State Police charge Indianapolis man with running over woman, infant, west of Gallup

Jagjeet Singh is charged with two counts of leaving the scene of an accident causing death
• SP Agent Larry Reuter said in court documents that Singh admitted to running over Jessica Ann Copey and her infant child on Jan. 19, 2021
• Magistrate Judge Virginia Yazzie released Singh on an unsecured $100,000 bond

See the case write-up

GALLUP, N.M. — State Police charged a 24-year-old man for the deaths of a 24-year-old woman and her infant child in an alleged Jan. 19, 2021 hit-and-run on Interstate 40, west of Gallup.

State Police Agent Larry Reuter charged Jagjeet Singh, of Indianapolis, on Jan. 20, 2021, with two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily injury or death, one count of possession of a controlled substance: heroin, one count of possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Mug shot of Jagjeet Singh in case M-35-FR-2021-0021
Jagjeet Singh

Singh is charged for allegedly killing Jessica Ann Copey, 24, of Tohlakai, and her unnamed infant.

Singh pleaded not guilty when he was initially arraigned on Jan. 21, on just the leaving the scene of an accident charges, and Gallup Magistrate Judge Virginia Yazzie released him on an unsecured $100,000 bond.

Reuter later filed an amended complaint, charging him with the drug offenses, and he is set to be arraigned a second time, with an interpreter, on Feb. 2. The case was reassigned, for unlisted reasons, to Los Alamos Magistrate Judge Pat Casados.

The case started on Jan. 19, 2021, around 9:30 p.m., when the McKinley County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a woman walking east on I-40, around mile marker 15, west of Gallup. A “short time later,” a State Police officer driving that way saw a large object, a shoe and debris from a vehicle in the road and in the median. A deputy then arrived and they both discovered, in the median, Copey’s body and her infant, also dead, in a car seat, State Police Officer Dusty Francisco wrote in a press release.

Investigators “learned” that Copey was carrying her child in the car seat while walking in the left lane of I-40 when he was hit by a tractor-trailer, who did not stop. An attempt to locate the driver was broadcast to state and local law enforcement agencies. On Jan. 20, 2021, a day later, a McKinley County Sheriff’s deputy located a tractor-trailer with heavy front-end damage parked at the Flying J’s Truck Stop nears Jamestown, Francisco wrote.

In an amended statement of probable cause for Singh’s arrest, State Police Agent Larry Reuter wrote that state police officers recovered a blue bumper and a headlight where Copey and the child were killed.

Reuter wrote that State Police arrives “arrived” at the truck stop and saw Singh’s vehicle, which was missing the bumper and headlight, which matched those found on the interstate. Jagjeet Singh and his passenger, Gurcharan Singh, were “detained” and brought to the State Police office in Gallup.

Gurcharan Singh told Reuter that he received a call from Jagjeet Singh at 12:10 a.m., Jan. 20, that he hit a deer and he needed help to replace his headlight. Gurcharan Singh was headed west on I-40 and stopped at the gas station, Reuter wrote.

“Gurcharan told me he was not told anything about Jagjeet hitting a person,” Reuter wrote.

Reuter wrote that he then interrogated Jagjeet Singh, after reading him his Miranda rights. Reuter made no mention of reading him his Miranda rights in any language other than English or that Jagjeet Singh had, or did not have, trouble understanding him.

In court documents, Jagjeet Singh indicated he needs a Punjabi interpreter. Miranda rights are supposed to be knowingly and intelligently waived.

Jagjeet Singh allegedly told Reuter he knew he hit someone who had long, white hair, Reuter wrote.

“Jagjeet confirmed he had observed the person walking from North side of the median and walking Southbound across the highway,” Reuter wrote. “Jagjeet told me he took the exit at mile marker 16, stopped and looked in his mirror but could not see anyone in his mirror. Jagjeet never called the police and did not stop to look for the person he hit.”

Jagjeet Singh allegedly told Reuter he called his cousin who asked why someone would be walking in the road and suggested he hit an animal instead. He drove to the truck stop, where he stayed until he was arrested, Reuter wrote. The cousin is not identified in court documents.

“Jagjeet drew a diagram of where his CVE was positioned when he struck the female,” Reuter wrote. “Jagjeet could not give an answer why he did not call the police or attempt to render aid to the victims he hit.”

When agents searched Jagjeet Singh’s tractor-trailer, they found two bags of a brown powder-like substance weighing 34.8 grams and a white crystalline substance weighing 5.6 grams. The drugs were tested, and came back as heroin and methamphetamine although Reuter did not write what kind of test was conducted, by whom or the presumed accuracy.

Field drug tests “routinely” show false-positive results, according to ProPublica.

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Jagjeet Singh: Jessica Ann Copey, unnamed infant — 1-19-2021

  • Suspect: Jagjeet Singh
  • Victim: Jessica Ann Copey, 24
  • Victim: Unnamed infant
  • Date of incident: Jan. 19, 2021
  • Charges: Two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily injury or death, one count of possession of a controlled substance: heroin, one count of possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Status: Pending (magistrate court)
  • Investigating Agency: State Police
  • Investigator: Larry Reuter
  • Incident Location: Interstate 40 near mile marker 15, west of Gallup
  • Judicial District: 11th Judicial District
  • Prosecuting agency:  11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Div. II
  • Prosecutor: Unknown
  • Defense attorney: Unknown
  • Magistrate case number: M-35-FR-2021-0021
  • District Case number: n/a

Summary

On Jan. 19, 2021, truck driver Jagjeet Singh, 24, of Indianapolis, allegedly ran over Jessica Ann Copey, 24, of Tohlakai, and her infant who was in a car seat, as she walked on I-40, then parked at a truck stop until police arrested him the next day.

