Autopsy: Chronic alcohol abuse killed man in Cibola jail

Ruben Toledo died in 2017 after being allegedly denied medical care while going through alcohol withdrawal while at the Cibola County Detention Center, in Grants
• Pathologist Matthew Cain found Toledo died from chronic alcohol abuse
The county is being sued for Toledo’s death

Read more about the case in the write-up

GRANTS, N.M. — An Albuquerque man who died seven days after suffering a seizure in the Cibola County Detention Center was killed by chronic alcohol abuse, according to an autopsy report. However, the report makes no mention of the seizures the man suffered, his apparent alcohol withdrawal or his hospitalization and appears to downplay the circumstances of his death.

Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, N.M. Photo by Angel Schatz/Flickr. CC-BY

Ruben Toledo, 42, died in the University of New Mexico Hospital on July 1, 2017, after being taken off of life support. He was taken to the hospital seven days earlier after going comatose in a shower after suffering multiple apparent seizures.

Office of the Medical Investigator pathologist Matthew Cain wrote, in a heavily redacted autopsy report, that based on the evidence presented to him, Toledo died from chronic alcohol abuse and he had “significant liver disease” and alcoholics are at risk for “metabolic abnormalities” and withdrawal complications.

Toledo’s wife, Natalia Antonio, filed a lawsuit against Cibola County on June 20, 2019. Attorney Alyssa Quijano named warden Adrianne Jaramillo, nurse Michael Hildenbrant, Sgt. Lisa Burnside and physician’s assistant Michelle Lucero as defendants in the lawsuit, in addition to Cibola County.

Quijana wrote in the lawsuit that Toledo collapsed from a seizure in his cell, causing a head wound, on June 24, 2017. He died in the hospital seven days later, on July 1, 2017, after being taken off of life support.

There is no mention of that fall in the autopsy report, the seizures that caused it or that Toledo never regained consciousness after he was transported out of the jail.

Much of the allegations in the lawsuit center around Toledo going through alcohol withdrawal, which is often deadly.

Despite evidence of alcohol withdrawal in the lawsuit, it is not mentioned in the autopsy report, except as a perfunctory note in the summary and opinion that it can cause seizures and death. Neither Cain’s report nor the deputy field investigation by Tom Conklin makes mention of the seizures Toledo suffered, as noted in the wrongful death lawsuit, although it is unclear what was redacted.

Cain wrote that Toledo had no evidence of “significant” injury. However, in the evidence of injuries section of the autopsy report, he listed three wounds on Toledo:

  • A blunt head injury. “Healing laceration on forehead”
  • On the chest: “Faint, black, 7 cm contusion on left side of chest”
  • On the extremities: “Abrasions on left knee.”

Toledo suffered a head wound seven days before he died, Quijana wrote in the lawsuit complaint.

The narrative of the deputy field investigation, by Tom Conklin, is redacted except for two-and-a-half sentences. It makes no mention of seizures or Toledo’s fall:

“Seth advised that the decedent had been incarcerated in the Cibola County Detention Center. The decedent was found shaking on the shower floor. He became unresponsive and bystander (REDACTED).”

The lawsuit

The lawsuit against Cibola County, filed on June 20, 2019, outlines alleged abuses and neglect at the hands of jail guards and medical staff at the jail.

Toledo was initially arrested on June 21, 2017, after being found allegedly drunk in his truck at the federal Petroglyph National Monument. U.S. Park Ranger Steven Powers arrested him on charges of DUI, possession of alcohol in a vehicle and possession of a controlled substance and booked him into the Sandoval County Detention Center, according to federal court documents.

Federal Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa ordered Toledo held without bail during an initial appearance, at the request of U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutor Nicholas Ganjei. Toledo had no attorney. The entire hearing lasted for five minutes, according to a minutes sheet.

Toledo was transferred from the Sandoval jail to Cibola. His condition quickly worsened until he suffered an alcohol-induced seizure on June 24, observed by Sgt. Lisa Burnside. Toledo could no longer speak and he had dried blood on his forehead, Quijana wrote in the lawsuit complaint.

Burnside ordered guards to take Toledo, incapable of walking, to a shower to clean up while she looked for a clean cell. Guards carried him there and placed him on the ground, Quijana wrote.

“Ruben slumped over on the ground and became unresponsive,” she wrote.

Guards didn’t call for medical staff immediately but once they did, they told the guards to call 911 and started CPR. Once he left the jail, he would never regain consciousness, Quijana wrote.

District Judge Kenneth Gonzales dismissed count one of the lawsuit filed against Hildenbrant and Lucero for violation of due process and inadequate medical care, on the grounds they are entitled to qualified immunity.

motion to dismiss filed by the county is pending.

Downplayed events

The narrative outlined in the lawsuit compares starkly with the outline Cain and Conklin noted in the autopsy report and the deputy field investigation.

In the field investigation, Conklin wrote Toledo was “found shaking on the shower floor.” What happened next is redacted.

