Nearly 10 months after the death of Nicole Joe on Christmas Day, Vaughn Seumptewa pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Friday morning.
Judge Jacqueline Hatch accepted Seumptewa’s guilty plea in the murder, as well as a pair of charges of aggravated assault against a health care professional. The stipulated sentence in the plea, as agreed to by deputy county attorney Stacy Krueger and deputy public defender Steve Harvey, is 18 years in prison. Seumptewa is not eligible for probation under the plea agreement and all three sentences will run concurrently, with time served for his current incarceration.
A resolution to the case has been in the works for the past few months. According to the court documents, Harvey originally requested a settlement conference on June 25, and it was held on Aug. 21. The change of plea hearing was added to the calendar at Sept. 24’s case management conference.
A grand jury initially indicted Seumptewa with aggravated assault in January, with the charge dismissed without prejudice by the Coconino County Attorney’s Office in early May following the new indictment of second-degree murder on April 27.
Seumptewa told police that he and Joe, who were in a relationship with each other, had been involved in an altercation at an apartment on the night of Dec. 24, 2017. The victim left the apartment before returning and asking to be let in out of the cold. Seumptewa then grabbed Joe and threw her to the ground, where he struck her in the head with his fist multiple times before leaving her unconscious outside in the cold and locking the door.
Joe remained outside until 3 a.m. Christmas Day, then was brought inside the East Cedar Ave apartment and left on the floor, where she remained until three people called 911 at 7 p.m. Joe was pronounced dead at 7:27 p.m. on Christmas.
The charges of aggravated assault against a health care worker stem from a pair of incidents at Flagstaff Medical Center in April 2017 and October 2017.
Sentencing on all three guilty pleas is set for Nov. 28 at 1:30 p.m. in Division 1. The 18-year stipulated sentence falls just above the presumptive total of 16 years for second-degree murder in Arizona. The minimum carries a 10-year sentence while the maximum sentence would be 25 years.