By Tony Parra
A Portales man was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison for his role in the 2004 death of Amber Robinson of Portales.
Ninth Judicial District Judge Stephen Quinn sentenced Clifford “Bubba” Baca, 21, after Baca pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and tampering with evidence.
A week-long trial had been scheduled to begin Monday, but the plea agreement was reached instead.
Robinson, 19, was killed in late April of 2004. Her body was found by police on May 7, 2004, buried in the back yard of the home where Baca and his brother Richard Baca lived.
“I received a sentence of life without Amber,” said Joann Martinez, the victim’s mother. “I go to bed every night praying that God gives me the strength to survive another day. People do not know what (her daughter’s killer) did to me.”
Martinez said her family wanted both Baca brothers to stand trial for first-degree murder in the case.
“All we ever asked was that the (district attorney’s) office do the best job they can do with the evidence they have in front of a jury,” Martinez said.
District Attorney Matt Chandler acknowledged the family was upset at the plea agreement, but said the facts of the case were sufficient for a second-degree murder charge. The same may not be true for a first-degree murder charge.
Donna Mowrer, senior prosecutor for the DA’s office, said police officers uncovered a human knee and hand when they were in the Bacas’ back yard searching for signs of Robinson.
New Mexico State Police were called and Robinson’s body was recovered, Mowrer said.
Mowrer and Chandler said Robinson may have been alive at the time of her burial.
Prosecutors allege Richard Baca beat her, then Clifford Baca made the choice to help bury her body.
“If the family thinks I don’t feel your pain, that I don’t feel sorrow, then you’re mistaken,” Clifford Baca said. “Bad things have happened. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive what happened.”
Martinez said the last time she saw her daughter, she was on her way to the Bacas’ home. “Don’t worry mom, Bubba and Richard have my back,” she told her.
According to court testimony, Robinson was killed on the night of April 26, 2004. Robinson and a female friend went to the Bacas’ home. According to court testimony, the four began to drink alcohol and then the female friend left Robinson with the Bacas.
Lucy Martinez told Judge Quinn she misses her granddaughter “so much every day.”
“Bubba was supposed to be her friend and not her murderer. Why did you do this to her?” she asked Cliff Baca.
Richard Baca remains in custody in Portales and is charged with first-degree murder. Chandler said the district attorney’s office will seek the maximum punishment of 30 years. Richard Baca’s trial date has not been set.
Cliff Baca must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole, Chandler said.