Second defendant in the shooting death of Nicholas Lewis sentenced to life with parole

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Raheem Benson was sentenced to life in prison with parole for the 2016 murder of Blackbird Public House chef Nicholas Lewis.

Lewis’s family came to the sentencing from Florida to ask Arapahoe District Court Judge Andrew Baum to impose the maximum sentence, according to a press release. His ex-wife said his “death was unjust and senseless.”

“These young men have permanently altered the course of (my son’s) life,” she said. Nothing can be done to right what has been done.”

Lewis’ 11-year-old sister also read a statement, and his mother told the judge, “This murder was a concerted choice made by two evil men on a crime spree. Nick was shot 3 times execution style – and all for what?”

Benson and Louis Lara-Marcias randomly targeted Lewis, 33, as he was walking home from a convenience store in Englewood in October 2016. Benson shot him three times in the chest, and he was pronounced dead from a wound to his heart at Swedish Medical Center.

Vikki Migoya, director of communications  for the 18th Judicial District’s Office of the D.A., said in an email today that Benson bragged about the crime on Facebook and posted photos in which he posed with the mask he wore and the gun he used.

“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.”

Benson was 16 at the time of the shooting, 17 at the time of his conviction and is now 18. He was found guilty of first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery in March.  Lara-Macias, pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced in December 2017 to 21 years in the Department of Corrections — but that sentence can be suspended if he successfully completes seven years in the youth offender system.

As Denverite reported in at the time of their arrest, laws adopted not long before the pair’s arrest would have an effect on their sentencing. 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 30 and a half years.

In today’s press release, Brauchler made a statement about the sentencing rules:

“Benson murdered for the mere thrill of killing another person. At any age, this can only be described as evil,” he said. “Colorado’s system is now set up to ensure that this cold-blooded murderer will again walk our streets, likely as early as in his 40s. We can only hope that his heart is turned away from darkness in the couple of decades he is incarcerated and we are safe from him.”

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