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Justin Bullock sentenced as Bryanna Terry awaits trial in 2017 death of Dakota Lunceford

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LAS CRUCES – Dakota Lunceford’s body was nearly unrecognizable when a farmer found him in a Mesilla ditch.

The farmer discovered him on Aug. 3, 2017, near the 1300 block of Paisano Road. By that point, decay had set in. Only his fire-red hair distinguished his corpse when deputies began their investigation.

Days later, the Office of the Medical Investigator used fingerprints to identify the body as Lunceford’s. Despite the advanced stages of decomposition, medical examiners noted Lunceford suffered blunt force trauma to his head.

Then, for three years, the case languished and went cold. It wasn’t until an informant came forward with new information in 2020 that deputies could arrest Justin Bullock and Bryanna Terry for Lunceford’s murder.

On Nov. 23, a judge sentenced Bullock, 28, to nine years in prison. Bullock pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter and one count of robbery. Terry, 24, awaits a trial currently scheduled to begin on Feb. 20, 2023. Terry faces one count of first-degree murder and other counts related to Lunceford’s death.

It’s unclear what role, if any, Bullock might play in Terry’s trial.

However, Wednesday’s sentencing marked the beginning of the end, five years after deputies began investigating Lunceford’s death. But for Lunceford’s family, the lengthy wait for resolutions came at a cost.

“I’m disappointed that this whole (process) took so long,” Lunceford’s sister, Madeline, told the court. “I’ve been praying for my family to get closer to closure.”

Dakota Lunceford’s death was a case gone cold

After investigators identified Lunceford’s body, affidavits show they began interviewing his family and looking through his bank and cell phone records.

Lunceford grew up in Seattle, according to his uncle, Greg Brown. At the time, Brown told the Sun-News that Lunceford planned to join the Navy, just like his father, Troy Lunceford, who is buried in Alamogordo.

At the time of his death, Lunceford lived with his grandparents in Alamogordo and had just recently visited his father’s grave for the first time.

During that same time, investigators believe Lunceford met Terry. A search of his phone revealed two messages Lunceford sent to Terry the day he died. The first read, “Hey, did you get any?” The second read, “you guys good?”

The same evening, Terry, Lunceford, and Bullock rode the bus from Alamogordo to Las Cruces. Bullock told deputies Lunceford owed money to people around town and needed to pay them back. When they…

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