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Saturday, May 6, 2006
Astorga's Brother to Be Released in 3 Weeks
By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
The brother of accused cop killer Michael Paul Astorga will be released from prison in three weeks.
And despite having a murder conviction, Matthew Astorga, 28, will not be supervised by the Department of Corrections when he is released May 26.
"He has fulfilled his commitment and (supervision) is not required at this stage of the game for him," said Tia Bland, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Corrections.
In 1997, Matthew Astorga was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 27-year-old Jose Maldonado Sigala, who was shot five times with a shotgun outside his Martineztown home in October 1996.
Michael Paul Astorga was also tried as a co-defendant, but a jury acquitted him.
Initially, Matthew Astorga was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but in 1999 the state Court of Appeals ruled that he receive a new trial. The jury should have had the opportunity to convict him of voluntary manslaughter, a lesser crime, the court said.
He then pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to eight years.
In April 2001, after serving about five years in prison and getting credit for good time, Matthew Astorga was released on parole.
More than three years later, in October 2004, he violated the conditions of his parole because he didn't check in with his parole officer. He was sentenced to three more years, according to court records. After getting credit for good time again, he is due to be released in three weeks, thus serving about six and a half years in connection with Sigala's killing.
"Serving six years for murdering someone by shooting them five times with a shotgun is another example of how the criminal justice system in New Mexico is a miserable failure," Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said. "I believe it is time for the governor and the Legislature to toughen the laws so murderers are held accountable."
Michael Paul Astorga, who turned 30 on Wednesday, has been charged in connection with the March 22 shooting death of Deputy James McGrane.
McGrane had pulled Astorga over in Tijeras and police believe that Astorga shot the deputy because he was wanted in connection with the November killing of Candido Martinez.
Michael Paul Astorga has one other brother in prison for murder. Anthony Lucero is serving a life sentence in Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas. In 2001, Lucero, who was a private in the U.S. Army, shot and killed a fellow soldier in Albuquerque. An Army court martial at Fort Hood, Texas, sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.