Although an investigators wrote that Singh waived his Miranda rights and admitted to running over someone, he has also requested an interpreter in court proceedings and there is no indication that an interpreter read him his rights. Miranda rights are supposed to be knowingly and intelligently waived.

Magistrate Judge Virginia Yazzie released him on an unsecured $100,000 bond following his first appearance on Jan. 21, 2021. He is set to be arraigned on an amended criminal complaint, charging him additionally with the possession of drugs, on Feb. 2, 2021.

The incident

On Jan. 19, 2021, around 9:30 p.m., the McKinley County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a woman walking east on Interstate 40, around mile marker 15, west of Gallup. A “short time later,” a State Police officer driving that way saw a large object, a shoe and debris from a vehicle in the road and in the median. A deputy then arrived and they both discovered, in the median, the body of Jessica Ann Copey, 24, of Tohlakai and her infant, also dead, in a car seat, State Police Officer Dusty Francisco wrote in a press release.

Mug shot of Jagjeet Singh in case M-35-FR-2021-0021
Jagjeet Singh

Investigators “learned” that Copey was carrying her child in the car seat while walking in the left lane of I-40 when he was hit by a tractor-trailer, who did not stop. An attempt to locate the driver was broadcast to state and local law enforcement agencies. On Jan. 20, 2021, a day later, a McKinley County Sheriff’s deputy located a tractor-trailer with heavy front-end damage parked at the Flying J’s Truck Stop nears Jamestown, Francisco wrote.

In an amended statement of probable cause for Jagjeet Singh’s arrest, State Police Agent Larry Reuter wrote that state police officers recovered a blue bumper and a headlight where Copey and the child were killed. Singh, 24, is from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Reuter wrote that State Police arrives “arrived” at the truck stop and saw Singh’s vehicle, which was missing the bumper and headlight, which matched those found on the interstate. Jagjeet Singh and his passenger, Gurcharan Singh, were “detained” and brought to the State Police office in Gallup.

Gurcharan Singh told Reuter that he received a call from Jagjeet Singh at 12:10 a.m., Jan. 20, that he hit a deer and he needed help to replace his headlight. Gurcharan Singh was headed west on I-40 and stopped at the gas station, Reuter wrote.

“Gurcharan told me he was not told anything about Jagjeet hitting a person,” Reuter wrote.

Reuter wrote that he then interrogated Jagjeet Singh, after reading him his Miranda rights. Reuter made no mention of reading him his Miranda rights in any language other than English or that Jagjeet Singh had, or did not have, trouble understanding him.

In court documents, Jagjeet Singh indicated he needs a Punjabi interpreter. Miranda rights are supposed to be knowingly and intelligently waived.

Jagjeet Singh allegedly told Reuter he knew he hit someone who had long, white hair, Reuter wrote.

“Jagjeet confirmed he had observed the person walking from North side of the median and walking Southbound across the highway,” Reuter wrote. “Jagjeet told me he took the exit at mile marker 16, stopped and looked in his mirror but could not see anyone in his mirror. Jagjeet never called the police and did not stop to look for the person he hit.”

Jagjeet Singh allegedly told Reuter he called his cousin who asked why someone would be walking in the road and suggested he hit an animal instead. He drove to the truck stop, where he stayed until he was arrested, Reuter wrote. The cousin is not identified in court documents.

“Jagjeet drew a diagram of where his CVE was positioned when he struck the female,” Reuter wrote. “Jagjeet could not give an answer why he did not call the police or attempt to render aid to the victims he hit.”

When agents searched Jagjeet Singh’s tractor-trailer, they found two bags of a brown powder-like substance weighing 34.8 grams and a white crystalline substance weighing 5.6 grams. The drugs were tested, and came back as heroin and methamphetamine although Reuter did not write what kind of test was conducted, by whom or the presumed accuracy.

Field drug tests “routinely” show false-positive results, according to ProPublica.

Magistrate Judge Virginia Yazzie initially released Jagjeet Singh on a $100,000 unsecured bond at his first appearance on Jan. 21, 2021. He is set to be arraigned on the amended criminal complaint, which added the drug charges, on Feb. 2, 2021, in front of Magistrate Judge Pat Casados. An interpreter is scheduled for that hearing, according to the docket.

See the case files on Document Cloud or Google Drive.

Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez sentenced to 15 years for killing Florida woman in Hachita

Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez received 15 years for strangling Connie Lopez
• A jury previously found him guilty of second-degree murder, a lesser-included offense of first-degree murder

Read the case write-up catch up on the past stories

DEMING, N.M. — Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez received the maximum sentence for strangling a woman outside Hatchita in 2017, after spending over three years in jail awaiting trial.

Mug shot of Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez, convicted of second-degree murder for the death of Connie Lopez, 57, of Lake Placid, Fla. 4x5 ratio
Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez

A jury found him guilty of the second-degree murder of Connie Lopez, 57, of Lake Placid, Fla., following a four-day trial that ended Aug. 20, 2020. They deliberated for just an hour. He was charged in district court with first-degree murder.

During a hearing on Nov. 2, 2020, District Judge Jarod Hofacket sentenced Lobato-Rodriguez to 15 years in prison, the maximum sentence for second-degree murder in New Mexico.

Hofacket gave Lobato-Rodriguez credit for the 3 years, 7 months and 17 days he spent in jail before trial, lowering the amount of time he will have to serve to 11 years, 4 months and 14 days, according to a judgement and sentence.

Lobato-Rodriguez is appealing his conviction and a notice of appeal was filed on Nov. 23, 2020. He is being represented by the appellate division of the Law Office of the Public Defender.

