Acoma man sentenced for absconding prior to fatal crash

• Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine on a probation violation she previously released him on
• Faustine allegedly fled from police while drunk and crashed, killing Timothy Chino, two days after Villalobos released him on an absconder warrant

See the case write-up or previous stories

GRANTS, N.M. — An Acoma man will serve the remainder of his state sentence for drunk driving while he is held pending trial on a federal charge of second-degree murder that happened two days after a state judge released him on an absconder warrant.

Anthony Faustine

District Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine, 40, on Sept. 1, to 417 days after he admitted to violating his probation in the his 2016 DWI 3rd offense and fleeing an officer case. She also ordered him discharged from probation.

Faustine is in federal custody after a federal grand jury indicted him on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash on April 22, 2020 that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Villalobos released Faustine, being held on an absconder warrant, on April 20, 2020, two days before he allegedly crashed a car while drunk, killing Chino. He was allegedly fleeing from tribal police officers when he crashed, according to tribal court documents.

He was initially arrested on April 9, 2020 on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018, after he failed to appear for a hearing on the absconder allegations already filed against him, as well as a motion to revoke his probation, before Villalobos released him.

On Oct. 7, 2016, Faustine pleaded guilty to aggravated fleeing an officer, DWI third offense and driving on a license revoked for DWI, for an incident on Jan. 14, 2016, according to court documents.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

The plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

The original file in the magistrate case appears has been destroyed.

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Acoma man arraigned for killing man in DWI crash after fleeing police

• Police say Anthony Faustine allegedly drunkenly crashed his car after fleeing from police on a dirt road, killing passenger Timothy Chino, on April 22, 2020
• Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos released Faustine one day prior after arraigning him on a bench warrant after he didn’t appear at an arraignment on a probation violation from 2018

• Faustine’s original probation violation was for allegedly absconding from probation after pleading guilty to DUI and aggravated fleeing an officer

Read the full case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 40-year-old Acoma Pueblo man is being held without bail after being arraigned Monday in federal court on a charge of second-degree murder for the death of a man following an alleged drunk driving crash following a police pursuit on April 22, 2020, one day after he was released from jail on a probation violation on a prior charge of aggravated fleeing an officer and drunk driving.

Anthony Faustine

A federal grand jury indicted Anthony Faustine on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough ordered Faustine held without bail, and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, during his virtual arraignment, Monday (8/31/2020). Faustine pleaded not guilty and waived a detention hearing.

According to federal court filings, Faustine was being held in the Cibola County Detention Center in Grants prior to his initial appearance on Aug. 27, 2020.

Faustine appears to have been initially jailed, following the crash, after Laguna Pueblo tribal police officer Brandon Mariano charged him in Laguna Pueblo tribal court with homicide by vehicle, reckless driving, aggravated DUI and battery following the April 22, 2020 crash.

Villalobos ordered Faustine released on April 20 after he was arrested earlier that month on a December 2018 bench warrant for his failure to appear at an arraignment for a prior alleged probation violation.

The crash

Laguna tribal police officer Brandon Mariano wrote in a criminal complaint, filed in Laguna Tribal Court, that a call about a red Suzuki first came to dispatchers at 3:23 p.m., April 22, 2020.

An unknown woman told them the car was swerving on eastbound Interstate-40 and almost hit her car, just before it left on Exit 104, toward State Road 124. Officers were sent to look for the car, he wrote.

Laguna Highway Safety Officer Keith Riley told Mariano that while searching, he talked to a construction foreman on Rainfall Road, Mariano wrote.

“The foreman told HSO Riley that the vehicle which Officers were looking for passed through their work zone and nearly hit a few of the workers while it was passing through,” Mariano wrote. “HSO Riley was also told the vehicle was traveling on Cottonwood Trail, headed toward the Pueblo of Acoma.”

Riley and Laguna Police Department Officer Roslynn Lente found the red Suzuki near the border of Acoma and Laguna on Cottonwood Trail. Riley pulled in front of the car with his emergency lights, exited and told the driver to get out. The driver, later identified as Faustine, allegedly refused, revved the engine and sped away from Riley, Mariano wrote.

Riley “contacted the hood” as it sped off and Lente was “nearly to the vehicle” when Riley told her to stay in her car, as Faustine allegedly sped by her, Mariano wrote.

