On June 24th, 2022

Covelo Man Convicted of Two Counts of Murder California DOJ labs assisted with investigation

“We have much appreciation for the public safety professionals, including the criminalists at the Department of Justice crime laboratory in Eureka and the Department of Justice DNA laboratory in Redding, who pursued justice for two people tortured and killed in November 2020.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona

UKIAH – On June 23, 2022, Samson Musselini Little Bear Joaquin, 25, formerly of Covelo, was convicted by plea in the Mendocino County Superior Court of two counts of murder in the second degree. Joaquin is the sixth and final defendant convicted in the November 19, 2020 murders of Kyle McCartney and Traci Bland. 

Joaquin’s jury trial had been scheduled to begin June 20, 2022, but not enough jurors responded to their jury summons to allow jury selection to take place. As a consequence, the case was moved to June 23rd to allow the parties to check the future availability of witnesses before the court set a new trial date.  

During the intervening days a compromise settlement was struck and the case resolved short of trial.  

In a  written plea, Joaquin admitted that, “With express and implied malice aforethought, [he] unlawfully and intentionally killed Kyle McCartney and Traci Bland with a splitting maul/fire axe” on in a remote area north of Covelo. 

Joaquin agreed to a stipulated state prison sentence of 31 years to life, the maximum allowed by law for the two murder convictions and the weapon use admission entered into the court record.  Joaquin was also required to waive all pre-sentence custody credits that he normally would have earned and received absent a waiver. Joaquin was also required to waive his appellate and writ rights on all issues, if any, related to the case. 

Joaquin was the last of six co-defendants and his guilty pleas bring to a close a multi-defendant prosecution in which all involved were convicted for their respective roles in the murders.

The other co-defendants previously convicted and already sentenced to state prison are: 

  • Joaquina Patrice Joaquin, 26, sentenced to 31 years, 4 months in state prison for carjacking, kidnapping, assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury, attempted witness intimidation, possessing drugs in jail, and a prior Strike conviction;
  • Joseph Joshua Hoaglen, 39, sentenced to 25 years, 4 months in state prison for carjacking, kidnapping, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, personally inflicting great bodily injury, and use of a non-firearm weapon;
  • Janet Faye Azbill, 35, sentenced to 14 years, 8 months in state prison for carjacking, kidnapping, assault by force likely to cause great bodily injury, and personally inflicting great bodily injury;
  • Leonard Britton Azbill, Sr., 62, sentenced to 6 years in state prison for being an accessory after the fact to murder with a prior Strike conviction.

Co-defendant David Lee Joaquin, Jr., 27, is pending sentencing for his limited involvement in the November 2020 day of violence. He stands convicted by plea of being an accessory after the fact to murder with a prior Strike conviction.  However, while out-of-custody waiting to be sentenced, David Joaquin was charged with a felony for vehicle theft – accused of committing a new felony while another felony case was pending, and having suffered a prior Strike conviction. 

He also picked up new charges in Siskiyou County and has been convicted there, again while awaiting sentencing on the November 2020 case, and sentenced in the Siskiyou County Superior Court to 8 years in state prison.   

When all of defendant David Joaquin’s cases resolve in Mendocino County, it is possible he will be looking at an additional four years, 8 months in state prison ... consecutive to the Siskiyou County commitment.  

The law enforcement agencies that developed the underlying evidence leading to the convictions listed above were the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Justice crime laboratory in Eureka, the Department of Justice DNA laboratory in Redding, and the District Attorney’s own Bureau of Investigations. 

District Attorney David Eyster has been the attorney personally prosecuting this case and all involved defendants from late 2020 to present. 

Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman accepted defendant Samson Joaquin’s two guilty pleas and a weapon use admission Thursday morning. She will preside over the sentencing hearing and impose the stipulated life sentence on July 20, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. in the Ukiah courthouse.  

 

 

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