Mistrial motion denied

Lobato-Rodriguez’s attorney, George Harrison, previously asked for a reconsideration of the guilty verdict on three grounds:

  • An improper comment by prosecutor Matthew Bradburn, during opening statement over Lobato-Rodriguez asserting his right to remain silent, citing the 2007 case State v. Rodriguez.
  • A failure to correct an improper translation in which Lobato-Rodriguez mumbled that he thought the victim told him he would “be dead that day.”
  • The denial of a previous motion to suppress, previously denied twice by the judge.

Hofacket denied that motion to reconsider, noting that he had previously been asked to consider each of the motions individually and previously denied all three.

The judge took issue with assertion by Harrison that Lobato-Rodriguez used the phrase “be dead that day.” He wrote:

“The interpreter informed the Court that she had heard the Defendant say something along the lines of ‘because you’ll be dead’ in reference to why he would not see the mountain again. She stated that she did not understand what he said and asked him to repeat his response. When he repeated his response, he did not make that statement.
In reviewing the Defendant’s trial testimony, this interaction did not occur. The Court is at a loss to explain why the court appointed interpreter would assert that it did. All of the testimony regarding the mountain, on direct and on cross is transcribed (unofficially from the audio recording) above.”

Hofacket wrote that the blame appears to fall with Harrison, when the interpreter was questioned by the judge and the two attorneys. He wrote:

“Defense counsel stated that it was his understanding that the victim said ‘you’re going to be dead.’ Only then did the interpreter change her testimony from the direct response to the Court’s question and said that she did hear the Defendant say something along the lines that he was going to be dead, but that he mumbled, so she asked for the Defendant to repeat himself.
This did not occur and the interpreter’s recollection of the trial testimony is incorrect.”

Continue reading “Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez sentenced to 15 years for killing Florida woman in Hachita”

Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez asks for reconsideration after guilty verdict

• A jury found Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez guilty of second-degree murder
• His attorney wants a mistrial for three issues, including a lack of a self defense instruction

Read the case write-up

DEMING, N.M. — A Florida man is asking for a mistrial, after a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder for the strangling death of a woman outside Hachita in 2017.

The jury found Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez guilty of second-degree murder on Aug. 20, 2020, following a four-day trial and a single hour of jury deliberation, according to logs of the trial.

Isaias Loabto-Rodriguez

Lobato-Rodriguez’s attorney, George Harrison, gave three reasons for a new trial in his motion:

• An improper comment by prosecutor Matthew Bradburn, during opening statement over Lobato-Rodriguez asserting his right to remain silent, citing the 2007 case State v. Rodriguez.

• A failure to correct an improper translation in which Lobato-Rodriguez mumbled that he thought the victim told him he would “be dead that day.”

• The denial of a previous motion to suppress, previously denied twice by the judge.

A hearing on the motion to reconsider is set for 10 a.m., Oct. 26, 2020, along with his sentencing hearing.

On March 17, 2017, Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez, of Florida, allegedly tied a belt around Connie Lopez’s neck, strangling her in the front seat of her rented mini-van, two miles east of Hachita in Grant County, according to a statement of probable cause.

He allegedly told two Border Patrol agents, one of whom found Lopez’s body, that she was going to kill him and his family and that he was with other people in a berm in the desert. The agents could find neither footprints nor signs of anyone else.

For more details on the killing of Connie Lopez, see the case write-up.

Improper comment

Harrison wrote in this motion that telling the jury that Lobato-Rodriguez asserted his right to remain silent was not a harmless error. Specifically, Bradburn said:

Agent (Moises) Mascorro then went to the Deming State Police office which is where Mr. Lobato Rodriguez has been taken from the scene. He got brought back from there to Deming and he wasn’t free to leave, and he he he was the suspect I mean, that’s it, and so, Mr. Agent Mascorro did engage in conversation with Mr. Lobato Rodriguez and Mr. Lobato Rodriguez asserted his right to remain silent.”

The prohibition on mentioning a defendant asserting his right to remain silent has existed since the Miranda rights were established and is “well known to all attorneys,” Harrison wrote.

“There is no reason to mention exercising Miranda rights in opening statement other than to prejudice the defendant,” he wrote.

After Bradburn made the statement, Harrison moved for a mistrial, which the judge denied.

In a response to the motion to reconsider, Bradburn wrote that the judge “fully considered” the objection and request for a mistrial and evaluated it according to another 2007 case, State v. Pacheco, and the judge offered a “curative instruction” which Harrison objected.

“The Court fully considered this issue on more than one occasion during trial and made its ruling,” Bradburn wrote. “There is nothing asserted by the defendant in his Motion to Reconsider to justify the Court reversing its trial ruling.”

Translation error

Harrison wrote that Lobato-Rodriguez said the victim, Connie Lopez, told him “he would be dead that day.” The interpreter did not translate the phrase during the “case in chief” and the statement was “essential to the defense theory of the case.”

“The interpreter did interpret other statements of the defendant which had much different meaning without that statement. Counsel for the defendant told the Court that some statements were not being interpreted but could not tell the substance. The defendant had no way to know his statement was not translated for the jury,” Harrison wrote.

Interpreter Heidi Swanson tried to clarify the problem later, outside of the presence of the jury. Harrison wrote, from the tapes of the trial:

“-Heidi Swanson interpreter: The interpreter needs to clarify statement of earlier what have done I was interpreting for Mr. Lobato he was asked am about and when he was going to go with Mrs. Connie, Ms. Connie; and about the mountains and I don’t remember know exactly what the whole statement that was asked, but he said that he was going to go and that she asked him to look to the right to see that beautiful or the pretty mountains and because he was never going to see it again and then at that point he said mumbled something and the interpreter I asked for repetition he was asked for repetition but he did not repeat the same statement so interpreter I just interpreted what he had said which he did not repeat the part which where she said that he was not going to see the mountains anymore because he was going to be dead and so that part was not repeated for Mr. Lobato and so the interpreter did not repeat that part.”

Bradburn said in closing statements that Lobato-Rodriguez did not say Lopez posed a threat, Harrison wrote.

“The State conceded that the omitted testimony would change the course of the trial during argument to correct the interpretation,” Harrison wrote.

Judge Jarod Hofacket also denied a a self defense jury instruction, Harrison wrote.

Harrison also filed a motion specifically to correct the error.

Bradburn wrote in response that Hofacket found Lobato-Rodriguez “had a full and fair opportunity to testify on cross examination” and on re-direct.

“Whatever the claimed shortcomings of the court interpreter, the defendant and his attorney had a complete opportunity to communicate the defendant’s version of events to the jury,” Bradburn wrote. “Noteworthy in this connection, the defendant only articulated this claim to the Court after the close of all evidence in the case. ”

Motion to suppress

Harrison also raised a previous motion to suppress that had been twice denied before, where he argued that Lobato-Rodriguez was in custody when he was questioned by U.S. Border Patrol agents.

“This is a Mexican National who came to a Border Patrol Agent and admitted he was here illegally. He was not free to go. He was ordered to sit on the ground. At trial the Court learned that the statements made to the first officer were not I killed her but an untranslatable phrase. Further questioning after being detained by border Patrol should be suppressed. When mirandized he requested an attorney,” Harrison wrote.

Bradburn wrote in response that the judge “should decline the defendant’s invitation to second guess itself” and the motion presented no new issues.

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Appeals court suggests no double jeopardy in Scott Bachicha case

• A Court of Appeals judge suggested the appeal be dismissed as Scott Bachicha does not face a double jeopardy violation
• Judge Brett Loveless stayed the case pending the appeal
• The case has been going on for over three years and was initially dismissed after a prosecutor missed deadlines

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Court of Appeals filed a proposed disposition that Scott Wade Bachicha’s right against double jeopardy would not be violated if prosecutors moved forward with a firearms enhancement in the involuntary manslaughter case against him.

Scott Bachicha

In a proposed summary disposition filed on Sept. 10, 2020, Court of Appeals Judge Miles Hanisee wrote that the New Mexico Supreme Court rejected the basis of the double jeopardy claim Ramczyk used in State v Baroz, where the supreme court found that a firearms enhancement did not violate double jeopardy even though the use of a firearm is an element of the charge.

“Given the holding in Baroz, we propose that the firearm enhancement in this case does not violate double jeopardy,” Hanisee wrote. “Accordingly, we propose to reverse the district court’s order dismissing the firearm enhancement.”

District Judge Daniel Ramczyk dismissed the firearms enhancement in an order on Nov. 20, 2019, following a hearing. Prosecutors James Grayson and Mia Rubin then filed an interlocutory appeal of his decision on Jan. 29, 2020. The case has been stayed since the appeal was filed.

According to a flow chart provided by the Court of Appeals, Bachicha’s attorney has 20 days to file a memo in response. The court could then issue another notice or issue an opinion. Once an opinion is issued, his attorney could file a motion for a rehearing.

The case

Bachicha, 35, allegedly shot and killed girlfriend Mindy Stuart, 30, with a shotgun blast to the neck on April 16, 2017. In court documents, Bachicha’s attorneys argue the shooting was purely accidental but Albuquerque Police Department detectives initially charged him with an open count of murder, followed by a grand jury indictment on a charge of first-degree murder on May 2, 2017. (Read more details about the case in the write-up.)

After Second Judicial District prosecutor John Duran missed a series of deadlines, he dismissed the case without prejudice on Feb. 12, 2018 and then brought a new indictment on charges of involuntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement and tampering with evidence, on Dec. 4, 2018. He left the case after Bachicha’s attorney tried to call him as a witness.

On April 17, 2020, District Judge Brett Loveless granted a stay in the case, requested by Rubin, pending the outcome of the appeal on the firearms enhancement.

Among the motions that are now stayed pending the appeal is a speedy trial motion Maestas filed on Jan. 10, 2020.

“In this case, the nearly three-year delay from Mr. Bachicha’s arrest on April 16, 2017 and charging to the present trial setting of March 26, 2020 (total: 1,066 days) is simply unconstitutional,” he wrote.

Also pending is a motion to suppress statements as involuntary.

No further hearings are scheduled in either the appeal or in the case proper.

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DA dismisses murder charge against Anthony Wagon

• Prosecutor Brian Decker dismissed murder case two weeks after a judge ordered one of Anthony Wagon‘s interrogations be suppressed
• A judge suppressed Det. Jason Solomon‘s interrogation, where Wagon allegedly admitted to running down Jeremy Beard
• Wagon spent over three years in jail after initially being released on bond

See the case write-up

AZTEC, N.M. — A prosecutor dismissed the murder case against Anthony Wagon, 23, three weeks after a judge suppressed Wagon’s interrogation by a Farmington detective, and three years after a judge ordered him held without bail pending trial.

Anthony Wagon

San Juan County District Attorney’s Office prosecutor Brian Decker filed the nolle prosequi dismissing the case on June 23, 2020, after District Court Judge Daylene Marsh suppressed Farmington Det. Jason Solomon‘s interrogation of Wagon following Jeremy Beard’s death on April 24, 2017.

After Marsh suppressed the statement on June 2, 2020, in which Wagon allegedly said he ran down Beard after being tackled by him during a fight over a beer, Decker immediately filed an appeal.

Marsh wrote, in her order suppressing his statements to Solomon, that he was never read his rights. His attorney, Craig Acorn, also made the argument that Wagon was too drunk to consent to an interrogation, but her decision made his intoxication a moot point.

