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Why Did Cody Posey Kill His Family? Murder on a New Mexico Ranch

Antonia is a writer who is fascinated by mysteries and psychology. She writes many articles about criminal cases.

The Killer: 14-year-old Cody Posey.

The Killer: 14-year-old Cody Posey.

A Cold-Blooded Killer, or a Victim Pushed Too Far?

The tale of Cody Posey and the murder of his family is a sad and tragic one. The strange twist in the story is that what makes it so exceptionally sad and tragic is not what you might think. Any murder is tragic, but it is not the murders themselves that are the heart of this story; rather, it's the events of Cody's life leading up to the day when he took a gun and shot and murdered his father, stepmother, and stepsister.

The day he would kill his family probably started much like any other day for Cody. It was July 5th, 2004; a hot summer day in Hondo, New Mexico. Cody lived on a ranch owned by famous newsman Sam Donaldson, and he lived with his father, Paul Posey, 34; his stepmother, Tryone, 44; and his stepsister, Marilea Schmid, 13. Cody's father Paul ran and worked on the Chavez Canyon Ranch for Mr. Donaldson.

From the outside, to most people, the Posey's blended family seemed to be happy and normal. To others with a closer view, there were obviously a few dark demons that were hanging around. Yet, no one but the family themselves knew of the true horror and evil that went on behind Chavez Canyon's walls. It was only when Sam Donaldson discovered the bloody crime scene that Cody left behind that the secrets kept hidden for so many years came tumbling out.

A Slap and a Murder

Considering all that happened beforehand, it is hard to believe that the final straw that broke Cody Posey came in the form of a slap in the face from his father. That slap on July 4th was the last time Paul Posey would ever hurt his son again. At that moment, Cody finally snapped, went outside, and grabbed a shotgun from his sister's saddlebag. He came up behind his stepmother, Tryone, who was reading a book on the couch, and shot her twice in the back of the head. When his father Paul walked in the house, he shot him, and his stepsister Marilea, who had walked in behind his father, was last.

Cody then proceeded to try to cover up his crime. He loaded the three bodies up in a backhoe and buried them in a shallow grave in a manure pile. On July 6th, the day after the murders, Sam Donaldson stopped by the ranch and was greeted with a sight right out of a horror movie; blood and broken glass littered the crime scene. He immediately called the police, and it didn't take them long to locate the shallow graves. It was the next day, on July 7th, 2004, two days after the murders occurred, that Cody was arrested and charged with the murder of his family.

I don't know what I was thinking, I can't tell you, I myself wish I knew.

— Cody Posey

What Happened and Why?

At first, Cody denied any involvement in the murders. He told police he had last seen his parents on the morning of July 5th, when he left after a fight with his father. The police continued to question him, and it didn't take long for Cody to start telling the truth, and confess to the murders, but the more he talked, the more twisted and horrific the story became.

Cody's tale of being verbally and physically abused started after his parents' divorce, during the custody battle. Fortunately, Cody's mother was awarded custody of her son, and they were set to start a new life together, including her new husband, Cody's stepfather. It was just three months after she gained custody, and the new family was driving to Washington to start over when the three were in a tragic roll-over car accident; Cody survived, but he watched his mother die. He was just 10 years old. As if that was not horrible enough for young Cody, he then learned that he was to be put back in the custody of his abusive father; he was absolutely terrified. He begged them not to go.

Abuse and Threats

The story Cody told of the abuse he suffered after that was unimaginable. Belittled and psychologically abused every day, he was forced to work long hours on the ranch without food, water, or rest. He told of being kicked, punched, slapped, and smacked around by his father nearly every day. He told them about being woken up with an electric cattle prod, whipped with a lasso, being dragged behind a horse, and being smacked on the back of the hand with the pointy end of a hay hook.

He recalled his father's threat to tear his balls off if he popped the clutch in the truck. He said that his stepmother participated in his mental and physical abuse, and his stepsister, Marilea, was encouraged to tattle on him and rewarded whenever he screwed up. The last tale of abuse he told was the most shocking and disgusting, and it's what Cody says really sent him over the edge—not the slap—on the day he killed his family.

Cody recalled the previous night before the shootings. His father had burned him with a welding iron for refusing to go through with his sick and twisted demands; he wanted Cody to have sex with his stepmother, Tryone. When Cody could not be coerced into the act and refused to participate in Paul's sick incest fantasies, he was burned by his father with the welding iron. This, claims Cody, was the final sick act that caused him to break down emotionally and kill his family.

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I felt dirty, I felt disgusted.

— Cody Posey

Trial, Verdict, and Sentencing

In January of 2006, at the age of 16, Cody Posey stood trial for the murders of his father, step-mother, and step-sister that had taken place a year and a half before. He was being charged as a "youthful offender", which gave the judge the choice of sentencing him as a juvenile or an adult upon conviction.

Cody maintained composure at the start of his trial. It was when his defense lawyer gave his very emotional opening statement, and told the court of the tragic death of Cody's mothers in the car accident, that Cody broke down crying. The psychological torture, physical, and attempted sexual abuse of Cody by his father and step-mother became the core of his defense at trial.

Cody's claims of abuse were corroborated by the testimony of various witnesses to his father's cruel and abusive behaviour towards him. His former stepmother testified that while she was married to Paul Posey, she had to stop him from being mean and abusive towards his son on many occasions. Multiple ranch hands who worked under Paul's leadership testified to the abuse they had seen Cody subjected to at the hands of his father.

In addition, Cody took the stand in his own defense, and testified to the torture he had endured, the horror of what had occurred the night before, and the day he murdered his family. When he spoke of his father attempting to force him to have sex with his step-mother, he said "I felt dirty. I felt disgusted." He described how his father called him into the bedroom, and Tryone Posey was lying in bed naked, and his father told him he was going to have sex with her.

Posey spent two days on the stand testifying about the abuse, and what drove him to murder. When asked what was thinking when he killed them, he said "I don't know what I was thinking, I can't tell you. I myself wish I knew what I was thinking". He said he felt overwhelmed, and lost all control of his emotions at the time of the murders. He had reached a point of despair on that morning, his defense lawyers argued, and his judgment was impaired.

The prosecution presented witnesses that stated they had never seen a bruise or any sign of abuse whatsoever in regards to Cody. They had never seen his father act abusive, they said. They showed the jury the gruesome, bloody crime scene photos. They claimed that Cody allegations of abuse were just "more manure" piled on top of the bodies of the victims.

When the verdicts came back, Cody sobbed. He was found guilty of first-degree murder in the case of his step-sister Marilea, second-degree murder in the case of his step-mother Tryone, and voluntary manslaughter in the death of his father Paul. Many other members of Cody's family, who had stood by him during the trial, broke down and cried as well. His maternal aunt was so distraught she had to be carried out of the courtroom on a stretcher.

With pleas of leniency coming from Cody's family, as well as from the father of the step-sister, whom he had murdered, the judge chose to sentence Cody as a juvenile for the murders. Had he been sentenced as an adult, he would have been given life in prison. Instead, Cody was sentenced to psychiatric treatment, and to remain in a juvenile facility until he turned 21 years old. Jake Schmid, Marilea's father, said of the judge's decision, "Thank you. I do not believe that Marilea would have wanted Cody to be punished. He was already and she knew that."

He was committed to a juvenile facility on until April of 2010, when he was then transferred to a transitional rehabilitation facility. On October 9th, 2010, Cody Posey's 21st birthday, he was officially released, and he is now living somewhere amongst society.

Was Cody Let Off Too Lightly?

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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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