MESITA —George Richard Rostad, 45, admitted shooting and killing his uncle, Randolph Thatcher, in Mesita on June 23, 2015 and will spend 24 years in prison and five years of mandatory parole for the crime.
Issues raised during a sentencing hearing Wednesday were set aside by his decision to plead guilty to an amended charge on July 5. He was sentenced for attempted second-degree murder, a Class 3 felony.
He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, a Class 2 felony and violent crime causing death, a sentence enhancement and had been held in lieu of $200,000 bond
Wearing a crocheted skull cap and Costilla County Jail coveralls, Rostad appeared shackled and in custody Sept. 27 before Chief 12th Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift. The crime carried with it a possible sentence of 1-24 years.
Rostad told investigators Thatcher was his best friend and he couldn’t remember killing him. The court found no mitigating information in any papers filed by the defense.
Pre-sentencing testimony came from his mother, Terri Rostad, who said she still believed “my son did not do this.”
“He and my brother were buddies from the time he was three.”
Other persons testifying told the court how special Thatcher was and what a huge loss his death was to the family. Letters, not made public, were said to have stated the same information and some reportedly spoke to Rostad’s character as well.
Daniel Edwards, assistant attorney general assigned to the violent crimes unit, said the facts are clear. “A man is dead, a man has been murdered, all because of the actions of this man,” he said, gesturing toward Rostad.
The defendant told pre-sentence investigators Thatcher was one of his best friends, according to Edwards, who declared, “There is no reason this murder had to occur.”
Edwards told the court that Thatcher and Rostad were there, referring to the death scene in Mesita, “having a good time. At some point, the defendant pulled a weapon and murdered him (Thatcher.)”
While Rostad claims to have no memory of what happened, Edwards noted that he “took off running.”
“There was no reason for him to take off,” Edwards said of Rostad. “At that point, he knew he was guilty.”
Once in custody, Edwards said Rostad offered no explanation that would mitigate the crime.
It occurred at Thatcher’s place and Rostad chose to stay there, Edwards told the court. “He knew he was doing wrong. He was aware of what he was doing. He took the gun, put it to Thatcher’s head, cocked it and pulled the trigger.”
“His crime didn’t end then,” Edwards said. “It continued through the pain he has caused everyone, particularly his own mother.”
Public Defender Amanda Hopkins told Judge Swift that Rostad loved his uncle, contending that marijuana intoxication was a mitigating factor in the defendant’s inability to recall what happened.
Hopkins argued that intoxication is mitigation. “The law says so.”
In addition, she said, “The fact remains that George Rostad had zero experience with guns.”
Hopkins referred to some recent cases in which perpetrators ran and in which intoxication was a factor.
Animosity was part of those cases, but not with Rostad, she contended. “There was no anger or bitterness involved, no animosity, no problems between the two men.”
When he was taken into custody, Hopkins added, “He didn’t know what happened. He didn’t even know his middle name.”
Arguing for less than the maximum sentence of up to 24 years, Hopkins said Rostad was prepared for punishment, but since heavy marijuana use was reportedly involved, “the shorter Mr. Rostad’s sentence, the sooner he can begin addressing his issues.”
Looking at Rostad, Judge Swift said, “the court is puzzled why this happened, this unexplained, unprovoked, killing of someone you loved.”
The judge said she wasn’t there to determine guilt or innocence. That would have been appropriate in a jury trial. “You pled guilty, so I’m sentencing you for a crime.”
“There’s nothing this court can do to bring back Randolph Thatcher. He’s gone.”
Noting that Rostad has a minimal prior record, the judge said she was sentencing him not on the basis of his background, but based on his guilty plea. “You ultimately caused injury to a family — your family, his family,” she told the defendant.
“There is no explanation as to why you did this, though intoxication with marijuana is an issue,” the judge noted.
“The absolute maximum for this crime is 24 years in the Department of Corrections (DOC) and I am going to impose the maximum, along with five years of mandatory parole.”
After reading the pre-sentencing report and other materials pertinent to the case, Judge Swift said, “I’m concerned about dangerousness. Will you commit another crime? Will you commit this crime again?”
Since Rostad had been in custody since June 23, 2015, he was given credit for time served awaiting trial and the Judge did not order restitution before remanding him to the custody of the Costilla County Sheriff to await opening of a DOC bed.