John Gamble

Victim: Joseph Garcia, 15

Age at time of murder: 16

Crime date: October 2008

Crime location: Near Carlsbad, New Mexico

Murder method: Beating

Weapon: Person and rifle

Murder motivation: Retaliation

Convictions: Convicted by a jury of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and bribery of a witness, and guilty plea to one count of tampering with evidence

Sentence: 60 years

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility (offender #475622)

Offender 475622 Photo

Summary of the crime

Gamble believed that his close friend Joseph Garcia had “ratted” on him. In retaliation, he tricked Joseph into coming to a secluded area outside of town where he confronted him about the alleged “ratting.” Joseph denied the allegation and a fight began. Gamble beat Joseph, got a rifle, and hit him on the head with it. He tried to shoot Joseph but could not get the gun to fire. He poured gasoline on Joseph’s body and set him ablaze. He then returned to a party he had attended previously that day.


UPDATED: High Court Upholds 60-Year Sentence in 2008 Carlsbad Death

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld the 60-year prison sentence of John Gamble in the 2008 killing of 15-year-old Joseph Garcia of Carlsbad, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

Gamble, who was 16 years old when he confessed to killing Garcia, was charged as a serious youthful offender and was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and bribery of a witness, and had pleaded guilty prior to his trial to one count of tampering with evidence, the Current-Argus said.

He was sentenced in 2009 to 60 years in prison.

Gamble’s attorneys appealed his convictions to the New Mexico Supreme Court, questioning whether there was sufficient evidence of premeditation to support a first-degree murder conviction and also claimed the trial court may have erred in denying motions to suppress Gamble’s confession and to grant a change of venue, the paper reported.

The Supreme Court disagreed, saying “a rational jury could find sufficient evidence to support the elements of first-degree murder,” according to the Current-Argus.

1:10pm 11/24/09 — Carlsbad Teenager Tried as an Adult Is Sentenced to 60 Years in Prison: The 17-year-old had been convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in the killing of a 15-year-old

A 17-year-old tried as an adult and convicted in September in the October 2008 killing of a 15-year-old was sentenced Monday to 60 years in state prison, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

John Gamble had been found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder, kidnapping, retaliating against a witness and tampering with evidence in connection with the death of Joseph Garcia, the newspaper said.

The Current-Argus reported that in sentencing Gamble on Monday, state District Judge Jane Shuler Gray said she felt Gamble showed no sign of remorse for severely beating Garcia, waiting to watch him die, then setting his body on fire.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009 11:48

A Carlsbad teenager has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the death another teen last fall, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

The newspaper reported Wednesday that the jury, which got the case Tuesday, convicted John Gamble, 17, of killing 15-year-old Joseph Garcia. The Current-Argus also said that jurors returned guilty verdicts in the case on kidnapping and retaliation against a witness charges.

Gamble’s attorney, Jon Fredlund, said the defense would likely appeal, according to the newspaper.

He told the Current-Argus that while he was disappointed with the verdict, he was not surprised.

“We always viewed this as Round One,” Fredlund said.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009 18:00

The jury began deliberations Tuesday in the state District Court murder trial of John Gamble, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

The newspaper said Gamble, 17, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Joseph Garcia, 15. Gamble also is charged with retaliation against a witness and kidnapping, according to the Current-Argus.

In closing arguments earlier Tuesday, prosecution and defense attorneys focused on whether Gamble had planned the killing, the newspaper reported.

Prosecutor D’Ann Read told jurors that testimony and evidence showed Gamble planned the murder by calling Brittany Bowering to ask if he could borow her car, by bringing a gas can and concealed rifle, and by picking up Garcia and telling him he was taking him to a party, according to the Current-Argus.

But defense attorney Jon Fredlunk said that months of drug use, depression and run-ins with the law had built up inside Gamble, who unleashed it on Garcia after drinking and smoking marijuana the night of the killing, the newspaper reported.

The Current-Argus said if the jury concludes Gamble did not have previous intent, and acted in spontaneous rage, it could mean a reduction of the murder charge to second-degree as well as the possibility of being found not guilty of kidnapping.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009 06:30

The trial of John Gamble, 16, in the October 2008 beating death of 15-year-old Joseph Garcia, got under way Monday in a Carlsbad courtroom, with Gamble testifying that he had been high on alcohol and marijuana and that he only remembered the incident in “flashes,” the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

Jurors also saw a video recording of Gamble’s statement to police in which he admitted beating Garcia with a .22-caliber rifle until the gun broke, then setting his body on fire, according to another Current-Argus story.

Gamble told police on tape that he did not know whether Garcia was alive when he set the fire, according to the paper.

On the stand Monday, Gamble said he intended to take Garcia out to a remote location to get high and to talk, saying the two teens were on awkward terms because Garcia allegedly told police that Gamble had broken into the Phoenix Alternative Program building, the Current-Argus said.