In Cain’s summary and opinion, he used the same sentence, that Toledo was “found shaking on the shower floor.” Again, what happened next is redacted.

That compares starkly with the lawsuit allegations, that guards carried Toledo into the shower and he slumped over. Guards then lifted Toledo into a chair and eventually called for medical help, according to the lawsuit.

Neither Cain’s autopsy report not Conklin’s field investigation mention that Toledo was taken to a local hospital, and then to the University of New Mexico hospital, after he lost consciousness at the jail.

Both documents also do not mention that Toledo died after being taken off of life support.

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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

Continue reading “Victim’s father files wrongful death lawsuit against Anthony Wagon”

Civil lawsuit filed in double vehicular homicide case

See the full case here

SANTA FE, N.M. — On April 22, 2019, Ian Sweatt’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit (D-101-CV-2019-01095) against General Motors, which manufactured the Chevy Cobalt that Bryant was driving, and Mansoor Karimi, who allegedly crashed into his vehicle, killing him and Christopher Bryant, 30.

Mansoor Karimi

According to the amended lawsuit complaint, Sweatt, 33, and Bryant were both wearing seat belts but were still killed by the crash because the Cobalt “violated several crashworthiness principles and thereby failed to protect them.”

“The injuries complained of herein occurred because the vehicle in question was not reasonably crashworthy and, thereby, created an unreasonable risk of injury and harm,” attorney Justin Kaufman wrote in the complaint.

He listed a series of problems with the Cobalt, including that the seat belts did not prevent “adequate protection to far sided occupants,” that it failed to prevent “rollout” from the far side, the car’s side structure was “weak and inferior” and the “survival space” in the car was destroyed.

Continue reading “Civil lawsuit filed in double vehicular homicide case”

Anthony Wagon: Jeremy Beard — 4-24-2017

Summary

Anthony 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.

On May 5, 2017, the case was bound over to District Court on a charge of first-degree murder.

On June 2, 2020, District Judge Daylene Marsh ordered Wagon’s statements to a detective be suppressed. Prosecutors appealed, rescinded their appeal and asked Marsh to reconsider her decision because they did not give her the proper evidence at a prior hearing. Marsh granted the hearing but before it could happen, prosecutor Brian Decker dismissed the case because it was “in the best interest of justice.”

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The incident

After Jeremy Beard took Anthony Wagon to the ground, Wagon knew what his only recourse was, according to court records.

“You’re dead,” Wagon allegedly thought after Beard hit him. Wagon relayed that alleged thought to Farmington Detective Jason Solomon during an interview after he allegedly ran Beard over. “You’re fucking dead.”

Wagon and Beard had been drinking with Genella and Garrett Holiday at the El Ray Trailer Park on West Apache Street in Farmington, Solomon wrote in a statement of probable cause for Wagon’s arrest.

Anthony Wagon

Beard was Genella Holiday’s husband, Wagon was her nephew and Garrett Holiday was Wagon’s uncle.

Wagon told Solomon that he had been drinking with the group and Beard became upset when he thought Wagon tried to steal his beer.

“Jeremy hit Anthony a glancing blow to the back of his head and Anthony and Garrett took him to the ground and tried to calm him down,” Solomon wrote, based on his interview of Wagon. “Jeremy got back up and hit Anthony again, knocking him down.”

That was Wagon’s alleged breaking point.

“Anthony told me as soon as Jeremy hit him he said ‘you’re dead. You’re fucking dead,'” Solomon wrote. “I asked if he told Jeremy this and he said no, he said it to himself, in his mind. Anthony said Jeremy would not calm down and the fighting continued.”

Eventually, Beard ran south, down the road and away from the trailer. Garrett Holiday was chasing him, then Wagon allegedly got into his own truck and started following them both.

“He told me Garrett passed out as he was running so Anthony stopped and picked him up,” Solomon wrote. “He then drove onto Apache Street, heading west bound.”

Wagon allegedly spotted Beard on the side walk, headed west.

“He said he ‘floored it,’ drove up on the curb and hit Jeremy with the truck,” Solomon wrote.

Garrett Holiday has not been charged in connection with the death, according to court records.

Wagon told Solomon that Beard was a crack head and that it is hard to fight people high on methamphetamine.

“He said the only way to ‘take someone out’ who was on meth was ‘some other lethal weapon, which is my truck, that’s attempted murder, and that’s a hit and run,'” Solomon wrote, based on his interview of Wagon.

He then asked Wagon why he hit Beard with the truck.

“He said he wanted to paralyze or disable Jeremy but ‘if he dies, he dies, that’s on him. Not me,'” Solomon wrote. “He also said he knew Jeremy had to be hurt or dead because he hit him with the pickup.”

Wagon allegedly described seeing Beard’s back come over the hood of the truck, before he fell back to the ground and went under the truck.

“Anthony said he could then feel the pickup’s tires drove over Jeremy,” Solomon wrote. “Anthony said he wanted Jeremy to know he messed with the wrong person.”

First reports

When the crash was first reported at 9:30 p.m. it was assumed to be a fatal hit and run, Solomon wrote.

