SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The defense asked for 20 years.
Prosecutors asked for 30 years.
The judge gave 40.
Brooke Beckley, 21, was sentenced Monday to 40 years in federal prison for helping orchestrate the 2016 ambush killing of a Mexican man in rural Webster County.
Prosecutors say Beckley recruited several others in a plot to kill Oscar Adan Martinez-Gaxiola on April 25, 2016, after Martinez-Gaxiola came to southwest Missouri to collect on Beckley’s $40,000 drug debt.
At a sentencing hearing Monday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Springfield, about 40 people packed Judge Roseann Ketchmark’s courtroom to support Beckley, a former honor student and standout soccer player from Nixa.
Before Ketchmark decided the sentence, Beckley’s attorney Shane Cantin told the judge that Beckley went on the fast track – from normal high school kid to first-time drug user, to meth addict, to large-scale distributor.
Cantin said Beckley’s addiction played a major role in her poor decision-making at that time, and he asked for a sentence below the federal recommendation.
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“She understands exactly what she did and she’s very sorry for all of it,” Cantin said.
Beckley also addressed Ketchmark, telling the judge she was sorry that her actions had led to Martinez-Gaxiola’s death and caused so much pain to her family.
Beckley also described giving birth to her daughter while in federal custody and the difficulty of knowing she would miss out on so many milestones in her daughter’s life.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Eggert argued that a 20-year sentence would send the wrong message, since Beckley and co-defendant Yovanny Mendivil-Balderrama were “co-equals” in planning the homicide.
“This is not a tragedy,” Eggert said. “It’s not a mistake. It’s a crime.”
Beckley pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to distribute meth and using a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, resulting in murder.
Court documents say police busted Beckley with four pounds of meth in April 2016.
That loss led to Beckley owing $40,000 to a drug-trafficking organization of which Martinez-Gaxiola was a member.
Authorities say Beckley and Mendivil-Balderrama then recruited others to help them lure Martinez-Gaxiola out to rural Webster County, where he was ambushed and shot to death.
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Prosecutors could have asked for a life sentence, but they instead asked for a 30-year sentence, in part because Beckley had accepted responsibility for her actions.
Judge Ketchmark said she felt that a 40-year sentence was necessary to support law enforcement and protect the public.
“My heart breaks in this situation,” Ketchmark said before reading her decision.
The judge’s decision was met with tears from Beckley and many of her supporters in the courtroom.
There is no parole in federal prison.
In addition to Beckley, four others have pleaded guilty in federal court to their roles in the case – Mendivil-Balderrama, Anthony Donovan, Nathaniel Lee and Jourdan McGinnis.
McGinnis, who was not involved in the homicide, was sentenced to seven years in prison. The other defendants have not yet been sentenced.
In state court, Joshua Applegate pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon and was sentenced to five years probation. He was initially charged with murder.
(Story shared by Springfield News-Leader. Read the original article here.)