The second of two teenagers charged in the murder of Nicholas Lewis, chef at Blackbird Public House, has been found guilty.
An Arapahoe County jury found Raheem Benson first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery.
Benson and Louis Lara-Macias were both 16 when they randomly targeted Lewis, 33, who was walking home from a convenience store in Englewood. He was shot three times in the chest and was pronounced dead from a wound to his heart at Swedish Medical Center in October 2016.
Lara-Macias pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced in December 2017 to 21 years in the Department of Corrections. The sentence will be suspended upon successful completion of seven years in the youth offender system.
Benson faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years. He will be sentenced on June 14.
At the time of his March 22 conviction, Benson was 17. He’s since turned 18.
Vikki Migoya, director of communications for the 18th Judicial District’s Office of the D.A., was unsure when he would be moved from the Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center to the Arapahoe County Jail.
“The public should know that ‘life in prison’ no longer means anything close to that for murderers like this one. Because our state legislature passed a law substantially decreasing the penalties for juvenile murderers, this remorseless killer of a random, innocent, much-beloved, productive member of our society may be let back out onto our streets with our families before he is 40 years old,” District Attorney George H. Brauchler said in a press release. “He shot the victim in the chest multiple times and left him to die on the side of the road. Prisons exist to protect us from dangers like this.”
As Denverite reported at the time of Lara-Macias and Benson’s arrest, laws adopted not long before the pair’s arrest would have an effect on their sentencing:
Under the new laws, a person younger than 18 who is convicted for first-degree murder after deliberation still gets 40 years to life, but can accrue earned time by participating in Department of Corrections programs. The person would get 10 days off a sentence for each month of participation, leading to parole eligibility after about 30½ years.
Sentenced to 30 years, parole opportunities would come up after about 22¾ years with earned time.
The new laws also created a program that, after 25 years in prison, allows someone younger than 18 who is convicted of murder in adult court — even without earned time — to participate and become eligible for parole granted by the governor after 28 years.
They could even petition for a special program after 20 years, putting them out on parole in about 23 years.
Benson and Lara-Macias were arrested less than a month after the shooting. Witnesses described a vehicle seen leaving the area and it was traced to one stolen in Denver days before — a case for which the teenagers were already in custody.
Investigators also found shell casings at the scene and security cameras in the area recorded video of the incident. Englewood detectives were able to tie both Benson and Lara-Macias to Lewis’ murder.
“This defendant took one life and forever altered others by committing a violent and senseless murder,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Brittany Martin said in a press release. “We hope this verdict will bring some peace to the Lewis family, who lost a son, brother, father and friend.”