“The inadequacy of the advisement of rights requires the exclusion from use at trial of Defendant’s statement to Detective Solomon and whether Defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his rights has become moot,” Marsh wrote.

Marsh cited State v Serna, a Court of Appeals case from 2018. In that case, the Appeals Court found that a Miranda warning requires “that a person be warned, at least implicitly, that they have a right to counsel prior to questioning.” In the case of Ernest Serna, Sandoval Sheriff’s Deputy Sal Tortorici, reciting a Miranda warning from memory, told Serna he had a right to an attorney during questioning. The court found this to be “inadequate.”

While Solomon never read Wagon his rights, Det. Chris Stanton and Sgt. Travis Spruell did after they illegally seized him from the Navajo Nation.

On June 4, 2020, Decker filed a motion to dismiss his appeal and for Marsh to reconsider her suppression order.

He wrote that Stanton read Wagon the correct Miranda warning and that, when he testified during a motion hearing, it was from memory and not the card he carried. Marsh granted his motion and set a hearing for July 7, 2020.

On June 23, Decker dismissed the case, writing it was in the “best interest of justice.”

Prosecutor Dustin O’Brien told the Farmington Daily Times that “the district court followed what is mandated by state law and the Farmington Police Department was issuing Miranda warnings consistent with law at the time.”

Police Spokeswoman Nicole Brown told the Daily Times that the case was “dismissed pending further investigation” following Marsh’s ruling and that the police department “is still pursuing and investigating the incident.”

Wagon was initially released on a bond following his arraignment in magistrate court but after the case was bound over, former district judge John Dean ordered Wagon held without bail on May 26, 2017.

Dean wrote in his order that Wagon’s step-mother testified against him, as did Solomon.

“Based on the testimony of Tina Wagon, Defendant’s step-mother, Mr. Wagon has a history of anger issues than can cumulate (sic) in aggression and violence — particularly when Defendant does not get his way,” Dean wrote. “In fact, Ms. Wagon testified that Mr. Wagon one time became so upset he shoved her and caused her to fall.”

Dean wrote that Wagon “fled through a non-direct path” to his parent’s home on the reservation, that that he was “indifferent to the consequences of his actions” and that Wagon was a danger to the community.

A civil case filed by Beard’s father is still pending as is a battery on a peace officer case stemming from Wagon’s three years in jail.

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Trial date set for Florida man accused of strangling woman near Hachita

See the case write-up

SILVER CITY, N.M. — A Florida man is set to go to trial on a charge of murder in August, assuming he does not take a plea deal during a pre-trial video conference set for July 27, 2020.

Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez

On March 17, 2017, Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez, 56, allegedly tied a belt around Connie Lopez’s neck, strangling her in the front seat of her rented mini-van, two miles east of Hachita in Grant County.

Lobato-Rodriguez’s murder trial had previously been set back after his attorney left the case to take a job with the state and after issues with an expert interpreter. He was initially interrogated by Border Patrol agents in Spanish, the subject of a motion to suppress.

His trial had previously been set for Oct. 7, 2019, a date that was vacated after his new attorney, Chico Gallegosfiled a motion to continue the jury trial. He wrote that it “became clear” that he needed to hire an expert witness to translate what was said in English, and in Spanish, for the various communications between border patrol agents and Lobato-Rodriguez.

A new trial date of Aug. 17 to 21, 2020, was set by the judge on Dec. 4, 2019. Then on Jan. 21, 2020, a pre-trial conference and plea hearing was set for July 27, 2020 at the district courthouse in Silver City.

On June 5, 2020, the court clerk entered an amended notice of a pre-trial conference and plea hearing set for 1 p.m., July 27, 2020, done via video conference. The hearing is set for 15 minutes.

It is not clear from the court documents and filings if Lobato-Rodriguez plans to plead guilty or if it is a perfunctory hearing before the trial. The hearing is set for 15 minutes.

According to the docket, most of the previous pre-trial conferences have also been labeled as plea hearings.

The trial is still set for Aug. 17, according to the docket.

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Victim’s father files wrongful death lawsuit against Anthony Wagon

See the case write-up

FARMINGTON, N.M. — The father of Jeremy Beard, allegedly intentionally run over in 2017, is suing the accused killer and his insurance company for his son’s death.

Anthony Wagon

Christian Beard filed the lawsuit in Farmington District Court on April 24, 2020, naming accused killer Anthony Wagon, 23, relatives Hershell Wagon and Tina Wagon and insurance companies MGA Insurance Company and Gainsco Insurance Company.

Anthony Wagon allegedly ran down Jeremy Beard, 29, on April 26, 2017 with his truck, after Jeremy Beard took him down during a scuffle following accusations over a stolen beer. Jeremy Beard was his aunt’s husband.

Anthony Wagon is charged with first-degree murder for Jeremy Beard’s death and his case is ongoing.

Christian Beard’s attorney, William Jaworski, wrote in the lawsuit that MGA and Gainsco insured the truck allegedly used to run over Jeremy Beard, and the three Wagons paid the insurance premiums.

When Anthony Wagon allegedly ran down Jeremy Beard, he operated the car in a “negligent and reckless manner,” Jaworski wrote.

“The car accident that killed Jeremy Beard was foreseeable,” he wrote. “The car accident was a proximate cause of Jeremy Beard’s death.”

He is asking for reasonable damages, compensatory damages for the loss of consortium, for the enhanced injury of death and punitive damages, according to the lawsuit.

No hearings have been set in the case.

