WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - A jury found Alex Rios guilty Dec. 9 of two counts of second-degree murder for the killing of two Navajo men, Kee Thompson and Allison Gorman. Sentencing will come at a later date. Two other teens were also charged in the killings.
Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates and Leonard Gorman, director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, said the guilty verdict provided some level of comfort and relief to the family, friends and relatives of the victims.
"When this tragedy occurred, it touched the hearts of many of our Diné citizens, including my colleagues on the Navajo Nation Council," Bates said. "With today's verdict, I hope the families feel that a certain level of justice has prevailed.
Rios was convicted of beating and killing the victims with cinderblocks, metal poles and other objects as the two men slept in a vacant lot in Albuquerque in July 2014.
"Alex Rios, the eldest of the three teens who attacked Gorman and Thompson was held accountable for his actions in these deaths," Gorman said. "A verdict was rendered in this case and we now await the sentencing phases, which we believe will tell us if justice is indeed served."
Following the killings, Navajo Nation officials met with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, which led to the creation of the Native American Homelessness Task Force to work in partnership with the city of Albuquerque to improve the quality of life for Native Americans in the city.
"The Navajo Nation will not sit quietly and observe our relatives living in border town communities being harmed by individuals who seek out defenseless and vulnerable individuals," Gorman said. "The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission advocates for those who have no voice or for those who are afraid to speak because of retaliation. We must act accordingly to bring attention to these matters and insist that border town officials be held to a due diligence standard that is unwavering to any public and criminal scrutiny that is before the courts."
Bates and Gorman said that the brutality of the murders must be met with punitive measures that send a clear message that perpetrators of such crimes against Navajo people are held accountable for their actions.
"On behalf of the council, I thank the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission for their ongoing efforts in the pursuit of justice and equality for our Navajo men and women in urban areas," Bates said. "I ask our people and my colleagues on the Navajo Nation Council to keep the families of the victims in our prayers."
One of the other teens charged in the case pled guilty to second-degree murder in September as part of a plea deal. The other defendant pled not guilty and is awaiting trial.