ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One of three suspects accused in a heinous kidnapping and murder case in Albuquerque is now taking a plea deal for his role in the crime.
Facing the possibility of the death penalty in a Federal Court trial, Chase Smotherman pleaded guilty Friday to two kidnapping-related charges in the torture and death of John Soyka.
Soyka went missing August 2017. His body was later found dismembered in a shallow grave in a rural area outside of Albuquerque. The murder represents one of the most graphic cases of homicide in Albuquerque in recent years.
An attorney representing Smotherman, Brian Pori, says his client is ready to accept responsibility for his role in the murder, which Pori says was fueled by drugs and a sense of betrayal.
“He’s incredibly remorseful, the person who died was a good friend of his,” Pori said in an interview with KRQE News 13 Friday. “The person who died (Soyka), Chase was friendly with that family.”
According to Smothermon’s federal plea agreement, Smotherman and his then 19-year old girlfriend Mariah Ferry kidnapped Soyka from an Albuquerque home in August 2017.
In an initial criminal complaint, court documents indicate that Smotherman participated in beating, killing and dismembering Soyka.
According to the federal plea agreement, Smotherman conspired with Ferry to abduct Soyka and another man after Smothermon and Ferry’s home was broken into, and marijuana and cash were stolen.
“(Smothermon) thought he could handle it and exact some ‘street justice,’ and it all went terribly, terribly wrong,” Pori said of Smothermon’s motivation.
According to court paperwork, Smothermon and Ferry’s crimes were captured in detail on graphic cell phone video recordings. A jury would have had to watch those videos if a trial took place.
“Mr. Smothermon did not want to put his victims, the victim’s family through the trauma of a jury trial,” Pori said.
Pori says Smothermon’s drug addiction led him to taking Soyka’s life in reaction to the home break-in.
“He reacted in a way that was completely disproportionate to the harm, and I think part of it is because of his drug addiction, part of it is because of his childhood trauma, and part of it is because he was living his life as a drug dealer and a gangster,” Pori said.
Pori says Smothermon is now ready to accept the consequences.
“Anyone who’s ever battled a drug addiction would tell you when you stop being a drug addict, it’s like waking up from a nightmare. You can’t believe the things that you’ve done, and I know that Chase felt that way,” Pori said.
A judge is expected to sentence Smothermon likely in the next two to four months. Under the plea agreement, Smothermon, 32, faces between 40 to 60 years in federal prison, meaning the earliest he could get out in his 70s.
Court records show Smothermon’s girlfriend, Mariah Ferry, is also expected to take a plea deal in this case, but it’s unclear what charges she may plead to or how much time she may get in jail.