Murder codefendant gets 16 years
ALAMOSA — “You didn’t shoot Mr. McBride, but you might as well have signed his death warrant by not helping him,” District Judge Michael Gonzales told Kelvin Ruybal, 35, when he sentenced him on Wednesday to 16 years in prison on a second-degree kidnapping charge related to the 2016 Floyd Dale McBride murder.
After Lonnie Cooper, 43, shot McBride, 52, last summer, Ruybal could have called for help instead of letting him bleed to death, the judge told him. “I hope each and every day of your life you think about what you have done.”
According to a plea agreement, Ruybal was sentenced to 16 years in the Department of Corrections for his part in the McBride case — which included helping to bury McBride after he died — and 10 years concurrent in prison on a Conejos County robbery/assault case in which Ruybal pleaded guilty to felony first-degree burglary.
“Mr. Ruybal, learn from this. When you are down in a deep hole so dark you can’t see, think for a minute about that hole you put Mr. McBride in,” Judge Gonzales told him, “being wrapped up in a rug, slowly bleeding out, placed in a hole, no family no friends, nobody to show him compassion, nobody to show him love. I want you to think about that.”
McBride’s mother Betty Curran, who lives out of state, listened on the phone during the Wednesday sentencing as Assistant District Attorney Ashley McCuaig recounted to the judge Ruybal’s role on the last day of her son’s life. McCuaig said on the morning of June 23, 2016, McBride and Lonnie Cooper’s son Brian got into an altercation that sent Brian Cooper to the hospital and Lonnie Cooper looking for the man who had stabbed his son. Ruybal helped set up a ride for Lonnie Cooper to avoid the police while he went looking for McBride, McCuaig explained. After Cooper located and shot McBride in the abdomen, and McBride began losing blood from the wound, Ruybal arrived at the scene and helped load McBride into a van, McCuaig added. At that point McBride was pleading and begging for his life and asking to be taken to the hospital.
Ruybal did nothing to help McBride, McCuaig said, but instead while McBride was bleeding to death in a van outside the Cooper residence, “Kelvin did what Kelvin does, got high.”
He then helped bury the recently deceased McBride in a shallow grave in Conejos County. Because Cooper did not trust Ruybal not to talk, he later moved McBride’s body to Costilla County where it was eventually recovered. Ruybal did not talk to law enforcement, however, McCuaig said, just as he had not done anything to save McBride’s life earlier.
“Kelvin Ruybal’s actions are certainly directly responsible or directly contributed to the death of Dale McBride,” McCuaig said.
“Had he said ‘no, we are taking him to the hospital,’ … Mr. McBride would not have spent four hours that morning slowly bleeding to death in the back of a van, but Kelvin Ruybal did not do that.”
McCuaig added, “because he did not do what we expect anyone in our society to do, he will not be part of our society for the next 16 years.”
Ruybal’s attorney David Roth said letters were submitted to the judge on behalf of Ruybal, and they reflected remorse to McBride’s family for their loss. Roth said he believed along with his client that the agreement that was reached in his case was fair, given all the circumstances. Roth said 16 years is a long time, just under half of Ruybal’s current age, but Ruybal agreed to that sentence in the plea agreement.
Roth asked for 403 days credit for the time Ruybal has already served, which the judge granted.
Ruybal spoke briefly to the court. “I am sorry for my actions, sorry to the McBride family and my family,” he said.
Judge Gonzales agreed to the sentences in the plea agreement and reminded Ruybal that these most recent cases added two more felony cases to a criminal record that already included two prior felony convictions, both in Mesa County.
The judge said he did not understand, in the McBride case, how Ruybal could have stood by and done nothing to help, even if his mind was muddled by drug use and he was afraid, as were other codefendants in this case, of Lonnie Cooper. The judge said the letters he received on Ruybal’s behalf described Ruybal as a kind, caring, funny, hardworking man, and when he read those letters describing who Ruybal was before he let drugs take over his life, he had a hard time believing this was the same man who could stand by and watch a man bleed to death.
If Ruybal had gotten help for McBride, it might have made the difference between life and death, Judge Gonzales said. It would also have made a difference in what Ruybal was facing in court, the judge added.
Judge Gonzales said he could not imagine what McBride’s mother and her family were suffering through, and there was nothing he could say to make it better.
The judge told Ruybal 16 years was not the end of his life, and although he would miss his children growing up, at least he would be able to see them again.
“Mrs. Curran doesn’t have that chance. In 16 years you will have your life back … your freedom back to some extent, but Mr. McBride’s family will not have their son, brother, uncle, father, they won’t have him back.”