Read more about the criminal case in the write-up or read more stories about the case

See the case documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

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Kasey Weaver asks for a sentence reduction in DWI homicide

Kasey Weaver killed boyfriend Kit Francis II in a drunk car crash in 2017
• She wants the judge to reconsider her sentence because of her record and good behavior

See the case write-up

SANTA FE, N.M. — Kasey Weaver asked the judge who sentenced her to eight years in prison, followed by five years of supervised probation, to rethink that sentence.

Kasey Weaver

In a hand-written motion on May 14, 2020, Weaver, 27, of Albuquerque, noted she has no prior convictions and, since being sent to prison, has not received any discipline.

“Further, I have been enrolled in multiple programs starting with Matrix in Santa Fe County Jail, Sober Living shortly after my transfer to Springer Womens Facility, and most recently with the completion of the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program on the 27th of March, 2020,” Weaver wrote.

Attached to the motion are a series of certificates noting the programs she completed.

No hearings have been set and no other entries appear on the court docket.

Weaver and her boyfriend, Kit Francis II, 24, were driving from Santa Fe to Albuquerque after drinking at Meow Wolf on April 16, 2017 when Weaver crashed into a car after she tried to stop at a red light at Cerrillos Road, before the exit to the I-25 interstate.

She was arrested initially for DUI great bodily harm. Francis, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the car and died later at an Albuquerque hospital.

A jury found her guilty of DUI vehicular homicide on Nov. 16, 2018. On April 19, 2019,  District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer sentenced Weaver to eight years in prison followed by five years of supervised probation. Weaver faced a maximum sentence of 15 years.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, many of Francis’s family members attended the sentencing hearing, including the mother of Francis’ 6-year-old daughter, who spoke of her daughter’s struggles with her father’s death.

Most of Francis’ relatives asked for the maximum sentence, 15 years, while Kit Francis Sr. asked for her to “do enough time so that she gets it and understands,” according to the Albuquerque Journal.

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Continue reading “Kasey Weaver asks for a sentence reduction in DWI homicide”

Oral arguments scheduled for Muhammad Ameer murder appeal

Muhammad Ameer is appealing two issues from his trial
• The case is scheduled for a year after the last brief was submitted to the court in July 2019

See the full case write-up
Update: Listen to the oral arguments

SANTA FE, N.M. — Justices will hear oral arguments in Muhammad Ameer‘s appeal of his felony murder conviction on July 7, 2020, although it may be done via teleconference.

Muhammad Ameer

The case is scheduled for oral arguments 10:15 a.m., July 7, 2020, but whether it will be in person or via video is still up in the air because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On July 27, 2018, a jury found Ameer, 26, guilty of felony murder and armed robbery, although the latter charge was dropped as the predicate felony for felony murder. The jury acquitted him on a charge of tampering with evidence.

According to court documents, victim Aaron Sieben and Ameer allegedly got into some kind of argument while Sieben was in his truck on March 19, 2017, parked at a Circle K gas station in Albuquerque.

After Ameer allegedly fled from Sieben, Sieben pursued him, leading to a fist fight. As the fight progressed, Ameer allegedly produced a knife and stabbed Sieben two to three times. After stabbing Sieben, Ameer allegedly took his wallet. Sieben died at the scene and Ameer allegedly fled, only to be arrested shortly thereafter.

District Judge Jacqueline Flores sentenced Ameer to life in prison, which is a term of 30 years, on Sept. 25, 2018, according to court documents.

Although four issues were initially raised in a statement of issues for Ameer’s automatic appeal to the Supreme Court, in the June 10, 2019 brief in chief, Assistant Appellate Defender Steven Forsberg, with the Law Office of the Public Defender, only challenged two issues: the judge not suppressing Ameer’s statement to the police and the lack of a self-defense instruction.

In challenging the unsuppressed statement, Forsberg wrote that the Flores used the wrong legal standard to determine if it needed to be suppressed.

A Miranda rights waiver has to be both voluntary and knowing and intelligent, but Flores stated she believed police coercion was required to suppress the statement. However, that is only required to find if a statement was given voluntarily; a statement can still fail to meet the knowing and intelligent threshold in the absence of coercion, Forsberg wrote.

He wrote that Ameer was “in the grips of severe mental illness” when he made the waiver.

The statement was also the only evidence Ameer was the initial aggressor. When the defense argued for a self-defense instruction, the judge said she could not discount his statement to police. Forsberg wrote:

None of the eyewitnesses saw what caused Ameer to flee from Mr. Sieben’s truck while Mr. Sieben chased him, but Ameer in his statement said he had held a knife to Mr. Sieben. None of the witnesses could provide a motive for those events, until Mr. Muhammad said during his statement, according to the detective, “that he wanted to get meth; to get high; to kill himself, and he made statements that he killed him because he did not want to continue to ask people for money.” [8 Tr. 23:24-25:15] Due to his mental state, Ameer’ s statements were not knowing (let alone reliable).

When the defense was arguing for a self-defense instruction, the trial court judge emphasized the importance of the statement: “I think the problem for me is you really want me to discount the Defendant’s statement, and I can’t” [8 Tr. 56:16-56:18] Ameer’s unknowing statement kneecapped any defense he might have had.

Forsberg wrote that the Supreme Court should either reverse his conviction and remand for a re-trial, with the statement suppressed, or remand the case to the District Court for a new hearing on the suppression issue.

Should the trial court, on remand, find the statement unknowing, then a new trial would be required. If, on the other hand, the trial court held that the statement was knowing and intelligent, then Mr. Muhammad could appeal that decision to this Court.

In the answer brief for the prosecution, filed June 20, 2019, Assistant Attorney General Maris Veidemanis wrote that, although Ameer was experiencing delusions during the police interrogation, he was “coherent and articulate” and that the defense presented no information that Ameer did not understand the Miranda warning.