As the red Suzuki Sidekick sped away, the officers began to pursue it, then Riley called it off because it was on a dirt road, he wrote.

“HSO Riley then said just as he was finished the vehicle drove around a corner and began to roll,” Mariano wrote.

When the pair arrived at the crash scene, Faustine allegedly ran from the vehicle and Riley chased him on foot and told Lente to tend to the other two people in the car, he wrote.

Riley unholstered his stun gun and told Faustine to stop. Faustine fell to the ground and Riley placed him “restraints.” Faustine smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, bloodshot and glassy eyes and could not maintain his balance, Mariano wrote.

The crash ejected the front passenger, Timothy Chino, and pinned him under the vehicle. The other passenger, Katrina Juanico, was in the back seat and airlifted from the scene, he wrote.

While one medic, Isaac Herrera, tried to get Faustine’s blood pressure, Faustine allegedly tried to bit him. Faustine was eventually transported by ambulance for his injuries, Mariano wrote.

Mariano wrote he found Bud Light beer cans from the “beginning to the end of the crash,” as well as two bottles of vodka, he wrote.

Probation violations

On April 20, 2020, District Court Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos ordered Faustine released from jail after arraigning him on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018 after he failed to appear for his arraignment on the original probation violation.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

He had been in custody since April 9, 2020, when the Isleta Police Department arrested him on the warrant.

Probation Officer Eric Barela wrote in a probation report dated Oct. 25, 2018 that Faustine was sentenced to three-and-a-half years of supervised probation on Oct. 6, 2016, on the DUI third offense and aggravated fleeing an officer charges.

“Since being sentenced Probationer Faustine has completed sanctions of 3 days and 7 days in custody due to violations of Reporting and Alcohol,” Barela wrote. “Probationer Faustine has shown by calling Cordant and failing to report for UA’s that he understands that he is violating his probation and continues to disreguard (sic) the orders of this court and his orders of probation.”

Barela wrote in the 2018 report that Faustine’s convictions, along with his failure to report and to complete drug and alcohol tests, meant he was a danger to the community.

“Probationer Faustine is now and (sic) ABSCONDER from supervision and has proven that he does not take probation serious and is not a good candidate for supervised probation,” Barela wrote.

Barela wrote he was asking that the prosecutor file a motion to revoke his probation and sentence him to the remainder of his sentence, which would have had him in jail until June 4, 2020.

Prosecutor Sherry Thompson filed a motion to revoke Faustine’s probation on Nov. 15, 2018. She included the original plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, which gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

When he was supposed to be arraigned on the probation violation charges, he never showed up, leading to the Dec. 13, 2018 bench warrant, eventually served on April 9, 2020, by the Isleta Police Department, according to court records.

After Faustine was arraigned on April 20, 2020, Barela issued a violation report on May 1, 2020, after Faustine failed to report for probation, followed by another on May 5. Sanchez Villalobos issued a bench warrant on May 6. It appears he did not know about the crash until, May 13, when he received a notification of arrest for Faustine. It listed him as in the Laguna jail.

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Zuni man sentenced to 5 months for probation violation

Raylan Reano waived an evidentiary hearing
• Judge James Parker ordered him back to prison for five months
• Reano killed girlfriend Nicky Chavez in a drunk driving crash in 2016

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Raylan Reano will spend the next five months in prison after a judge ordered him back, Aug. 25, 2020, after he was initially released on supervised probation after serving a two-year sentence for killing his girlfriend in a drunk driving crash.

Mug shot of Raylan Reano from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Raylan Reano

Reano, 27, admitted to violating the conditions of his release by failing to follow the instructions of his probation officer, failing to reside at a halfway-house after his release and taking drugs, according to a judgement signed by District Judge James Parker.

Raylan Reano killed his girlfriend, Nicky Chavez, 26, in a drunk driving crash on Oct. 23, 2016. He received a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Reano faced a maximum sentence of nine additional months for the probation violations, according to federal court documents.

Reano pleaded guilty on March 13, 2018, to a single count of involuntary manslaughter and a year later, Parker sentenced Reano to two years in federal prison, to be served at the same time as three tribal sentences, followed by supervised release for three years. One of those tribal sentences was for escaping from jail.

Reano’s probation officer,  Christopher Fiedler, reported problems with Reano as soon as he was initially released, on Jan. 3, 2020, and that Reano admitted to using drugs before even leaving prison, according to court documents.

