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Pueblo parolee charged with two murders avoids life in prison after striking plea deals in both cases

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) - A Pueblo man, at the center of multiple KRDO13 Investigates reports for his release from prison on parole before being charged with two murders, has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges in both cases.

Nicholas Tumblin, 33, was previously accused of shooting and killing 36-year-old Eric Trujillo on 3rd St. near downtown Pueblo in October, 2021. Then, while in the Pueblo County Jail on that charge, the Pueblo County Sheriff's office linked him to another murder in rural Pueblo County three months earlier in July, 2021. In that case, Tumblin was accused of shooting and killing Raymond Ray Jr. near Fowler over an alleged debt owed to Tumblin.

Nicholas Tumblin

After multiple years of hearings in both cases, Tumblin has agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter in Trujillo's case and guilty to 2nd-degree murder and 1st-degree kidnapping in Ray's case. In both cases, Tumblin's defense attorney's and prosectors for the 10th Judicial District Attorney's office have agreed to periods of prison time for each guilty charge.

According to the plea agreements obtained by KRDO13 Investigates, the 2nd-degree murder charge carries a 44-year prison sentence. The kidnapping charge carries a 16-year prison sentence, and the manslaughter charge carries an agreed upon six-year prison sentence. Tumblin has also pleaded guilty to a drug charge he picked up in jail, which will carry a ten-year prison sentence.

This means that although Tumblin avoids a life in prison without parole sentence, he will face 70 years in prison, if both plea agreements are accepted by Pueblo County District Judge William Alexander on April 11, Tumblin's sentencing hearing date.

So why didn't the 10th Judicial District Attorney's office take either murder case to trial? It's a question we posed to the elected DA Jeff Chostner. However, his office said a gag order placed on the case has prohibited the prosecution or defense from speaking publicly on the case or "giving any opinion as to the evidence or the merits of the cases," Assistant DA Tony Marzavas said.

"If I were a betting man, there's a strong possibility that you're going to be convicted on one of those," Pueblo defense attorney Shawn Conti said of being charged with two murders.

Without either side being able to speak to strengths and weaknesses of the evidence in the case, it's impossible to know if their were struggles with getting witnesses to testify or served subpeonas in time for a trial. Those are just two possibilities Conti posed around why the DA's office would offer plea deals in Tumblin's cases.

"It's not like on the TV shows where everybody's excited to go and testify and go in the court. Most people are people without a criminal history, they don't want to set foot in that building," Conti said. "So if you yourself have a criminal history or you've ever had a negative experience with law enforcement, you're going to do everything possible to dodge service, to not have to go."

There is still a possibility Judge Alexander could not accept either plea agreement and say these case must go to trial. Although, according to Conti, that possibility is low.

"It's in essence a life sentence. Plea deals aren't always a bad thing. I think when most of the community members hear the word plea deal, they think that someone's getting away with something," Conti explained. "Sometimes a plea deal, it's not only a benefit for the defendant, it's often times a benefit for the government, for the the victim's family and for the community as a whole, because it could save the community the costs of going to trial."

Tumblin will be sentenced on April 11. If he is sentenced to 70 years in prison, he also have a mandatory period of 5 years on parole post his release. Additionally, Colorado law says someone convicted of a crime of violence must serve 75% of their sentence before being eligible for early release. This means Tumblin would be mandated to serve 52 and a half years before being parole eligible.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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