Las Cruces man sentenced in tire iron death

LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) - A Las Cruces man who pleaded guilty to throwing a tire iron at a man during an argument, causing it to lodge in his head and kill him was sentenced in court Tuesday.

Vernon Castle Clark, 37, pleaded earlier this month to one count of voluntary manslaughter and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty on the four charges.

District Judge Fernando Macias handed down the 14 year sentence which will be followed by 18 months probation. According to the District Attorney's Office, Clark had three prior felony convictions and faced a mandatory sentence enhancement of four years.

Clark was charged in the death of Jose Lopez-Perez who was found dead with a tire iron lodged in the back of his head at a home in the 2100 block of Rocca Secca on February 23, 2016.

According to court documents, Lopez-Perez and Clark got into an argument and Clark threw the tire iron at him. Lopez-Perez was pronounced dead at the scene. Clark later admitted that he was trying to scare Lopez-Perez when he threw the tire iron at him.

“We asked the court for the sentence we felt was appropriate for Mr. Clark,” District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said. “We are pleased that the defendant chose to plead guilty in this case. Throughout this process, my office has worked closely with the victim’s family, and today’s sentence makes our community a little bit safer. Mr. Clark will have to face the consequences of his illegal actions and irresponsible decisions.”

In addition to the charges related to Lopez-Perez's death, Clark was also sentenced in three separate cases involving battery on peace officers, including an incident where he was accused of biting a detention officer.

He was sentenced to an additional 36 months in prison which will be served concurrently with the 14 year sentence.


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