A Montezuma County man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of James Lloyd Box Jr., who was fatally shot Jan. 2 on Haycamp Mesa east of Dolores.
After accepting the plea deal on Monday, District Court Judge Doug Walker sentenced Kevin Wade Folsom to 25 years in prison, plus five years of supervised parole.
During an emotional sentencing hearing, Box's parents gave statements to the court about the impacts of losing their son, a Southern Ute tribal member.
"To wake up in the morning and realize my son is gone hurts inside," said Eddie Box. "It has been a very hard and difficult time, and we miss our son."
He recounted how his son enjoyed participating in Native American ceremonies and sang traditional spiritual songs. The family has had to control its anger, Box said, but feels the court is taking care of justice through sentencing.
The victim's mother, Betty Box, said that the last time she saw her son, he looked well and was looking to improve his life.
"He wanted to come home and be with family," she said.
The family is very spiritual, Betty Box said, and James embraced the traditional ways, including participating in sweat lodge ceremonies.
"As parents, we would always melt when he gave us a big bear hug. He is with our ancestors in another world," she said.
She then spoke a passage in the Ute language directed at her son.
Folsom told Walker he understood what the plea agreement meant. When asked what his plea was to the second-degree murder charge, Folsom stated "guilty."
As part of the plea deal, other charges against Folsom were dropped. They include possessing of a weapon as a previous offender, tampering with a deceased human body, tampering with physical evidence, possessing a controlled substance, committing a crime of violence, and being a habitual criminal.
During the sentencing hearing, District Attorney Will Furse said Folsom was a habitual criminal with convictions for burglary and escape charges.
"No sentence can bring back a son, brother and father," Furse said. "This sentence is the best attempt to serve justice. Hopefully, these proceedings will provide some closure to the loss the family has suffered."
Folsom sat handcuffed in beige prison garb and was closely watched by two Montezuma County sheriff deputies standing on either side of him throughout the one-hour proceeding.
He gave a short statement during the sentencing hearing.
"Things got out of hand, and I made a poor decision. A lot of people are suffering, and I apologize," Folsom said.
Folsom's father, Kayo Folsom, also spoke at the sentencing hearing.
"Our pain pales in comparison to the Box family," he said. He expressed "profound sympathy" for the family and "profound guilt" for the actions of his son.
The killing took place on the night of Jan. 2 in the San Juan National Forest east of Dolores off Haycamp Road. Folsom was arrested Jan. 3 and accused of second-degree murder, which was then elevated to a first-degree murder charge.
He has been in custody at the Montezuma County jail under a $500,000 bond. In April, Folsom pleaded not guilty, and the case was set for a three-week trial in September. But on Monday, Folsom changed his plea to guilty of second-degree murder under the plea deal.
According to court records, on the night of Jan. 2, Folsom, Box and his wife drove to Haycamp Mesa and partied in an area off Indian Ridge Road. Meth use allegedly was involved, according to an incident report in court records.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin reported that a citizen contacted him Jan. 3 about a man who had been fatally shot.
After a three-hour search, deputies found Box's body with a bullet wound to his head. They arrested Folsom that day as he drove on Colorado Highway 145 and County Road M.
According to an arrest affidavit by sheriff's Detective Tyson Cox, Folsom left the scene of the slaying, then attempted to make arrangements with the citizen to dispose of Box's body. Box's clothing had been removed. Folsom allegedly told Cox that Box had been shot before he shot him.
The affidavit states that Folsom said the three went to Haycamp to party and use meth. Folsom said he heard a gunshot during a fight between Box and his wife.
Folsom said he did not know who had the gun or who had brought it, but he said he saw Box "bleeding profusely." Folsom stated that he picked the gun off the ground and shot Box in the head "to put him out of his misery," according to the affidavit.
Folsom reportedly said he did not call 911 because he didn't want to be arrested for the drugs and shooting, and he did not believe Box would live that long because he'd lost a lot of blood.
According to an obituary in The Durango Herald, Box, 42, grew up on the Southern Ute reservation and has two children. His Native American name is Buffalo Horse.