In the original petition filed March 25, 2020, Fielder alleged Reano admitted to using methamphetamine and Suboxone and he tested positive for drugs on Jan. 3, 4 and 7, 2020.

In the second amended petition filed May 18, 2020, Fiedler wrote Reano tested positive for cocaine on March 20, 2020 and admitted to using cocaine in a subsequent interview. A drug testing sweat patch, applied on April 17, showed positive results for THC, the chemical in marijuana.

The case

To read more about the crash, the plea, or the arguments over sentencing, please read the case write-up.

According court documents and an autopsy report, on Oct. 23, 2016, Reano, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.365, drove off State Road 53, overcorrected and flipped, ejecting Chavez, killing her.

According to a response to a sentencing memorandum by prosecutor Sarah Mease, witnesses said Reano was driving recklessly and at a “high rate of speed” when he lost control of his car and it rolled. He had a blood-alcohol content level, or BAC, of 0.365, over four times the legal limit of 0.08, and in the area of possible alcohol poisoning, which Mease described as “shockingly high.”

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Zuni man held without bail pending probation revocation hearing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 27-year-old Zuni man is being held without bail pending a probation revocation hearing after being arrested on June 18, 2020.

Mug shot of Raylan Reano from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Raylan Reano

Raylan Reano killed his girlfriend, Nicky Chavez, 26, in a drunk driving crash on Oct. 23, 2016. He received a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

After an initial probation revocation hearing on May 18, 2020, Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing set a tentative new hearing for May 22. The same day as the initial hearing, Federal probation officer Christopher Fiedler filed a second amended petition for the revocation of Reano’s probation. It was not until June 18 that federal agents arrested Reano on a warrant, dated May 19.

In the original petition filed March 25, 2020, Fielder alleged Reano admitted to using methamphetamine and Suboxone and he tested positive for drugs on Jan. 3, 4 and 7, 2020. He used that as a basis to request Reano have a special condition added to his sentence that he be required to live at a “residential reentry center” for up to six months. On March 16, 2020, District Judge James Parker, who initially sentenced him, added the special condition to Reano’s sentence.

In the second amended petition, Fiedler wrote Reano tested positive for cocaine on March 20, 2020 and admitted to using cocaine in a subsequent interview. A drug testing sweat patch, applied on April 17, showed positive results for THC, the chemical in marijuana.

Raylan Reano could spend up to another nine months in prison if his release is revoked, according to federal court documents.

On June 19, at a hearing on his revocation, Reano waived a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing.

A revocation hearing is set for 2 p.m., Aug. 25, via Zoom, in front of Parker.

Reano pleaded guilty on March 13, 2018, to a single count of involuntary manslaughter and a year later, Parker sentenced Reano to two years in federal prison, to be served at the same time as three tribal sentences, followed by supervised release for three years. One of those tribal sentences was for escaping from jail.

According court documents and an autopsy report, on Oct. 23, 2016, Reano, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.365, drove off State Road 53, overcorrected and flipped, ejecting Chavez, killing her.

To read more about the crash, the plea, or the arguments over sentencing, please read the case write-up.

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Absconder warrant requested for Zuni man who killed girlfriend in DWI crash

Raylan Reano killed girlfriend Nicky Chavez in a 2016 crash outside Ramah
Judge James Parker gave Reano a 2-year sentence for killing Chavez, a mother of two
• Reano allegedly violated his probation, after release, by absconding

Read more about the case here

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Probation officers have requested a warrant for a Raylan Reano, 27, of Zuni, after he allegedly repeatedly violated the conditions of his supervised release and absconded after serving a federal prison sentence for killing his 26-year-old girlfriend Nicky Chavez in 2016.

Mug shot of Raylan Reano from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Raylan Reano

After an initial hearing on May 18, 2020, where no action was taken, a following hearing on his alleged probation violation was tentatively set for May 22, but court records show there has been no more movement in the case.

Raylan Reano could spend up to another nine months in prison if his release is revoked, according to federal court documents. Reano pleaded guilty on March 13, 2018, to a single count of involuntary manslaughter and a year later, federal District Judge James Parker sentenced Reano to two years in federal prison, to be served at the same time as three tribal sentences, followed by supervised release for three years. One of those tribal sentences was for escaping from jail.

