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UPDATED: Convicted Killer a Target of Violence

By Leslie Linthicum/Of the Journal

Convicted murderer and rapist – and former death row inmate – Michael Guzman was denied parole last spring and since then has switched prisons three times.

At the time of his parole hearing, Guzman was serving time at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa. He “attended” the hearing by video. Guzman was eligible for parole, despite once being marked for execution, because his death sentence was commuted to life by then-Gov. Toney Anaya in 1986 and Guzman had served the minimum requirement before parole consideration – 30 years.

Thirty years is a long time to be locked up. It’s also a long time to live without a murdered loved one. And, as I explored in a series of columns last spring, it’s a really long time to live with the scars of surviving a brutal attack.

Guzman was convicted, at 19, of abducting two young students from near the University of New Mexico, raping and fatally stabbing one and trying to kill the other, who survived with dozens of stab wounds.

He has at different times confessed, said he didn’t commit the crimes and said he was responsible only for the stabbing. During his life in prison, he has been married several times, fathered several children and had the two victims’ names tattooed on his back.

Guzman’s parole hearing was in early April. One month later, he was shipped to the penitentiary near Santa Fe “because of concerns about tension between him and other inmates,” according to Shannon McReynolds of the Department of Corrections.

Guzman was in Santa Fe while prison officials figured out where he should go next.

It probably doesn’t come as any surprise that prison inmates keep enemy lists. But I was surprised to learn that those lists are part of the official process in determining where a prisoner serves his time.

It’s how Guzman came to be transferred to the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton on Nov. 3.

“That was the one facility where no one had listed him as an enemy and he had no one listed on his enemy list,” McReynolds told me.

But that quickly changed. Three days into his stay at Clayton, while he was still in the orientation pod with other new inmates, prison officials say, Guzman was attacked by 15 fellow inmates and beaten badly.

He was taken by an air ambulance to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where he remained unconscious in a medically induced coma and under guard for nearly a month.

That narrative – the convicted murderer spared death by a governor’s pen only to be beaten nearly to death in prison – spurred “ha-ha” and much nastier on the Internet.

I kept tabs on Guzman’s condition because I was imagining the possibility of a more nuanced narrative – a man spared execution now lingering in a vegetative state with a decision to be made: Keep alive? Or let go?

Then Guzman began to recover.

On Dec. 8, he was discharged from the hospital and moved to the Long-Term Care Unit, a small medical unit at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility at Los Lunas. The unit takes care of inmates who have chronic health problems that prevent them from being in the general prison population.

“He’s communicating. In other words, talking,” McReynolds said. “He has motor function.”

Whether Guzman, 48, ever returns to the general prison population will depend on the extent of his recovery.

Before he was attacked, Guzman had tried yet again to challenge the legal case against him. In a habeas corpus petition, Guzman argued that he was under the influence of alcohol during the crime and that the jury should have been informed of that, which might have rendered a verdict of second-degree murder instead of capital murder.

Meanwhile, the 15 inmates who are alleged to have participated in Guzman’s beating may face criminal charges or prison discipline. The attack is being investigated by the Clayton Police Department.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal


8:56am 11/15/11 — Ex-Death Row Inmate Beaten Into Coma

Convicted rapist/murderer Michael Guzman is in a coma after he was attacked by more than a dozen inmates at a Clayton facility where he was moved about two weeks ago from the Santa Rosa prison for his safety, KRQE News 13 is reporting.

Guzman was sentenced to death for kidnapping and raping two University of New Mexico students back in 1981, killing one of them, News 13 reported.

His death sentence was commuted to life by former Gov. Toney Anaya, and his bid for parole was denied in April, according to earlier reports.

The Department of Corrections said the inmates involved in the attack were new to the Clayton facility and didn’t know each other, according to KRQE.

“He had been there for one day, he was in the orientation pod when 15 other inmates assaulted him,” Shannon McReynolds of the Department of Corrections told News 13.

Guzman has been at University of New Mexico Hospital since the attack earlier this month, KRQE reported.

“Currently he is unresponsive,” said McReynolds, who said doctors are currently doing tests to determine the extent of the injuries Guzman suffered, News 13 said.


4/5/11 –Ex-Death Row Inmate Denied Parole

By Leslie Linthicum/Journal Staff Writer

The New Mexico Parole Board denied former death row inmate Michael Guzman’s request for parole from prison Monday, after hearing a plea from his surviving victim.
Colene Bush, who was 20 in 1981 when she and a friend were abducted by Guzman and attacked in Tijeras Canyon, was one of several witnesses at the hearing in Santa Fe. Relatives of 19-year-old Julie Jackson, whom Guzman fatally stabbed after raping her, also attended. Guzman was present for the two-hour hearing by video from the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility.
Bush did not speak at the parole hearing, but her brother read a letter she had written board members. “It said the jury had made a decision 29 years ago and I was there to reinforce the will of the jury,” Bush said after the hearing.
Bush, who was stabbed dozens of times and left for dead, survived the attack, crawled to safety and testified against Guzman at his death penalty trial in 1982.
Guzman was one of five inmates whose death sentences were commuted to life in prison by Gov. Toney Anaya at the end of his term in 1986. A life sentence in New Mexico is a minimum of 30 years before the possibility of parole. This month marked Guzman’s 30 years behind bars.
Guzman, now 48, will continue to serve out his life sentence because of the parole board’s action Monday. He will be eligible for parole again in two years. If he is eventually paroled, he will begin serving another 16 years in prison for rape, kidnapping and attempted murder.
Guzman’s parole possibility and the effects of the crime on Bush and others were featured last month in a series of UpFront columns in the Journal. Bush, who 30 years later bears the scars of dozens of stab wounds, described a life on hold as she tried to deal with the physical and emotional aftermath of the crime and said Guzman should never walk free.
The parole board’s executive director, Ella Frank, said the board received “a mountain of letters” — at least 60 — and most were opposed to parole for Guzman.