If there had been an error, it wouldn’t have mattered because there was ample evidence to convict him of felony murder, predicated on armed robbery, Veidemanis wrote.

As to the self-defense instruction, Veidemanis wrote that really, the Flores’ decision was based on the lack of evidence that Ameer had been attacked and pointed to State v Abeyta, which states that self defense must be reasonable in relation to the threat posed and that excessive force in self defense “renders the entire action unlawful.”

On July 10, 2019, Forsberg filed a reply brief and focused on Veidemanis’ emphasis on the voluntariness of Ameer’s statement. He wrote that the trial court should be ordered to consider evidence of Ameer’s mental state in determining if he knowingly and intelligently waived his rights.

He wrote that Veidemanis’ claims that the case could have stood without his statement was contradicted by the trial prosecutor, who fought the suppression motion and highlighted the statement during his closing arguments.

The case is scheduled for oral arguments at 10:15 a.m., July 7, 2020.

Continue reading “Oral arguments scheduled for Muhammad Ameer murder appeal”

Judge suppresses Anthony Wagon’s interrogation, prosecutors appeal

• Judge orders interrogation of Anthony Wagon be suppressed
• Prosecutors appealed the order the same day
• Judge previously found Farmington police officers illegally seized Wagon on the Navajo Nation

See the full case write-up

AZTEC, N.M. — Prosecutors cannot use Anthony Wagon‘s statement to a Farmington detective made in the police station, following his illegal seizure on the Navajo Nation, District Judge Daylene Marsh ordered on June 2, 2020, but prosecutors appealed the order same day.

Wagon allegedly ran down his aunt’s husband, April 26, 2017, in his car because he was allegedly mad about getting taken to the ground during a scuffle.

Anthony Wagon

Farmington Police Det. Jason Solomon never read Wagon his Miranda rights after he was brought in for interrogation by detectives Chris StantonJesse Griggs and Chad Herrera, Marsh wrote. The three went to the Navajo nation and, Marsh previously ruled, illegally seized him.

The three detectives went to a house on the Navajo Nation, found Wagon, ordered he come to them, and then transported him to the border where they transferred him into Sgt. Travis Spruell’s police car, who then took him to the Farmington Police Department, Marsh wrote in a July 31, 2019 order. In that order, she found the seizure was illegal, but, after further briefings, she upheld the statements Wagon made to Spruell in an order filed Nov. 15, 2019.

Wagon’s attorney, public defender Craig Acorn, filed a motion to suppress on Jan 16, 2020, followed by an addendum on March 3, 2020. After a hearing on May 14, 2020, Marsh issued her June 2, 2020 decision.

Acorn wrote that Wagon was very drunk and was never given his Miranda warnings, and even if it were given, he was too intoxicated to waive his rights.

Marsh wrote, in her order suppressing his statements to Solomon, that he was never read his rights, making his intoxication a moot point.

“The inadequacy of the advisement of rights requires the exclusion from use at trial of Defendant’s statement to Detective Solomon and whether Defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his rights has become moot,” Marsh wrote.

However, his interview with Stanton, Griggs and Herrera was acceptable because of a Miranda warning.

“Defendant’s statements to Farmington Police Detectives Stanton, Griggs, or Herrera are not excluded from use at trial in this matter to the extent Defendant would have them excluded for the failure to properly Mirandize Defendant,” Marsh wrote.

The same day Marsh issued the order suppressing Wagon’s interrogation by Solomon, June 2, 2020, prosecutor Brian Decker filed a notice of appeal.

No further court hearings have been scheduled.

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Continue reading “Judge suppresses Anthony Wagon’s interrogation, prosecutors appeal”

Judge stays ABQ involuntary manslaughter case for prosecution appeal

• Prosecutor John Duran initially dismissed murder charges after he missed a series of deadlines
• Judge Brett Loveless overruled the order of the previous judge in the case to allow the case to continue, even though the case has been going on for over three years
Scott Wade Bachicha is now facing a charge of involuntary manslaughter

See the full case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After years of delays that lead to an initial dismissal of a murder charge, an Albuquerque man will have to wait even longer for his day in court after a judge ordered a stay in his case while prosecutors appeal a dismissal of a firearms enhancement.

Scott Bachicha

Scott Wade Bachicha, 35, allegedly shot and killed girlfriend Mindy Stuart, 30, with a shotgun blast to the neck on April 16, 2017. In court documents, Bachicha’s attorneys argue the shooting was purely accidental but Albuquerque Police Department detectives initially charged him with an open count of murder, followed by a grand jury indictment on a charge of first-degree murder on May 2, 2017. (Read more details about the case in the write-up.)

Second Judicial District prosecutor John Duran missed a series of deadlines and dismissed the case without prejudice on Feb. 12, 2018 and then brought a new indictment on charges of involuntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement and tampering with evidence, on Dec. 4, 2018.

Bachicha’s attorney, Raymond Maestas, filed a motion to dismiss the firearms enhancement on Oct. 8, 2019. District Judge Daniel Ramczyk dismissed the firearms enhancement in an order on Nov. 20, 2019, following a hearing. Maestas also tried to call Duran as a witness and have the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office removed from the case.

After Ramczyk dismissed the firearms enhancement, prosecutor Mia Ulibarri filed a motion for Ramczyk to reconsider his dismissal of the firearms enhancement on Nov. 18, 2019. He denied that request and prosecutors James Grayson and Mia Rubin then filed an interlocutory appeal of his decision on Jan. 29, 2020.

On Jan. 31, 2020, Rubin filed a motion to stay the case pending the appeal of the firearms enhancement.