An officer spoke to witness Brandy Yniguez, who said she was driving down Apache Street when she saw a white truck pull out of the El Ray Trailer Park, right in front of her.

The truck was driving fast and swerving to the left and right, then struck a decorative wheel mounted on the side of the street.

As she turned, to go home, she saw Beard lying in the driveway to 2310 West Apache Street, then called 911.

Other officers located Wagon and Garrett Holiday, although Wagon’s apprehension is the subject of a series of suppression and dismissal motions.

Below is the statement of probable cause Solomon wrote for Wagon’s arrest:

 

PC - Anthony Wagon - 4-26-2017 - M-47-FR-2017-297

Bound over

On May 3, 2017, Wagon waived a preliminary hearing, prosecutors filed a criminal information charging him with first-degree murder and the case was bound over to district court.

Illegal seizure

On April 25, 2019, Wagon’s attorney, Craig Acorn, filed a motion to suppress evidence and statements of Wagon following his unrecorded apprehension by Farmington police while he was on the Navajo nation. On May 22, he filed a motion to dismiss the entire case for an alleged violation of tribal sovereignty. Prosecutor Brian Decker filed a response to the motion to suppress on May 20 and a response to the motion to dismiss on June 6.

Judge's portrait
11th District Judge Daylene Marsh

On June 11, District Court Judge Daylene Marsh held a hearing where she heard testimony from Det. Chris Stanton and Sgt. Travis Spruell.

Following the hearing, on July 31, 2019, she filed an order denying the motion to dismiss and ordering additional briefing on issues not addressed in the original briefings, specifically related to the police’s illegal seizure of Wagon.

In her order, she summarized the testimony presented:

The night of the crash, Farmington Police detectives Chris Stanton, Jesse Griggs and Chad Herrera drove to Wagon’s address on the Navajo Nation in an unmarked Ford F-150, Marsh wrote.

They spotted Wagon’s vehicle and as they approached, they saw Wagon come out of a house carrying a box. When he saw them, he allegedly ducked behind it, she wrote.

Detectives shouted at Wagon to come out from behind the vehicle and he did, with his hands up, and started talking to the detectives. None of their body cameras or audio recorders were recording, Marsh wrote.

Wagon allegedly started “making statements that implicated him in the crash” and the three detectives got him to get into their vehicle, where they drove him to the border of the Navajo Nation, where he was moved into Sgt. Travis Spruell‘s police car, she wrote.

Spruell was recording, unlike the three detectives, she wrote.

Marsh wrote that the detectives illegally seized Wagon and rejected the prosecution’s argument that the seizure was “lawful for purposes of ‘officer safety.'”

The seizure was not an arrest and “resolved almost immediately into a consensual encounter and remained that way.”

Further, it was not illegal for the detectives to transport Wagon off of the Navajo Nation, even though Wagon was intoxicated and this likely contributed to his “improvident decision.”

Although Acorn made an issue of the lack of department-mandated recordings, their lack did not “persuade this Court that it should ignore Detective Stanton’s testimony as untruthful.”

Marsh wrote that Stanton’s explanation, that he believed he turned on his body cam but it either did not record because of a bad battery or full memory card, was “not particularly satisfying, but it was a reasonable one.”

She wrote that it was not illegal for detectives to take Wagon off of the reservation, even though his initial seizure was illegal.

However, there was a “closer call” over the motion to suppress Wagon’s statement because she already concluded his seizure was illegal.

“Whether the particular evidence the State seeks to admit at trial and Defendant seeks to suppress was  discovered as a result of, or was derived from, the exploitation of Defendant’s illegal initial seizure or whether the evidence may have been purged of the taint of the illegal seizure requires legal analysis that the parties have not briefed,” Marsh wrote.

She ordered the prosecution brief the issue first, with a 15-day deadline, followed by the defense’s response 15 days later.

Decker filed his supplemental brief and Acorn filed his response.

A hearing on the issues happened on Oct. 24, 2019 in Aztec.

No suppression

On Nov. 25, 2019, Marsh ruled that Wagon’s statements to Spruell would not be suppressed at trial.

“There was sufficient attenuation to purge the taint of the illegal seizure of the Defendant, thereby, preventing the exclusion of the Defendant’s statements to Sergeant Spruell,” she wrote.

Wagon’s removal from the Navajo Nation was not illegal because Wagon went with Spruell voluntarily, she wrote.

Suppressed statement

On Jan 16, 2020, Acorn filed a motion to suppress the statements Wagon made to Solomon while being interrogated at the Farmington Police Department. He then filed an addendum on March 3, 2020.

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 Miranda 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, Decker filed a notice of appeal.

On June 23, 2020, Decker dismissed the case.

Wrongful death lawsuit

Jeremy Beard’s father, Christian Beard, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Farmington District Court on April 24, 2020, naming Wagon, relatives Hershell Wagon and Tina Wagon and insurance companies MGA Insurance Company and Gainsco Insurance Company.

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.

See the case documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud