3 sentenced in murder trial of 18-year-old boy

3 people sentenced in murder trial of 18-year-old boy

All five suspects involved in Ryan Saavedra Jr’s death are heading to prison.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — All five suspects involved in Ryan Saavedra Jr’s death are heading to prison. 

A judge sentenced the three remaining suspects Tuesday afternoon in back-to-back hearings more than two years after the murder. 

“I’m glad we’re getting justice,” said Danielle Saavedra. “I miss my son every day, and no mother should have to lose their child. I’m glad we got the justice we got today.” 

Domminick Mullen received 25 years. Elijah Tafoya received 4 years. Arianna Hawkins received 6 years. 

Two other suspects were sentenced earlier this year. Christian Benson was sentenced to 12 years. Ajole Guzman was sentenced to 18 years. All five suspects will have to serve some form of probation following their sentences.

“A little bit of closure for our family. We get to move on a little bit,” said Ryan Saavedra Sr. after the hearings. “Ryan gets to rest in peace finally. Ryan got justice.” 

Saavedra Jr. was shot and killed at a park in Albuquerque’s west side in April 2021. Prosecutors say the group of suspects organized a drug deal with him to obtain fentanyl. Documents say the group was planning to rob Saavedra Jr. 

Prosecutors say Hawkins organized the drug deal through social media, Benson drove the car, Guzman pepper sprayed Saavedra Jr., and Mullen shot him. All five suspects entered plea deals, but only Mullen, Benson, and Guzman were charged with murder. 

Judge Clara Moran made it clear Tuesday she wanted the case to set an example. 

“A case like this is so horrific, and so chilling, that it requires the maximum sentence,” she said during the hearing. “The crime in this case, the strategic planning, the seeking vulnerable individuals in our community has a deterrent value in our community.” 

Saavedra Jr’s mother revealed in October, her family lights a candle for Ryan during dinner every night. She said Tuesday that tradition will continue even after his case is resolved. 

“I’ll still continue making his plate of food and taking it to the cemetery for him,” she said. “I’m still gonna continue praying every day at that table like I do every day. Every meal, we pray.”