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30-year sentence in brutal kidnapping, beating case

Mariah Ferry, 19 (MDC)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mariah Ferry was 19 in 2017 when she was arrested, along with her boyfriend and two other friends, in the brutal killing and mutilation of 41-year-old John Soyka and the kidnapping and torture of Matthew Tressler.

On Friday, a federal judge in Santa Fe determined the now-22-year-old will spend the next 30 years in prison, a term that the judge said will ensure public safety, keep Ferry behind bars for longer than she has been alive so far, and also allow for her rehabilitation. Her plea agreement mandated she spend a minimum of 30 years in prison, with a maximum of 40.

Both Ferry and her boyfriend, 32-year-old Chase Smothermon, pleaded guilty to kidnapping Tressler and conspiracy to kidnap earlier this year. Smothermon faces between 40 and 60 years in prison and he has not yet been sentenced. Jose Torrez is facing 14 years after pleading to conspiracy to kidnap.

Charges of kidnapping resulting in death were dismissed under their plea agreements. That crime carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment and is death penalty eligible, although the government said it was not going to seek the death penalty.

Chase Smothermon

A third man, Mitchell Overhand, was sentenced in 2019 to a year in jail and three years of probation for his involvement in the case.

In her plea agreement, Ferry detailed the events leading up to Soyka’s death and Tressler’s kidnapping and torture. She said on Aug. 5, 2017, she and Smothermon were on vacation in Pueblo, Colorado, when they learned their southwest Albuquerque house had been broken into and marijuana and money stolen. Smothermon was told Tressler and Soyka were responsible.

So Smothermon and Ferry went to Torrez’s house, where Soyka was staying, and Smothermon beat him nearly to death in the garage while Ferry blocked the exits, according to the narrative in the agreement. They then put his body in the trunk of Ferry’s car, where he died. Then the couple lured Tressler to their house where they bound and tortured him for hours, showing him photos of Soyka’s mutilated body. Eventually, Overhand intervened and the others let him go.

Soyka’s body was found buried in the Rio Puerco, outside Rio Rancho, about a month later.

During Friday’s sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez said the case was one of the hardest she has ever had, in part due to the extreme brutality of Ferry and Smothermon’s actions laid out in documents and seen in videos.

John Soyka

“I think 30 years is enough,” Vázquez said. “I know, Mr. and Ms. Soyka, nothing can bring back your son…”

At the hearing, Ferry’s defense attorney argued that she had been sexually abused as a child and in abusive relationships, leading her to drug abuse and crime, while the prosecution said she was evil and deserved the maximum 40 years. The hearing also included testimony from a psychologist, as well as from Soyka’s mother – who has attended hearings on the case for years – Ferry’s mother and Ferry herself.

“We don’t know what it’s like to lose a child but we do know what it’s like to watch a child disappear due to drugs,” Ferry’s mother told the court. “When you peel back the layers of everyone involved in this case the common denominator is drugs and that’s what we should be angry about.”

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