Debra Gaylyn Riddle was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison plus five years on parole for the second-degree murder of her common-law husband, David J. Mooney on July 3, 2019.
The sentence was handed down by 22nd Judicial Judge Todd Plewe and was part of a court-approved plea agreement between Riddle and the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s office.
Relatives of Mooney and Riddle attended the sentencing hearing in person and virtually but did not to speak. A letter about Riddle from her sister was read in court.
The Mooney family “is devastated. There is no way to restore what was lost, and the impacts to the family are long lasting,” said Assistant District Attorney Matt Margeson. “The family demands justice, and that justice will be to keep Riddle away from society for a significant amount of time.”
Riddle, 57, who has been jailed since her arrest, attended the sentencing hearing in person, wearing a face mask and yellow jail jumpsuit. She was handcuffed, and her legs were shackled.
In a brief statement, Riddle apologized and asked for forgiveness. She has been jailed in the Montezuma County Detention Center since her arrest in July 2019. Her bail initially was set at $1 million, then reduced to $500,000, but she never posted it.
As part of the plea deal, Riddle was required to submit a statement of her guilt. It was read out loud in court by Margeson.
Riddle said July 3 she and Mooney had argued about an upcoming road trip at their RV residence at 7850 County Road 37, according to the statement.
Afterward, she said Mooney was lying down at their residence and snoring. At some point, Riddle reached into a pistol bag, took out a handgun “and fired not intending to strike,” according to her statement.
Riddle want to bed and called 911 in the morning.
An autopsy showed Mooney had been fatally shot once in the head and once in the back, according to the Montezuma County Coroner’s Office.
“Nothing I can do or say that can restore the damage. A life has been lost. The defendant acknowledged her guilt,” Plewe said.
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 handle, Margeson said, and that she last placed the gun in a gray corduroy bag inside the camper. But the gun was not found.
Riddle and Mooney lived together in the fifth-wheel trailer west of Mancos. He was a truck driver for L,D. Baugh of Mancos, according to court documents.
During the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office investigation, a history of jealousy and violence between the couple appeared to surface.
Mooney’s son, brother and mother said the plea agreement was appropriate, said Margeson, who added that Sheriff’s Office detectives agreed.
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 for Baugh for 10 years and was respected for his work ethic, skills and generosity, Baugh said.
“He was a solid employee, very trustworthy,” he said.
Mooney also was the company’s main mechanic and managed its 15 drivers and payroll in North Dakota.
“He’d run the whole thing and knew how to solve problems, I could trust him,” Baugh said.
When work was unavailable, Mooney worked as a driver in Arizona.
“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.”