But Gamble said the two were not hostile toward each other, the paper reported.

Gamble’s attorney on Monday moved for a mistrial and asked state District Judge Jane Shuler Gray to dismiss charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping be dropped because Gamble alleged didn’t plan to kill Garcia but had taken him to the remote location to talk, then killed him in a spontaneous rage, the Current-Argus said.

The judge denied the motions, the paper reported.



SERNA, Justice.

{¶ 1} Defendant John Gamble (Child), a sixteen-year-old, confessed to killing fifteen-year-old Joseph Garcia (Victim) near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Child was charged as a serious youthful offender and convicted by jury of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, and bribery of a witness. Prior to trial, Child pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with evidence. Child was sentenced to a total term of 60 years imprisonment.

{¶ 2} Child appeals his convictions to this Court pursuant to Rule 12-102(A)(1) NMRA and Article VI, Section 2 of the New Mexico Constitution, which allow for the direct appeal of a conviction resulting in a sentence of life imprisonment. He raises the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying Child’s motion to suppress his confession as well as (2) his motion for a change of venue; (3) whether there was sufficient evidence of premeditation to support the first-degree murder conviction; (4) whether the trial court’s admonishment of Child’s counsel for untimely filings and the subsequent “threats of sanctions” warrant a new trial; and (5) whether cumulative error warrants a new trial. For the reasons stated below, we affirm Child’s convictions.


{¶ 3} Not long before Victim’s death, Child and Victim broke into a local school together. Victim was caught outside of the school, and Child believed that Victim had “ratted” him out when he was questioned about the incident. The two had been close friends before the burglary, but Child’s feeling of betrayal and belief that “[f]riends don’t rat on other friends” soured the friendship.

{¶ 4} Roughly two weeks after the burglary, on October 12, 2008, Victim’s body was discovered off of a dirt road outside of Carlsbad. Child quickly became a suspect, and a warrant was obtained to search his home. During the search, officers seized several items from Child’s room implicating him in the murder and learned that Child had not been home for a couple of days—a violation of his conditions of probation for an unrelated incident. Child’s probation officer subsequently obtained a warrant for his arrest on the probation violation. While at, the police station after his arrest, Child was questioned about Victim’s death and ultimately confessed to Victim’s murder.

{¶ 5} Child provided the following account of the night of Victim’s death during his confession and his subsequent trial testimony. The night of Victim’s death, Child received a ride from a friend to a party. He had also arranged to borrow the same friend’s car later that evening in order to pick up another friend. Although he had originally planned to pick up someone else, Child ultimately called Victim and asked him to go to the party.

{¶ 6} When his friend first picked him up that evening to go to the party, Child placed a two-gallon gas can and a rifle wrapped in a sweatshirt into the trunk of the car. Child brought the gas because he had promised his friend he would put gas in the car, and did so after arriving at the party. Child brought the rifle because he had been jumped earlier that year, and as a result would typically bring a weapon to gatherings just in case he ended up needing one.

{¶ 7} After inviting Victim to the party, Child left the party and met Victim at a nearby church in order to pick him up. Victim did not live far from the location of the party, but agreed to meet Child at a nearby church anyway. After picking Victim up and stopping at a gas station to say hello to a friend, Child, instead of returning to the party, drove to a secluded area outside of town where local youth would regularly go to drink and do drugs. Child and Victim sat on the hood of the car to smoke marijuana, and Child confronted Victim about the burglary incident. Child asked Victim why he had “ratted.” Victim denied that he had given the officers Child’s name, and a fight ensued between the two.

{¶ 8} At some point after the fighting began, Child knocked Victim to the ground. While on the ground, Child continued to punch Victim and knee him in the head. Child then retrieved the rifle from the car and hit Victim on the head with the rifle. He “panicked” after Victim stopped moving, and then retrieved the remaining gasoline from the car. Child then proceeded to pour gasoline on Victim’s body and set it on fire. Child had also tried to shoot Victim after hitting him with the rifle and before lighting him on fire, but he could not get the gun to fire. Child then returned to the party. Friends at the party noticed that upon his return Child had visible scrapes and other minor injuries, and Child said he had been in a fight with Victim. Further factual development will be provided as necessary for the legal analysis below.

Carlsbad Teen Back Behind Bars after Brief Escape Attempt

CARLSBAND, NM – A Carlsbad teen accused of murder is back in jail after his brief escape on Monday.

Authorities tell us 16-year-old John Gamble was being taken to a court appearance in Eddy County when he got away.

The warden of the Eddy County Detention Center says Gamble had a handcuff key hidden on his body, and was able to unlock his cuffs.

He was caught ten minutes later by officers.

Gamble is charged with the October killing of Joseph Garcia.