Ramczyk heard that motion on Feb. 12, 2020 and orally denied the motion, but never filed a written order. On Feb. 21, 2020, Ramczyk recused himself from the case, but listed no reason.

District Judge Brett Loveless was assigned to the case on Feb. 27, 2020, after three other judges recused themselves and on March 11, 2020, Meastas again argued against the stay.

On April 17, 2020, Loveless granted the motion to stay the appeal. According to the docket, all proceedings are suspended.

“Inefficiencies may result from ruling on Defendant’s pending motions as they may dispose of the case without approval from or knowledge of the appellate court,” Loveless wrote. “This Court will not rule on those matters while the appeal is pending.”

Among the motions that are now stayed pending the appeal is a speedy trial motion Maestas filed on Jan. 10, 2020.

“In this case, the nearly three-year delay from Mr. Bachicha’s arrest on April 16, 2017 and charging to the present trial setting of March 26, 2020 (total: 1,066 days) is simply unconstitutional,” he wrote.

Also pending is a motion to suppress statements as involuntary.

No hearings or pleadings have been filed in the prosecution’s appeal of the firearm enhancement dismissal.

Continue reading “Judge stays ABQ involuntary manslaughter case for prosecution appeal”

Sentencing for double vehicular homicide in Santa Fe reset to July

• A jury found Mansoor Karimi guilty for vehicular homicide by reckless driving for the deaths of two men
• He faces a maximum sentence of 12 years

Read the case write-up

SANTA FE, N.M. — The sentencing hearing for a Santa Fe man found guilty of killing two men in a reckless driving crash has been set for July 17, 2020, after the courts reopen for in-person hearings.

Mansoor Karimi

On Feb. 18, 2020, a jury found Mansoor Karimi, 42, guilty on two counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving for the deaths of Ian Sweatt, 33, and Christopher Bryant, 30, after he T-boned their car on Dec. 16, 2016, according to jury verdict slips.

According to Phaedra Haywoood of the Santa Fe New Mexican, it took the jurors less than two hours to render a verdict following the five-day trial. Another charge, of failure to render aid, was thrown out following a directed verdict.

Karimi blew through a stop sign, at the intersection of Camino Carlos Rey and Plaza Verde, at 60 to 70 mph. The speed limit was 25 mph, according to court documents.

Following the verdict, District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ordered Karimi be remanded into custody pending sentencing and to undergo a 60-day evaluation to determine a sentence. He faces a maximum sentence of 12 years.

Sentencing had initially been set for May 13, 2020, but Karimi’s attorney, Tom Clark, requested it be set for a day when in-person court hearings were allowed again.

“To conduct this sentencing by video and/or audio limits counsel’s ability to effectively advocate on the Defendant’s behalf,” Clark wrote.

Jury trials in the state are set to resume, on a case-by-case basis, between June 15 and July 15.

In an order dated May 18, Marlowe Sommer set the sentencing hearing for 11 a.m., July 17 in Santa Fe.

“The Court anticipates that appropriate precautionary measures to safely conduct jury trials and in-person evidentiary hearings will be in place on or about July 15, 2020,” she wrote.

Lawsuit

On April 22, 2019, Sweatt’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit (D-101-CV-2019-01095) against Karimi and General Motors, which manufactured the Chevy Cobalt that Bryant was driving. That lawsuit is covered in this story.

To learn more about this case, please read the case write-up.

Continue reading “Sentencing for double vehicular homicide in Santa Fe reset to July”

Santa Fe man sentenced to 12 years for fatal DWI crash

Editor’s Note: This story published late, eight months after sentencing, because court records were not previously available.

Read the case write up

SANTA FE, N.M. — Paulo Vega-Mendoza will spend 12 years in prison for crashing into motorcyclist Paul Padilla and killing him, in 2017.

Paulo Vega-Mendoza

District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington sentenced Vega-Mendoza, 25, of Santa Fe, to 12 years followed by three years of supervised probation on Sept. 27, 2019. He had previously pleaded guilty to a single count of DWI vehicular homicide on April 29, 2019, under a plea signed by prosecutor Blake Nichols.

Ellington gave Vega-Mendoza credit for 792 days served, just over two years, for time spent in jail and on electronic monitoring prior sentencing.

Vega-Mendoza ran into the back of Padilla’s motorcycle, April 15, 2017, on Airport Road in Santa Fe. He fled from the scene and then crashed his own car, a Dodge Neon. It landed on its hood.

Witnesses, and then officers, allegedly chased Vega-Mendoza on foot before he tried to climb and fence and it broke, throwing him backward.

Padilla, 63,  died from extensive brain injuries on April 25, 2017.

For more details, please see the summary of the case.

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Continue reading “Santa Fe man sentenced to 12 years for fatal DWI crash”

Police seek suspect in fatal Vado hit-and-run

VADO, N.M. — State Police are looking for the driver of a 1998 tan Chevrolet S-10 truck after the driver allegedly crashed into a motorcyclist, killing him, on May 14, and then fled the scene in Vado, south of Las Cruces.

A stock photo of a tan Chevy S-10 truck
State Police are looking for the driver of a 1998 Chevy S-10 truck, similar to the one pictured here.

Lt. Mark Soriano wrote in a press release the rider, Guy Hanslin, 54, of Mesquiete, died at the scene, at 10581 Los Alturas Street.

“The initial investigation shows a black 2012 Harley Davidson was traveling north on Las Alturas Street,” Soriano wrote. “The driver of a tan 1998 Chevrolet S-10 truck was traveling south on Las Alturas, and for reason unknown turned left striking the Harley Davidson head-on.”

Officers found the truck abandoned at a house in Mesquiete, but are still looking for the driver, he wrote.

Soriano wrote that anyone with information should call State Police at 575-382-2500, option 1.

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