Debra Gaylyn Riddle on Monday pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of her common-law husband, David J. Mooney, at their residence west of Mancos July 3, 2019.
The plea agreement includes a 15-year prison sentence with the state Department of Corrections plus five years’ parole, said Matt Margeson, deputy district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District. The restitution to be paid by Riddle is being worked out.
The plea deal was accepted by District Court Judge Todd Plewe, and the sentence must be finalized at a sentencing hearing, set for Oct. 8.
Prosecutors had detailed conversations with Mooney’s family about the plea to ensure justice for the victim, Margeson said.
Mooney’s son, brother and mother said the plea agreement was appropriate, as have detectives with the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office who worked the case, he said.
Mooney, a 60-year-old truck driver from Arizona, was found dead in an RV the couple resided in at 7850 County Road 37. According to court documents, he had been shot once in the head and once in the back.
According to an obituary in the Paonia High Country Shopper, Mooney loved the outdoors, especially fishing, camping and riding ATVs. He was known for his culinary skills and shared recipes with his family. He worked as a truck driver for LD Baugh, of Mancos, for 10 years.
Mooney was respected for his work ethic, management skills and generosity, said his boss, LD Baugh.
“He was a solid employee, very trustworthy, just a heck of a good guy,” he said.
Mooney also was the main mechanic for the company trucks.
He ran the company’s North Dakota trucking operations, managing 15 drivers and handling payroll.
“He’d run the whole thing and knew how to solve problems, I could trust him,” Baugh said.
When there was no work available, Mooney traveled to Arizona to work as a truck driver.
“He was even-tempered and had a lot of friends here and in Arizona,” Baugh said. “When a job needed to be done, he would be there. We’re all ranchers, too, and he’d help with the cattle or build fence.”
Riddle, 57, has been in custody since being arrested July 16, 2019, by the Sheriff’s Office. Her bail initially was set at $1 million, then reduced to $500,000, but she never posted it.
Riddle pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree murder in the heat of passion.
According to the facts of the plea deal, “Riddle unlawfully, feloniously and knowingly caused the death of David Mooney. Further, the offense was committed under circumstances where the act causing the death was performed upon a sudden heat of passion.”
As part of the plea deal, Riddle was required to reveal that the weapon used was a small snub-nosed pistol with a wood-grain handle, Margeson said, and that she last placed the gun in a gray corduroy bag inside the camper.
But the gun was not found, said Sheriff Steve Nowlin.
According to the arrest affidavit, the Sheriff’s Office responded to a call stating a man was unconscious and not breathing.
Deputies found Mooney’s body inside the RV trailer on the southwest corner of the property. Riddle was seated inside a green and white Ford Bronco, according to the arrest affidavit.
During the Sheriff’s Office investigation, a history of jealousy and conflict between the couple appeared to surface.
Detective Yvonne McClellan said she obtained permission to look into Riddle’s phone and found angry emails sent to another woman, accusing her of texting Mooney.