According court documents and an autopsy report, on Oct. 23, 2016, Reano, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.365, drove off State Road 53, overcorrected and flipped, ejecting Chavez, killing her.

Federal probation officer Christopher Fiedler alleged Reano admitted to using methamphetamine and Suboxone and he tested positive for drugs on Jan. 3, 4 and 7, 2020, he wrote in a petition for a revocation of his supervised release filed March 25, 2020. He used that as a basis to request Reano have a special condition added to his sentence that he be required to live at a “residential reentry center” for up to six months. On March 16, 2020, Parker added the special condition to Reano’s sentence.

“This was in response to the defendant failing to comply with his substance abuse treatment plan,” he wrote.

Neither the request nor the condition appear on the public docket and appear to have been sealed. There is no documentation requesting they be sealed or indication how, or why, the sealing circumvented the normal rules for court filings.

Fiedler’s March 25, 2020 petition alleged that Reano didn’t call to schedule his assessment appointment for the reentry program on March 23, as ordered. He wrote:

“On March 24, 2020, this officer received notification from staff at Diersen Charities Residential Reentry Center that the defendant left their facility without permission and was considered an absconder. Later that same day, the defendant contacted this officer by phone and confirmed that he decided to leave the residential reentry center and returned back to his mother’s residence in Zuni, New Mexico.”

The federal Bureau of Prisons lists his status as an absconder.

Fiedler wrote that the revocation range is three to nine months.

Aerial panorama, Dowa Yalanne near Black Rock (left) and Zuni (right), NM, on September 9, 2019.
Aerial panorama, Dowa Yalanne near Black Rock (left) and Zuni (right), NM, on September 9, 2019. Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA/Flickr

Instead of a warrant, Reano was issued a summons to appear on a revocation hearing which, after being pushed off, was set for May 18, 2020.

During that hearing in front of Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, Mease requested Reano be arrested, Elsenheimer requested he remain free and probation said that a second amended petition was filed and a warrant was requested, according to the minutes.

No petition appears in the public court record.

The hearing was tentatively moved to May 22, 2020 but no further filings appear in the court record after May 18, 2020. The minutes do not state if Reano was ordered detained or allowed to remain free.

Reano previously escaped from the Zuni jail, a crime that was charged in tribal court, federal prosecutor Sarah Mease wrote in a response to a sentencing memorandum.

He also attacked a fellow inmate while in the Zuni jail and on Nov. 12, 2016, a week after killing Chavez, he was found drunk and sleeping in a vehicle, Mease wrote.

Reano and Chavez were both enrolled Zuni tribal members.

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Anthony Faustine: Timothy Chino — 4-22-2020

Suspect: Anthony Faustine

Victim: Timothy Chino

Non-fatal victim: Katrina Juanico

Charges: Second-degree murder, assault resulting in serious bodily injury

Incident type: DWI crash following a police chase

Date of incident: April 22, 2020

Status: Pending

Investigating Agency: Bureau of Indian Affairs

Prosecutor: Nicholas Marshall

Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office

Location: Cottonwood Trail, near the border of Laguna and Acoma pueblos, Cibola County

Federal magistrate case number: None

Federal district case number: 20-cr-01365

Probation state case number: D-1333-CR-2016-00041

 

Summary

On April 22, 2020, Anthony Faustine, 40, of Acoma, allegedly crashed his car while drunk after fleeing from police. Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos released him one day earlier after he was arrested on a failure-to-appear bench warrant issued after he allegedly absconded from probation in 2018. He fled from the crash, leaving a man under his car who died at the scene, according to an investigator’s report. A woman was also severely injured and flown from the scene, according to the report. Laguna Pueblo tribal officers charged him following the crash.

On June 9, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of second-degree murder and assault and battery resulting in serious bodily harm.

On Aug. 31, a federal magistrate judge ordered he be held without bail pending trial.

The crash

Laguna tribal police officer Brandon Mariano wrote in a criminal complaint, filed in Laguna Tribal Court, that a call about a red Suzuki first came to dispatchers at 3:23 p.m., April 22, 2020.

Anthony Faustine

An unknown woman told them the car was swerving on eastbound Interstate-40 and almost hit her car, just before it left on Exit 104, toward State Road 124. Officers were sent to look for the car, he wrote.

Laguna Highway Safety Officer Keith Riley told Mariano that while searching, he talked to a construction foreman on Rainfall Road, Mariano wrote.

“The foreman told HSO Riley that the vehicle which Officers were looking for passed through their work zone and nearly hit a few of the workers while it was passing through,” Mariano wrote. “HSO Riley was also told the vehicle was traveling on Cottonwood Trail, headed toward the Pueblo of Acoma.”

Riley and Laguna Police Department Officer Roslynn Lente found the red Suzuki near the border of Acoma and Laguna on Cottonwood Trail. Riley pulled in front of the car with his emergency lights, exited and told the driver to get out. The driver, later identified as Faustine, allegedly refused, revved the engine and sped away from Riley, Mariano wrote.

Riley “contacted the hood” as it sped off and Lente was “nearly to the vehicle” when Riley told her to stay in her car, as Faustine allegedly sped by her, Mariano wrote.

As the red Suzuki Sidekick sped away, the officers began to pursue it, then Riley called it off because it was on a dirt road, he wrote.

“HSO Riley then said just as he was finished the vehicle drove around a corner and began to roll,” Mariano wrote.

When the pair arrived at the crash scene, Faustine allegedly ran from the vehicle and Riley chased him on foot and told Lente to tend to the other two people in the car, he wrote.

Riley unholstered his stun gun and told Faustine to stop. Faustine fell to the ground and Riley placed him “restraints.” Faustine smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, bloodshot and glassy eyes and could not maintain his balance, Mariano wrote.

The crash ejected the front passenger, Timothy Chino, and pinned him under the vehicle. The other passenger, Katrina Juanico, was in the back seat and airlifted from the scene, he wrote.

While one medic, Isaac Herrera, tried to get Faustine’s blood pressure, Faustine allegedly tried to bit him. Faustine was eventually transported by ambulance for his injuries, Mariano wrote.

Mariano wrote he found Bud Light beer cans from the “beginning to the end of the crash,” as well as two bottles of vodka, he wrote.

Indictment

A federal grand jury indicted Faustine on June 8, 2020, on charges of second-degree murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury for the crash that, according to tribal court documents, allegedly killed Timothy Chino and severely injured Katrina Juanico.

Ariel view of Laguna. Photo by Dickyon/Wikimedia

Federal Magistrate Judge Steven Yarbrough ordered Faustine held without bail, and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, during his virtual arraignment, Monday (8/31/2020). Faustine pleaded not guilty and waived a detention hearing.

According to federal court filings, Faustine was being held in the Cibola County Detention Center in Grants prior to his initial appearance on Aug. 27, 2020.

Faustine appears to have been initially jailed, following the crash, after Laguna Pueblo tribal police officer Brandon Mariano charged him in Laguna Pueblo tribal court with homicide by vehicle, reckless driving, aggravated DUI and battery following the April 22, 2020 crash.

Probation violations

On April 20, 2020, District Court Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos ordered Faustine released from jail after arraigning him on a bench warrant issued on Dec. 13, 2018 after he failed to appear for his arraignment on the original probation violation.

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos

He had been in custody since April 9, 2020, when the Isleta Police Department arrested him on the warrant.

Probation Officer Eric Barela wrote in a probation report dated Oct. 25, 2018 that Faustine was sentenced to three-and-a-half years of supervised probation on Oct. 6, 2016, on the DUI third offense and aggravated fleeing an officer charges.

“Since being sentenced Probationer Faustine has completed sanctions of 3 days and 7 days in custody due to violations of Reporting and Alcohol,” Barela wrote. “Probationer Faustine has shown by calling Cordant and failing to report for UA’s that he understands that he is violating his probation and continues to disreguard (sic) the orders of this court and his orders of probation.”

Barela wrote in the 2018 report that Faustine’s convictions, along with his failure to report and to complete drug and alcohol tests, meant he was a danger to the community.

“Probationer Faustine is now and (sic) ABSCONDER from supervision and has proven that he does not take probation serious and is not a good candidate for supervised probation,” Barela wrote.

Barela wrote he was asking that the prosecutor file a motion to revoke his probation and sentence him to the remainder of his sentence, which would have had him in jail until June 4, 2020.

Prosecutor Sherry Thompson filed a motion to revoke Faustine’s probation on Nov. 15, 2018. She included the original plea deal, signed by prosecutor Brandon Vigil, which gave Faustine a suspended sentence minus the mandatory 97 days he had to serve on the DUI charge. The plea was approved by District Judge Pedro Rael.

When he was supposed to be arraigned on the probation violation charges, he never showed up, leading to the Dec. 13, 2018 bench warrant, eventually served on April 9, 2020, by the Isleta Police Department, according to court records.

After Faustine was arraigned on April 20, 2020, Barela issued a violation report on May 1, 2020, after Faustine failed to report for probation, followed by another on May 5. Sanchez Villalobos issued a bench warrant on May 6. It appears he did not know about the crash until, May 13, when he received a notification of arrest for Faustine. It listed him as in the Laguna jail.

Sentenced on probation violations

Sanchez Villalobos sentenced Anthony Faustine, 40, on Sept. 1, 2020, to 417 days after he admitted to violating his probation in the his 2016 DWI 3rd offense and fleeing an officer case. She also ordered him discharged from probation.

Stories on this case

Acoma man sentenced for absconding prior to fatal crash

Acoma man arraigned for killing man in DWI crash after fleeing police

 

See the case files on Document Cloud or Google Drive

Raylan Reano: Nicky Chavez — 10-23-2016

Suspect: Raylan Reano

Victim: Nicky Chavez, 26

Charges: Involuntary manslaughter

Status: Remanded to prison for five months for probation violations after a plea to involuntary manslaughter and sentence (2 years)

Date of incident: Oct. 23, 2016

Investigative agencies: Zuni Police Department

Prosecutor: Sarah Mease

Prosecuting agency: U.S. Attorney’s Office

Location: State Road 53 in Ramah, exterior boundaries of the Zuni Pueblo

County: McKinley County

Type: DWI crash

Relation to victim: Boyfriend

Federal Magistrate case number: None

Federal District case number: 17-cr-03403

 

Summary

On Oct. 23, 2016, Raylan Reano, 27, crashed, killing his 26-year-old girlfriend Nicky Chavez, mother of two, on State Road 53 in Ramah, in the exterior boundaries of the Zuni Pueblo. Chavez was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected through the rear window.

Mug shot of Raylan Reano from the Santa Fe County Detention Center
Raylan Reano

Nov. 28, 2017, a year after killing Chavez, Reano was indicted. Three months later he pleaded guilty and on March 21, 2019, he received a two-year sentence, the minimum sentence suggested by sentencing guidelines.

After being released from federal prison, he admitted to using methamphetamine and Suboxone and was ordered into a residential reentry program for six months. After he did not set up an appointment for the program, and then left the treatment facility he was in, probation officers requested his release be revoked. His probation case is pending.

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The incident

While driving drunk on State Road 53 through Ramah, Raylan Reano crashed his car, killing girlfriend Nicky Chavez, 26.

Aerial panorama, Dowa Yalanne near Black Rock (left) and Zuni (right), NM, on September 9, 2019.
Aerial panorama, Dowa Yalanne near Black Rock (left) and Zuni (right), NM, on September 9, 2019. Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA/Flickr

Details on the crash, from court records, are few. Reano was indicted, and never charged federally at the magistrate level, for killing Chavez.

According to a response to a sentencing memorandum by prosecutor Sarah Mease, witnesses said Reano was driving recklessly and at a “high rate of speed” when he lost control of his car and it rolled. He had a blood-alcohol content level, or BAC, of 0.365, over four times the legal limit of 0.08, and in the area of possible alcohol poisoning, which Mease described as “shockingly high.”

Most of the details of the crash come from a deputy field investigation conducted by the Office of the Medical Investigator.

Field Investigator Paulena Houston wrote that Chavez was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the rear window in the crash, about 110 feet from the car. She died at the scene.

Houston wrote:

“The blue dodge passenger vehicle starts to runoff (sic) the roadway at least 50 yards; from where it came to a rest, it then drives over a driveway ditch which damages the right front and back tires. The vehicle then loses control as it turns towards the roadway, flips on its right side then starts to roll at least 2 to 3 times. The vehicle then lands back on its wheels, front end facing SE, and all doors closed.”

The stretch of road where Reano crashed is straight, she wrote.

Chavez suffered severe cuts on her head and cans were thrown out from with crash, along with other debris, Houston wrote.

