A New Mexico man was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison for a sexual assault committed on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation in southwestern Colorado.
Merle Denezpi, 39, of Shiprock, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney, District of Colorado.
Denezpi was also sentenced to 10 years supervised released following completion of his prison term, prosecutors said.
Indicted by a federal grand jury on June 7, 2018, for one count of Aggravated Sexual Assault within the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation, near Towaoc, Denezpi used “physical force and death threats to sexually assault the victim,” the release stated.
Denezpi jumped from a second-story window to flee police and hid beneath a bush from about 13 hours, according to the release.
On March 1, a federal jury found Denezpi guilty following a week-long trial in Durango.
“Our office is committed to vigorously prosecuting crimes committed on the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn. “Mr. Denezpi wrongly believed that he could commit a violent assault, silence the victim with threats, and lie his way out of accountability. Thanks to the work of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, he was proven wrong.”
This case was investigated by Bureau of Indian Affairs and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff Graves and Tim Neff.