A Los Lunas man charged with murdering a Belen veteran in 2019 has been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.
Francisco Gomez, 39, pleaded guilty to and was sentenced on numerous charges, including second-degree murder, in connection with the shooting death of Matthew Gurule, 32, a Belen Marine veteran. Judge James Lawrence Sanchez of the 13th Judicial District presided over the Sept. 9 hearing.
Gomez was sentenced to 40 years, with eight years suspended, for a total of 32 years in prison.
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,” Gurule said.”The day I lost Matthew, I lost my mother, too. She never came back from it.”
On Sept. 3, Gomez’ girlfriend, Jeannine Willard, 47, pleaded guilty to seven counts for her involvement in the murder of Gurule. Willard is awaiting sentencing and is being held at the Valencia County Detention Center.
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 effect it is going to have on victims and the family. We have to (look) 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 outcome, and I just hope the family can begin to heal.”