Hampson accepts plea deal

Man agrees to second-degree murder charge, faces 25-year sentence

The 28-year-old Dolores man accused of killing a fellow Dolores resident about 15 months ago, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Tuesday afternoon in district court.

Luther Hampson's trial was scheduled to start on Monday. With the plea deal, he admitted to killing 27-year-old Jonathan Hayes.

Under the terms of the plea deal Hampson would receive 25 years in prison, and after his release would serve five years on parole.

Upon hearing the terms of the plea, several members of the Hayes' family openly wept in the courtroom with one woman leaving in tears.

District Court Judge Douglas Walker informed Hampson that he did not have to accept the terms of the plea deal when sentencing him in late May.

Because of the violent nature of the crime the second-degree murder sentencing range doubles from 16 to 48 years in prison.

Walker had previously ruled that any plea deal would have to be made two weeks before trial and asked why his order was being ignored.

Hampson's attorney Justin Bogan explained that negotiations on a plea agreement began in late January with counter offers being made back and forth.

He said his client wants to resolve this matter and start the healing process for all of the parties involved.

Jack Roth, from the Colorado Attorney General's Office, who is assisting the 22nd Judicial District Attorney's Office with the case, said this agreement serves justice.

Roth, speaking by phone, said he explained the situation to members of the victim's family who hoped for a stiffer sentence, but they said that they could accept the 25-year prison sentence.

"The plea agreement reaches the best interest of all parties," Roth said.

When the court contacted Carmelita (Tso) Payte, Hayes' mother, by phone, a man on the other end of the line said they had hoped for a more severe sentence but wanted accountability and a understood a trial could result in an acquittal.

Hampson told Walker he was accepting the plea because of the possibility he could have been found guilty at trial of the same or a more serious charge.

Walker ordered that Hampson, at his May 30 sentencing, must provide the court with a truthful detailed description of the murder charge that he pleaded guilty to.

For the purposes of Tuesday's hearing, Walker accepted the evidence presented at Hampson's preliminary trial as the factual basis for tentatively accepting the plea deal.

Also included in the plea agreement is that Hampson could never approach the court at any time during his incarceration to ask for consideration of a lesser sentence for any reason.

If Walker rejects the plea in favor of a sentence longer than 25 years, Hampson could either stand by the guilty plea and accept the new sentence, or withdraw from the agreed plea deal.

The judge also ordered a pre-sentence investigation which he will use in determining whether or not to approve the plea bargain.

Walker also revoked any bail amount and ordered Hampson to be held without bail, causing one member of Hayes' family to applaud in court.

Hampson was originally charged with first-degree murder in the death of Hayes whose body was discovered by hikers north of Dolores on Jan. 14. It was reported that the men had a verbal argument about Dec. 31. The two men were last seen together when they were dropped off near Road T on Jan. 6.

It was reported that Hayes died from a stab wound to the throat.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com