her 33 times and slashing her throat.
A psychologist testified at his trial in 1982 that Guzman was insane, abused as a child and unable as an adult to control his impulses.
Guzman testified he was scared, out of control, possessed by the devil that night.
Bush’s chilling testimony convinced jurors that Guzman should be put to death for his crimes.
For four years, Guzman was death row’s youngest inmate. But in 1986, he was among the five convicted killers to have their death sentences commuted by then-Gov. Toney Anaya, who declared weeks before his term ended that government-sanctioned execution was inhumane, immoral, anti-God and incompatible with an enlightened society.
Anaya later told the Journal it was unlikely any of the inmates would ever walk free, given the hefty penalties for the additional convictions in their cases.
That, as it turns out, is not a guarantee.
A life sentence in New Mexico is essentially 30 years, the minimum time that must be served before parole is considered. For Guzman, those 30 years were up in 2011. That February, he turned 48. That April, the parole board denied his parole.
The board also denied parole to Guzman in 2015.
Since then, his case is supposed to go before the board every two years, though his 2017 hearing was inexplicably skipped, parole board Executive Director Jo Ann Martinez said. His hearing Tuesday was perhaps an effort to catch up.
Bush said that her statement was read to the board by speakerphone the day before the hearing Tuesday and that she received a call Friday telling her Guzman’s parole had been denied. Martinez confirmed the denial.
“You people are paying taxes to support this man in prison and all these hearings and appeals,” Bush said. “We are all still paying for what he did. And I am still angry.”
The details of what happened to her that night replay in her mind ceaselessly – how she tried to talk Guzman out of hurting them, how he threw her in the trunk of his car because she wouldn’t stop talking, how she clawed her way out of the trunk through the back seat to escape, how she tried to run away despite having a stress fracture to her foot, how she pretended to be dead so he would stop stabbing her, how he kicked her as she lay quiet, how after he had gone she crawled out of the arroyo to the shoulder of Interstate 40 with one hand inserted in the gash in her throat to stem the bleeding, how she flat-lined twice before arriving at the hospital.
She has every right to be angry.
Should Guzman ever be granted parole, it would last indefinitely and be reviewed after five years, Martinez said.
Guzman’s time behind bars has been punctuated by his four marriages (three divorces, one annulment); siring three children, thanks to the now-discontinued conjugal visit program; his frequent transfers from prison to prison; and his repeated attempts to have his conviction overturned.
In 2011, he was beaten and nearly killed by other prisoners. He is housed now in the relatively cozy geriatric unit at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas. He is 55.
Bush, meanwhile, struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and many physical ailments. She no longer lives in Albuquerque. She is determined, her friends say, to keep speaking out against Guzman’s freedom and to remind others that life is worth fighting for.
“The story needs to be kept out there; it needs to be kept alive,” Bush said. “It needs to never be forgotten.”
Even if you don’t remember Guzman’s name, I hope you remember hers.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg.