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Family outraged that woman who helped dispose of body in 2019 is up for parole

Lila Atencio has a parole hearing less than a year after she was re-sentenced.
Family outraged woman eligible for parole after tampering with a deceased body
Posted at 10:56 PM, Jan 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 00:56:28-05

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Five years after Joseph Brinson, 28, was dismembered and murdered, one of the people involved in the case is eligible for parole.

“He has always been just a very sweet, quiet, kind soul. And very adventurous," said Brinson's aunt, Amy Frost. “At the end of 2018, from what I know now after going through this whole process, Joe and his roommate, Will Irvine, were not getting along. And you know, I was always asking the question, what prompted all of this? But Will Irvine was basically a mastermind."

Court documents show that toward the end of 2018, tensions between Brinson and his roommate at the time, Will Irvine, began to escalate. Irvine allegedly told his friends, Blake Quinlan and Lila Atencio, that he wanted out of the lease.

“He pretty much groomed these two teenagers to carry out a plan to kill Joe," Frost said about Irvine.

Irvine's arrest affidavit states he began to make comments to Quinlan and Atencio about "killing Joseph." Atencio allegedly believed the remarks were jokes at the time. Irvine brought up the idea of poisoning Brinson or shooting him and making the scene look like it was a suicide, the arrest affidavit states.

According to court documents, Irvine, Quinlan, and Atencio went to a Home Depot together and purchased items for a cannabis extract operation in the cellar of the home Irvine shared with Brinson, Atencio believed. One of the items purchased was a hand saw. Atencio said she did not "pay much attention to" it because "it was a guy thing so she just hung back."

The documents state the machine for the cannabis extract was never moved to the cellar, but Quinlan and Atencio attached plastic to the walls and floors of the cellar a couple of days before January 16, 2019.

Court documents state Atencio went to work on January 16, 2019, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Then, at 3 a.m. on Jan. 17, Quinlan called Atencio and said, "It happened. Can you come help me?" He told her she needed to come to the home Brinson and Irvine shared and bring trash bags. Atencio purchased the "biggest, thickest" bags she could find, court documents state.

The affidavit states Quinlan told Atencio that Irvine and Brinson began to argue. Brinson went outside to have a cigarette before coming back inside and going to the bathroom. When Brinson exited the bathroom, Quinlan told investigators he shot Brinson in the back of the head, according to court documents.

Atencio said Quinlan did not tell her what happened to Brinson after he was moved to the cellar. When she went down to the cellar, Atencio said there were six or seven black trash bags on the floor, and Quinlan asked her to help him double-bag them, the affidavit states. Atencio allegedly tied the knots of the trash bags. Atencio and Quinlan then went to bed after all of the bags were tied, which contained Brinson's remains, according to the court documents.

When they woke up, Atencio drove Quinlan to dispose of Brinson's remains, the affidavit states. After leaving, the two went to an Applebee's in Aurora and used Brinson's credit card to pay, according to court documents.

After being questioned, Atencio led investigators to Brinson's head, which was not originally found with the rest of his body. Frost said Atencio knew where Brinson's head was because she had returned to it before bringing investigators there.

“They started to get worried that if somebody found Joe that they would identify him through his dental records. And so, four months after they dumped him, Lila went back out to the trash bags. And she went to the one that had his head. And she took it out, and she had pliers and a hammer. And she attempted to try to pull his teeth out of his skull. When that didn't work, she placed the head underneath her car, and she attempted to run it over a few times. That wasn't working as well as she thought either," Frost said. "She placed his head in her car, and she drove around, and then she dumped the head in another location. So when they found Joe's body, his head was missing. And we didn't know where his head was.”

Frost said Atencio was offered a plea agreement that did not include prison time for disposing of Brinson's remains. Instead, Atencio testified against Quinlan and Irvine and received six years of probation and two years in a work release program in 2022.

“At every opportunity that she's ever been given, there's been so much leniency given to her," said Frost.

Frost said Atencio violated the terms of her sentence and was re-sentenced to six years of prison time in 2023.

“Now, technically, [Atencio] could be eligible for parole in April of this year and have only served, you know, six or seven months time in prison for something so terrible," Frost said. "She should have been given a prison sentence from the beginning. It was a plea deal that we were not aware of.”

Brinson's family does not believe Atencio should be eligible for parole. Brinson's mother and Frost plan to speak at Atencio's parole hearing on Wednesday morning.

Denver7 reached out to Atencio's lawyer, Rachel Oliver, who said Atencio received the maximum sentence for her charges and that parole eligibility is based on behavior while incarcerated. Oliver continued to say Atencio was incarcerated for a substantial amount of time before becoming eligible for parole.

"Lila Atencio is very much interested in seeking her own support and treatment while out on parole, to make sure her life moves in a positive direction for herself and her community," said Oliver in a statement.

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