Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
James Finch, accused of killing his father and critically injuring his mother in a knife attack in 2015, was sentenced Thursday to 27 years in prison – a sentence his mother said will allow her to finish her life without fear that he would be free to attack her again.
Finch, 26, pleaded no contest to second-degree murder, attempted murder and lesser charges under an agreement with the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Upon completion of his sentence, he will also be required to spend five years on supervised probation.
For years prior to the attack, his parents had tried to help James through drug use, anger and social disorders. But they had become fearful for their safety, and eventually both took out restraining orders against him and told him he was no longer welcome at their Northeast Albuquerque home, his mother, Kathy Finch, told the Journal in earlier interviews.
On Thursday, she addressed the court.
“Twenty-seven years in prison for you should let me live out the remainder of my natural life without fear for my safety,” Kathy Finch said during the brief hearing before Judge Brett Loveless in state District Court in a courtroom that was nearly empty except for news media.
In August 2015, police arrived at the Finch family’s home and found David Finch, 60, dead in the entryway and Kathy Finch beaten, stabbed and clinging to life. James Finch was covered in blood, wearing nothing but socks, and hiding under patio furniture on the back porch, police said.
After his arrest James Finch was found incompetent to stand trial. But following months of treatment, Loveless found him competent.
Given the opportunity to address the court before he was sentenced, James Finch offered a short message to his mother.
“I just want to say to my mom that I am sorry for what I’ve done,” he said, “and I do love her.”
Kathy Finch, who had been a physician before she was critically injured, said after the hearing that her son’s statement offered a “glimmer of hope.”
“I had grown to feel that he was a man with no empathy and no care,” she told a group of reporters. “I was afraid he was lost forever. There’s a glimmer of hope now.”
As she addressed the court, she updated her son on the events of the year and a half since the attack. She has had no contact with him since that day, and his sentence prohibits future contact.
“Grandpa Joe has died, Grandpa Dave has died,” she said. “My clinic is closed. The house is sold and gone.”
She said the hearing, which concludes James’ criminal case, offered her some relief. She was thankful that the plea agreement allowed her to avoid the agony of a trial. And she is relieved that the lengthy sentence will let her live without the fear that James is “hovering around the corner.”
Kathy Finch’s recovery has been lengthy. Her injuries were mainly to her head, face, neck and arms. She had to learn to talk again, a portion of her tongue was stabbed and she lost a tooth. Even now, her speech is slurred.
“I tried to count the cuts,” she said. “There must have been 30, 40. I had no floor of my mouth left.”
She said Thursday she has forgiven her son, and said it felt like she lost him years ago.
“I grieve the loss of my sweet husband, Dave,” she said in court, “and I grieve the loss of you, the cherished child who became a troubled son, and gave your life away to drugs.”
Finch had been released from jail in a domestic violence case involving his girlfriend just days before the attack. Shortly after his release, his father contacted police to report that James had dug a hole in the backyard, which he believed was meant to “symbolize a grave intended for his parents,” police said.
Finch said masked men put a gun in his mouth and told him to kill his parents. When he surrendered to police, according to court documents, he told them “they are trying to kill my parents,” and “I don’t want to die.”
Raymond Maestas, Finch’s defense attorney, said that long before the attack, Kathy Finch had brought her concerns about her son’s mental health to the attention of a judge in another case against him. Maestas said an expert in forensic psychology found James Finch incompetent to stand trial in the murder case, but he was sent to Las Vegas, N.M., for nine months of treatment and evaluation in the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute.
Upon his release, Maestas said, Finch was deemed competent. And Loveless issued an order in October finding Finch competent.
“If you go logically with the court’s ruling, the treatment worked,” Maestas said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get that treatment soon enough to avoid this tragedy.”