Chavez’s mother discovered the crash as she was driving to work and positively identified her daughter. Zuni police investigator Lee Lucio conducted the tribal investigation, she wrote.

According to the autopsy report, Chavez died from blunt trauma of the head, chest and abdomen.

In a sentencing memorandum, Reano’s attorney, federal public defender Aric Elsenheimer wrote that Reano drove off the road, overcorrected and flipped the car.

The night of the crash, Chavez and Reano drank heavily and they left Chavez’s home at 4 p.m., with Chavez driving. They continued to drink into the night and at some point, Reano started driving, Elsenheimer wrote.

Aerial view from near Dowa Yalanne near Black Rock (right) and Zuni (left), NM, on September 9, 2019.
Aerial view from near Dowa Yalanne near Black Rock (right) and Zuni (left), NM, on September 9, 2019. Photo by Lance Cheung/USDA/Flickr

Elsenheimer wrote, wrongly, that Chavez had an “astonishingly high” blood-alcohol content, or BAC, of 0.35. According to a toxicology report, her blood-alcohol content was 0.30. She was not driving when the accident happened. He did not note that his client’s own blood-alcohol content was 0.36.

Chavez also had cocaine in her system, according to the toxicology report.

Although Elsenheimer wrote that his client took responsibility by pleading guilty, he framed Chavez’s death as being distanced from Reano’s responsibility for killing her, noting Reano was hurt by “what happened” to Chavez, rather than what he did to her.

“Mr. Reano deeply regrets his actions and is devastated by what happened to N.C.,” Elsenheimer wrote.

Reano and Chavez were both enrolled Zuni tribal members.

The victim

Do you have information about this case, or are willing to talk about victim Nicky Chavez? NM Homicide needs your assistance. Please fill out this form or email us at nmhomicide at gmail dot com.

According to Mease’s response to the sentencing memorandum, Chavez was the mother of two young children and “in the prime of her life.”

Chavez’s mother declined to give an impact statement to the investigators writing the presentence report, she wrote.

“To be clear, this decision does not stem from apathy,” Mease wrote. “Quite the contrary—the victim’s mother feels that engaging in this process is simply too painful following the tragic loss of her daughter.”

Chavez’s Facebook page provides little, other than that she studied nursing previously and went to Zuni High School.

Reano and Chavez began dating in August 2016 and “alcohol was a large part of their relationship,” Elsenheimer wrote in his sentencing memorandum.

Court proceedings

Indictment

On Nov. 28, 2017, over a year after Raylan Reano killed Chavez, a federal grand jury indicted him on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter. The case was filed with the federal court on Dec. 5, 2017.

Plea

On March 23, 2018, just three months after his indictment, Reano pleaded guilty to a single charge of involuntary manslaughter, a deal prepared by prosecutor Sarah Mease and accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen.

There was no agreement in the plea as to sentence, but prosecutors agreed that the judge should reduce Reano sentence by six months because of his six-month sentence in tribal court for killing Chavez, according to the plea.

Prosecutors also agreed to recommend a sentence in the low end of the calculated guideline range, according to the plea.

Sentence

Limited culpability

Elsenheimer wrote in a sentencing memorandum on July 24, 2018, that he wanted his client to vary the guideline sentence down and give his client a sentence of 18 months (1 1/2 years) and run the sentence at the same time as his tribal sentence. Prosecutors did not oppose giving him the six months credit and allowing him to serve both the tribal and federal sentences at the same time.

Among the reasons were a difficult childhood and early life. He grew up on the Zuni Pueblo with his mother, father and brother. His alcoholic father would often fight with his mother and drove the two children from the house, he wrote.

In 2014, his father died of a heart attack and at some point his brother, Jaylen Reano, was killed outside their home and after his death, he fell into a deep depression and began to drink heavily, Elsenheimer wrote.

Searches for Jaylen Reano turn up no results and a records request for his autopsy report is pending with the Office of the Medical Investigator.

Reano did not deserve a sentence of more than a year and a half because he has no prior criminal history, although he does have tribal convictions for theft, intoxication and escape from a jail, he wrote.

Elsenheimer wrote that Chavez had a high blood-alcohol content, although he alleged she had a higher BAC than was reported in the toxicology report. He also wrote that she had cocaine in her system and that she chose to not wear a seat belt, leading to her being ejected.

Reano’s drinking was a result of the loss of his brother and father, he wrote.

Elsenheimer also included a letter from Reano’s sister, Mellory Mahkee, who wrote that her brother deserved a second chance and that all his woes were attributable to his brother dying in his arms.

Prosecution’s requested sentence

Mease wrote in a response to Elsenheimer’s sentencing memorandum, filed Aug. 3, 2018, that prosecutors, pursuant to the plea deal, were asking for a sentence at the low end of the range. He had an adjusted offense level of 19 with a criminal history category of I, bringing his sentence range to 30 to 37 months, although a criminal history category of II would increase the sentencing range to 33 to 41 months.

Federal sentencing table, levels 17 to 19
Levels 17 to 22 of the federal sentencing table. With a criminal history of I, the guidelines for Raylan Reano’s killing of Nicky Chavez were 30 (2.5 years) to 37 months (3 years). One criminal history level higher, of II, and his range increased to 33 months (2.75 years) to 41 months (3.4 years).

Reano had a base offense level of 22 (sentence range 41 to 51 months at level I criminal history), and received a three-level downgrade for his plea, she wrote.

The pre-sentence report suggested Reano might properly have a criminal history category of II because, following his killing of Chavez, he committed three more tribal offenses. Mease wrote (internal citations removed):

“First, on November 12, 2016, just days after the incident in the present case, Defendant was arrested after being found intoxicated and sleeping inside a vehicle. Then, while Defendant was in tribal custody, he assaulted another inmate. Finally, in December 2017, Defendant was arrested following his escape from the Zuni Detention Center in Zuni, New Mexico. All three incidents resulted in tribal convictions.”

Mease wrote that Chavez’s mother found it too painful to write a victim impact letter.

She wrote that the prosecution was advocating for either a 24-month sentence, with a criminal history level of I, or 27 months, with a criminal history level of II. The sentencing guidelines allow courts to consider conduct after an initial arrest.

Low sentence

On March 21, 2019, District Judge James Parker sentenced Reano to two years, the minimum suggested for a level I criminal history after six months was subtracted for time served in tribal jail, and allowed him to serve the sentence at the same time as his convictions in tribal court. That was to be followed by supervised probation for three years, according to the court docket.

Probation violation

Initial problems

The day Raylan Reano was released from prison, Jan. 3, 2020, he allegedly admitted to using methamphetamine and Suboxone and he tested positive for drugs on Jan. 3, 4 and 7, 2020, Probation officer Christopher Fiedler wrote in a petition for a revocation of his supervised release filed March 25, 2020.

On March 12, 2020, supervisors requested a special condition be added to Reano’s sentence, that he be required to live at a “residential reentry center” for up to six months, Fiedler wrote.

“This was in response to the defendant failing to comply with his substance abuse treatment plan,” he wrote.

On March 16, 2020, Parker added the special condition to Reano’s sentence, Fiedler wrote.

Neither the request nor the condition appear on the public docket and appear to have been sealed. There is no documentation requesting they be sealed or indication how, or why, the sealing circumvented the normal rules for court filings.

Fiedler’s March 25, 2020 petition alleged that Reano didn’t call to schedule his assessment appointment for the reentry program on March 23, as ordered. He wrote:

“On March 24, 2020, this officer received notification from staff at Diersen Charities Residential Reentry Center that the defendant left their facility without permission and was considered an absconder. Later that same day, the defendant contacted this officer by phone and confirmed that he decided to leave the residential reentry center and returned back to his mother’s residence in Zuni, New Mexico.”

Fiedler wrote that the revocation range is three to nine months.

Instead of a warrant, Reano was issued a summons to appear on a revocation hearing which, after being pushed off, was set for May 18, 2020.

During that hearing in front of Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, Mease requested Reano be arrested, Elsenheimer requested he remain free and probation said that a second amended petition was filed and a warrant was requested, according to the minutes.

The minutes do not state if Reano was ordered detained or allowed to remain free.

Fielder filed a second amended petition for the revocation of Reano’s probation. It was not until June 18 that federal agents arrested Reano on a warrant, dated May 19.

Remanded to prison

On Aug. 25, 2020, Parker ordered Reano remanded to prison for five months after he admitted to violating the conditions of his release by failing to follow the instructions of his probation officer, failing to reside at a halfway-house after his release and taking drugs, according to a judgement signed by Parker.

See the case documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud