Indiana man arraigned for death of woman near Gallup in hit-and-run crash

Jagjeet Singh is charged with fatally running over a woman walking on Interstate 40 near Gallup with her infant
• Although the woman’s unnamed infant also died, a judge dismissed a charge of knowingly leaving the scene of a crash for the infant’s death
• Singh will continue to live in Indiana pending trial

See the case write-up or past stories on this case

GALLUP, N.M. — A truck driver from Indiana will be confined to his home state, except to pick up his semi-trailer, after he was arraigned on April 26, 2021, for allegedly fatally running over a woman and her infant on Interstate 40 near Gallup.

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

Jagjeet Singh, 24, of Indianapolis, pleaded not guilty during his virtual arraignment to one charge of knowingly leaving the scene of an accident causing death, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, through a Punjabi interpreter.

State Police Agent Larry Reuter wrote in a statement of probable cause that Singh ran over Jessica Ann Copey, 24, of  Tohlakai, and her unnamed infant as she walked on Interstate 40 on Jan. 19, 2021.

Magistrate Judge Pat Casados previously bound Singh over to district court on the four charges following a preliminary examination on March 3.

Reuter initially charged Singh with two counts of knowingly leaving the scene of an accident, Casados dismissed one count, specifically for killing the unnamed infant.

According to the audio log from the arraignment, District Judge Robert Aragon allowed Singh to keep the conditions of his release originally imposed in the magistrate case.

Gallup Magistrate Judge Virginia Yazzie initially released Singh on an unsecured $100,000 bond after he was initially arrested and ordered he wear a GPS bracelet. Casados removed that condition and he was ordered to check in with his “compliance team” once a week.

He is allowed to drive throughout the state of Indiana and also is allowed to go back to New Mexico to pick up his semi-trailer and drive it back to Indiana.

A pre-trial conference is set for Aug. 2, 2021, followed by a tentative jury trial for Sept. 14, 2021.

The case

In an amended statement of probable cause for Singh’s arrest, Reuter wrote he interrogated Singh, who admitted he ran something over.

Reuter wrote he read Singh his Miranda rights but made no mention of them in any language other than English or that Singh had, or did not have, trouble understanding him.

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

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.”

For more on the incident, see the case write-up. See the case files on Document Cloud or Google Drive.

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Tavor Tom sentenced to 15 years for stabbing aunt to death

• Tavor Tom faced a maximum sentence of life
• Prosecutor Joseph Spindle asked for 17.5 and his defense attorney asked for 7 years
• Tom stabbed his aunt, Roberta Clyde, 75 times at her Shiprock home

See the case write-up or read previous stories on the case

SHIPROCK, N.M. — A federal judge sentenced Tavor Tom, 20, to 15 years in federal prison, April 7, for stabbing his aunt to death at her Shiprock home in 2019.

Judge William Johnson sentenced during a virtual hearing. Tom, of Shiprock, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Nov. 24, 2020 for stabbing to death his aunt, Roberta Clyde, 45, and there was no agreement to the sentence.

Shiprock Pinnacle. Photo by DiAnn L’Roy/Flickr

Federal probation officers calculated Tom’s suggested sentence at 14 to 17.5 years. His attorney, James Loonam, asked for half of that, seven years, while prosecutor Joseph Spindle asked for the maximum under the guidelines, 17.5 years.

Tom appeared via video for the sentencing hearing and family members appeared via Zoom and one of them addressed the court, according to minutes from the hearing.

The minutes do not say who spoke or what was said. At the hearing, Spindle argued for 17.5 years and Loonam argued for seven years.

Tom must also pay $4,077 in restitution to Erik Benally, $11,522 to State Farm and $6,000 to the New Mexico Crime Victim’s Reparation Commission.

According to court records, after stabbing Clyde to death on July 1, 2019, Tom stole her Jeep Cherokee, eventually crashing it into a fence in front of a church in Nenahnezad.

Navajo Nation police officers found a bloody knife in the car, FBI Agent Cary Cahoon wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

During an interrogation, Tom told FBI agents he killed his maternal aunt with a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle. He intended to go to her house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex. After he stole it from the store, he drove on the back roads toward Shiprock and he crashed the vehicle into the fence. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.

In the plea agreement, Tom wrote that he stabbed his aunt repeatedly with a knife, “intentionally and without justification.”

When interrogated by FBI agents, he said he stabbed her repeatedly and slit her throat, according to court documents.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

See the case on CourtListener.com or read the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

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Roswell man held without bail after fiery DWI crash kills two Dexter sisters

John Ensor allegedly crashed head-on into an oncoming car on April 4, 2021
Sisters Danae and Darely, ages 17 and 12, died in the crash after bystanders were unable to get them our of their car before it burst into flames
• Ensor will be held without bail pending trial after Judge Thomas Lilley found him a danger to the community on April 16

Read the case write-up

ROSWELL, N.M. — John Ensor will be held without bail indefinitely after he allegedly killed two girls from Dexter, ages 12 and 17, in a fiery drunk driving crash on April 4, 2021.

District Judge Thomas Lilley found Ensor, 33, of Roswell, is a danger to the community and ordered him held without bail following a dangerousness hearing on April 16, 2021.

Ensor is charged in magistrate court with two counts of DWI vehicular homicide for the crash that killed Darely Sosa, 12, and sister Danae Sosa, 17. Darely Sosa is referred to as Daraly Sosa in court documents.

Mug shot of John Ensor, charged with two counts of DUI vehicle homicide for the deaths of two sisters, aged 17 and 12 in an alleged head-on crash.
John Ensor

State Police Officer Trent Eby wrote in court documents that Ensor was trying to pass multiple vehicles on State Road 2 near Crockett Yard Road in Dexter, when he crashed head-on into the Ford Focus that Danae was driving.

Roswell Magistrate Judge E. J. Fouratt initially ordered Ensor released on his own recognizance on April 6, after Eby filed a criminal complaint charging him with DWI vehicular homicide. Ensor was still in the hospital at the time and Fouratt ordered him to contact the magistrate court within 72 hours of being released.

The following day, April 7, Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office prosecutor Sarah Jean Grew filed an expedited motion for pre-trial detention. She wrote that Ensor had two previous drunk driving convictions various shoplifting and theft-related cases. In his second drunk driving case, from May 7, 2020, he drove his car over a curb and when police arrived, he was slumped over the wheel. He pleaded guilty in that case in August 2020.

“Defendant has an extensive criminal history in New Mexico that clearly belies an ongoing, serious substance abuse issue,” Grew wrote. “Tragically, his addiction has now led to the death of two young girls.”

Grew wrote that Ensor does not “respect or comply with court orders” and cited his multiple probation violations, being arrested while on probation, his failure to appear at court hearings and his failure to pay fines. Although Grew cites Ensor’s failure to pay court fines, she also wrote that he has a “serious substance abuse issue.” She did not write how someone with a “serious substance abuse issue” would be able to pay court fines and fees.

The American Civil Liberties Union has come out against the use and abuse of court fees to keep people trapped in a “modern-day debtor’s prison.”

Grew lumped his non-appearances into his failure to pay what could be problematic court fines and fees.

“The defendant has six failures to appear and pay in his past, as well as multiple probation violations,” she wrote.

Lilley issued a no-bond warrant on April 12 after Ensor failed to appear for the pre-trial detention hearing.

According to minutes from that hearing, an attorney appeared filling in for William Waggoner, Ensor’s attorney. Lilley issued the warrant after finding Ensor did not appear.

The court minutes do not state if Waggoner had been in contact with Ensor, if anyone confirmed he was released from the hospital or if he had been told about the hearing.

Although no warrant return was entered into the court record, a hearing on the motion to hold Ensor without bail was scheduled on April 14 for April 16, 2021.

According to the minutes from the April 16 hearing, Lilley heard from Gonzales and Eby and found Ensor is a danger to the community, granting Grew’s motion for indefinite pre-trial detention.

A preliminary hearing is set for 9 a.m., April 23, 2021.

The crash

On April 4, 2021, around 2:30 p.m., Ensor allegedly tried to pass multiple vehicles on State Road 2, near Crockett Yard Road, when he crashed his Oldsmobile Bravada head-on into a 2009 Ford Focus driven by Danae Sosa, 17, Eby wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint.

Eby wrote, based on an investigation by State Police Officer Marcus Gonzales, that multiple witnesses said after the crash, Danae Sosa and sister Darely Sosa, 12, of Dexter, were unconscious and trapped in the car, which soon burst into flames.

“Witnesses reportedly attempted to extract Danae and Darely Sosa from their vehicle before it engulfed in flames but were unable to do so due to the amount of damage their vehicle sustained,” Eby wrote.

Eby wrote that by the time he arrived, the Focus was severely burned and heavily damaged and the bodies of both girls were still inside. Gonzales told Eby that he found a syringe in Ensor’s vehicle and that he was being transported to the hospital.

A day later a “TruNarc” test showed the syringe to be filled with a “fentanyl compound and/or methamphetamines,” he wrote.

At the hospital, unidentified “ambulance personnel” told Eby at the hospital that Ensor said he was drinking in Cloudcroft earlier in the day, Eby wrote.

Eby wrote he found the syringe where Gonzales said it was and another officer. Austin Wilson, volunteered to collect it as evidence. He then drove to the hospital where Ensor was taken. Ensor was intubated and unconscious, with a breathing tube down his throat. Eby read the unconscious Ensor the state’s implied consent law and then had his blood drawn.

He wrote he did this in compliance with the 2019 Supreme Court case Mitchell v. Wisconsin, which found that generally, police can conduct warrantless blood draws on drunk driving suspects.

In 2018, New Mexico changed its implied consent law to allow for warrantless blood draws.

Eby wrote that Ensor’s sport-utility vehicle’s registration was expired and had no insurance and according to a National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, query, Ensor’s driver’s license was suspended for drunk driving and he had two prior drunk driving convictions.

Danae and Darely Sosa

Danae, 17, and Darely Sosa, 12, also known by the last name Sosa-Zubia, were both born in Phoenix, Ariz., to Manuel Aaron Sosa Marquez and Iveth Sosa Zubia. They lived in Dexter.

Danae Sosa was a senior at Dexter High school and also attended the Goddard High School. She was part of the volleyball and track teams her freshman and sophomore years, according to her obituary.

“She enjoyed working out, shopping, thrifting, and spending time with family and friends,” according to her obituary. “Her favorite things to do were playing Call of Duty, taking selfies, and listening to music.”

Danae Sosa was fun, outgoing and vivacious and she “dearly loved” being part of the Dance of the Matachines.

“When you think of Danae, celebrate the good memories you have of her,” according to her obituary. “Remember that life is fragile and short and should be lived to the fullest.”

Sister Darely Sosa was a sixth-grade student at Dexter Middle School. In the fifth grade at Washington Avenue Elementary School, she was the vice president of her class and always on the honor roll, according to her obituary.

“Darely was a loving and compassionate person who enjoyed spending time with her sisters,” according to her obituary. “She enjoyed reading, writing in her journal, playing Call of Duty, eating, and watching Anime. Darely was creative when it came to editing videos and photos, she always looked forward to it. ”

Darely was outgoing and enjoyed being in the Dance of the Matachines.

“Darely will be remembered for her uniqueness and the way she could captivate people and their hearts,” according to her obituary.

Both girls are survived by their parents, sister Debany Sosa and grandparents Emilia Berzoza Valles, Maria Sosa Marquez and Jesus Navarette.

Darely Sosa is also survived by her precious pets, Boots the cat and Lucky the dog.

Danae Sosa is also survived by her pets Cyder and Moonia.

See the case documents on DocumentCloud.

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Prosecutor asks for seven years for John Lodgepole in brutal beating death of Michaelene Warren

• John Lodgepole pleaded guilty to beating Michealene Warren to death in Nenahnezad 
• Prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez gave him a plea deal of six to eight years and asked a judge to sentence him to seven
• His sentencing has been indefinitely postponed

See the case write-up here or past stories on this case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After giving John Lodgepole, 22, a plea deal of six to eight years for staving in the head of a woman, and then beating her ankles with a cane, federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez is asking a judge to sentence him to seven years in prison.

In a largely boilerplate sentencing memorandum filed on Feb. 26, 2021, Ruiz-Velez wrote that a presentence investigation report put Lodgepole’s sentencing guideline at 6 1/2 to 8 years, with an offense level of 26 and a criminal history category of III.  He was indicted Oct. 9, 2019, on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, after initially being charged with murder.

Ruiz-Velez gave Lodgepole, of Fruitland, a plea of six to eight years on Nov. 3, 2020. One paragraph addresses Lodgepole as a person, as Ruiz-Velez wrote that he had a significant criminal history for only being 22, that he was on probation when he killed Michaelene Warren, 43, and he has a history of violence and substance abuse.

On June 11, 2020, jail guards found 11 Suboxone strips in his incoming mail and his substance abuse appears to have followed him into jail, she wrote.

Ruiz-Velez wrote Lodgepole’s killing of Warren as “extremely violent” and “heinous conduct.” Quoting from the sentencing investigation, she wrote that Warren’s parents are “emotionally hurting from what occurred.”

Lodgepole had been set to be sentenced on April 14 in front of District Judge James Parker, but that hearing was cancelled on April 2. Parker can still, technically, reject Lodgepole’s binding plea deal at sentencing. The reasons behind the plea deal are unknown, as are the reasons why he was indicted on a charge of voluntary manslaughter.

No reason is listed and no new hearing has been set.

While Ruiz-Velez submitted a sentencing memorandum, Lodgepole’s attorney, Melissa Morris, does not appear to have filed one, according to the docket.

Lodgepole wrote in the plea deal that he punched Warren in the head and face 10 times because she called him names and threatened him. After throwing her to the ground, he took a cinderblock and “smashed the back of her head” in Nenahnezad.

“When I noticed that Jane Doe was still breathing, I took the block, placed it under her feet and used a cane to strike her ankles for approximately five or six times,” Lodgepole wrote in the plea deal.

Warren, 43, was a friend of Lodgepole’s mother. Warren’s obituary contains no information about her.

Read more about the incident in the case write-up.

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See the case documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud.

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John Ensor: Danae Sosa, Darely Sosa — 4-4-2021

 

Summary

On April 4, 2021, while trying to pass multiple vehicles on State Road 2 near Crockett Yard Road, John Ensor, 33, allegedly crashed into an oncoming car driven by Danae Sosa, 17. Her sister, Darely Sosa, 12, was in the front seat. Their car was soon engulfed in flames, with the two unconscious girls inside, despite witness attempts to get them out of their badly damaged vehicle, according to court documents.

Ensor was then charged with two counts of DUI vehicular homicide after police found a syringe of fentanyl and methamphetamine in the Oldsmobile Bravada he drove. After initially being released on his own recognizance while he was still in the hospital, prosecutor Sarah Jean Grew asked he be held without bail pending trial. District Judge Thomas Lilley ordered he be held without bail pending trial following a hearing on April 16, 2021 where he took testimony from investigators.

On April 22, Ensor waived a preliminary hearing and prosecutors filed a criminal information charging him with two counts of vehicular homicide on April 28, 2021.

 

The incident

On April 4, 2021, around 2:30 p.m., John Ensor, 33, of Roswell, allegedly tried to pass multiple vehicles on State Road 2, near Crockett Yard Road, when he crashed his Oldsmobile Bravada head-on into a 2009 Ford Focus driven by Danae Sosa, 17, State Police Officer Trent Eby wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint.

Eby wrote, based on an investigation by State Police Officer Marcus Gonzales, that multiple witnesses said after the crash, Danae Sosa and sister Darely Sosa, 12, of Dexter, were unconscious and trapped in the car, which soon burst into flames.

Mug shot of John Ensor, charged with two counts of DUI vehicle homicide for the deaths of two sisters, aged 17 and 12 in an alleged head-on crash.
John Ensor

“Witnesses reportedly attempted to extract Danae and Darely Sosa from their vehicle before it engulfed in flames but were unable to do so due to the amount of damage their vehicle sustained,” Eby wrote.

Eby wrote that by the time he arrived, the Focus was severely burned and heavily damaged and the bodies of both girls were still inside. Gonzales told Eby that he found a “loaded syringe” with what he assumed to be heroin on the front floorboard of the Bravada. By the time Eby arrived, Ensor was being transported to the Eastern New Mexico Medical Center. Gonzales told him he believed Ensor may have been drunk or high at the time of the crash.

A day later a “TruNarc” test showed the syringe to be filled with a “fentanyl compound and/or methamphetamines,” he wrote.

Unidentified “ambulance personnel” told Eby at the hospital that Ensor said he was drinking in Cloudcroft earlier in the day, Eby wrote.

Eby wrote he found the syringe where Gonzales said it was and another officer. Austin Wilson, volunteered to collect it as evidence. He then drove to the hospital where Ensor was taken. Ensor was intubated and unconscious, with a breathing tube down his throat. Eby read the unconscious Ensor the state’s implied consent law and received no response and then had his blood drawn.

He wrote he did this in compliance with the 2019 Supreme Court case Mitchell v. Wisconsin, which found that generally, police can conduct warrantless blood draws on drunk driving suspects.

In 2018, New Mexico changed its implied consent law to allow for warrantless blood draws.

Eby wrote that Ensor’s sport-utility vehicle’s registration was expired and had no insurance and according to a National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, query, Ensor’s driver’s license was suspended for drunk driving and he had two prior drunk driving convictions.

Two days later, Eby filed a criminal complaint charging Ensor with two counts of DUI vehicular homicide and one count each of possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine, driving on a license revoked for DUI, overtaking on the left, driving an unregistered vehicle and no insurance.

In an order holding Ensor without bail pending trial filed on April 22, District Judge Thomas Lilley wrote that Ensor’s girlfriend, Margaret Briggs, told Ensor’s uncle and “another” that she was drinking with him earlier in the day and that she felt guilty for letting him drive, instead of driving him herself. Cloudcroft, where he told ambulance personnel he had been drinking, is two hours from the crash site.

Released on own recognizance

On April 6, the day Eby filed the criminal complaint charging Ensor, Roswell Magistrate Judge E. J. Fouratt ordered Ensor released on his own recognizance once he was released from the hospital and ordered him to contact the magistrate court within 72 hours of being released. He also ordered Ensor to appear in the magistrate court on April 26 for a court hearing.

Prosecutors move for indefinite detention

A day after Eby filed the charges against Ensor, Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office prosecutor Sarah Jean Grew filed an expedited motion for pre-trial detention, to keep Ensor in jail indefinitely, without bail, pending trial.

She wrote that as evidence was Ensor’s previous two convictions for drunk driving, the weight of evidence in the case against him and various shoplifting and theft-related cases. In his second drunk driving case, from May 7, 2020, he drove his car over a curb and when police arrived, he was slumped over the wheel. He pleaded guilty in that case in August 2020.

“Defendant has an extensive criminal history in New Mexico that clearly belies an ongoing, serious substance abuse issue,” Grew wrote. “Tragically, his addiction has now led to the death of two young girls.”

Grew wrote that Ensor does not “respect or comply with court orders” and cited his multiple probation violations, being arrested while on probation, his failure to appear at court hearings and his failure to pay fines.

Although Grew cites Ensor’s failure to pay court fines, she also wrote that he has a “serious substance abuse issue.” She did not write how someone with a “serious substance abuse issue” would be able to pay court fines and fees.

The American Civil Liberties Union has come out against the use and abuse of court fees to keep people trapped in a “modern-day debtor’s prison.”

Grew wrote that Ensor continuously fails to appear for court and lumped his non-appearances into his failure to pay what could be problematic fines and fees.

“The defendant has six failures to appear and pay in his past, as well as multiple probation violations,” she wrote.

Warrant issued after court no-show on April 12, 2021

District Judge Thomas Lilley issued a warrant for Ensor’s arrest on April 12 after he failed to appear for a hearing earlier that day on Grew’s motion to hold him in jail indefinitely.

According to minutes from that hearing, an attorney appeared filling in for William Waggoner, Ensor’s attorney. Lilley issued the warrant after finding Ensor did not appear.

The court minutes do not state if Waggoner had been in contact with Ensor, if anyone confirmed he was released from the hospital or if he had been told about the hearing.

Lilley said, according to the minutes, he would set a pre-trial detention hearing once Ensor was arrested on the warrant.

Held without bail pending trial

Although no warrant return was entered into the court record, a hearing on the motion to hold Ensor without bail was scheduled on April 14 for April 16, 2021.

According to the minutes from the April 16 hearing, Lilley heard from Gonzales and Eby and found Ensor is a danger to the community, granting Grew’s motion for indefinite pre-trial detention.

A preliminary hearing is set for 9 a.m., April 23.

Danae and Darely Sosa

Danae, 17, and Darely Sosa, 12, also known by the last name Sosa-Zubia, were both born in Phoenix, Ariz., to Manuel Aaron Sosa Marquez and Iveth Sosa Zubia. They lived in Dexter.

Darely Sosa is referred to in court documents as Daraly Sosa.

Danae Sosa was a senior at Dexter High school and also attended the Goddard High School. She was part of the volleyball and track teams her freshman and sophomore years, according to her obituary.

“She enjoyed working out, shopping, thrifting, and spending time with family and friends,” according to her obituary. “Her favorite things to do were playing Call of Duty, taking selfies, and listening to music.”

Danae Sosa was fun, outgoing and vivacious and she “dearly loved” being part of the Dance of the Matachines.

“When you think of Danae, celebrate the good memories you have of her,” according to her obituary. “Remember that life is fragile and short and should be lived to the fullest.”

Sister Darely Sosa was a sixth-grade student at Dexter Middle School. In the fifth grade at Washington Avenue Elementary School, she was the vice president of her class and always on the honor roll, according to her obituary.

“Darely was a loving and compassionate person who enjoyed spending time with her sisters,” according to her obituary. “She enjoyed reading, writing in her journal, playing Call of Duty, eating, and watching Anime. Darely was creative when it came to editing videos and photos, she always looked forward to it. ”

Darely was outgoing and enjoyed being in the Dance of the Matachines.

“Darely will be remembered for her uniqueness and the way she could captivate people and their hearts,” according to her obituary.

Both girls are survived by their parents, sister Debany Sosa and grandparents Emilia Berzoza Valles, Maria Sosa Marquez and Jesus Navarette.

Darely Sosa is also survived by her precious pets, Boots the cat and Lucky the dog.

Danae Sosa is also survived by her pets Cyder and Moonia.

See the case documents on DocumentCloud.

Past stories

Roswell man held without bail after fiery DWI crash kills two Dexter sisters

Case documents

Competency raised for Larrison Hunch, charged for 2020 Gallup motel beating death

• The prosecution and defense agreed to send Larrison Hunch to a mental hospital until he is competent
• Hunch is charged with second-degree murder for the beating death of Alvin Adakai, 62

Read the case write-up

GALLUP, N.M. — A Mentmore man charged with second-degree murder for a motel beating death in 2020 had his case stayed, March 9, 2021, after his attorney raised the question of competency.

Mug shot of Larrison Hunch
Larrison Hunch

Attorney Todd Farkas raised the issue of Larrison Hunch‘s competency on March 1, before District Judge Robert Aragon stayed the case on March 9, according to the docket.

Farkas said during a hearing on March 5, 2021, that a neuropsychologist told him she did not believe Hunch, 45, was competent to stand trial, according to audio logs.

During a subsequent hearing on March 29, 2021, prosecutor John Bernitz asked the judge to send Hunch to the mental hospital in Las Vegas for a second evaluation and Farkas said they already reached an agreement on the evaluation, according to the audio logs.

According to the docket, Hunch was sent to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas to “attain competency to stand trial.”

No new court dates have been set.

Hunch has been in custody since May 20, 2020, when he was arrested.

On June 2, 2020, Hunch was bound over to district court on charges of second-degree murder, robbery and tampering with evidence.

Hunch waived his right to a preliminary hearing or the presentation of the case to a grand jury on the condition that prosecutors dismiss, with prejudice, the charge of first-degree murder.

District Judge Robert Aragon arraigned him in district court on June 16, 2020 and he pleaded not guilty.

The incident

Read more about the incident and witness interviews in the case write-up

Gallup Det. Andrew Thayer wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant for Hunch that he was called out to the Lariat Lodge in Gallup where Alvin Adakai, 62, of Manuelito, had been found dead, on May 17, 2020.

At 10:28 a.m., when the manager Hitendrakumar Patel went to check the room, Adakai was lying on the floor in between the two beds. After grabbing his arm and receiving no response, he called police. Office of the Medical Investigator Field Investigator Harolynn Yazzie told Thayer that Adakai’s death was suspicious but the pathologist who conducted the autopsy would contact him with more information, he wrote.

That same day, pathologist Satish Chundru told Thayer Adakai’s death was a homicide and his neck bones were fractured.

Larrison Hunch’s girlfriend, Kerry Norton, told police that Hunch beat Adakai after he fell off of the bed during the night and after they had been drinking. Hunch was arrested on May 20 and denied hurting Adakai, according to court records.

On May 20, Thayer and Gonzales interrogated Hunch after he signed a Miranda rights waiver, Thayer wrote.

Hunch said Adakai appeared to be suffering from the coronavirus, he appeared weak and he probably died from it, Thayer wrote. Adakai did not look like anything happened to him when they left his motel room in the morning. He denied saying he “manhandled” Adakai.

Thayer and Gonzales left to retrieve the recording and when they came back, Hunch said he wanted a lawyer.

Detectives charged Hunch with an open count of murder, robbery and tampering with evidence.

View the court documents on Document Cloud or read the case write-up

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Competency raised for Smith Lake man with mindset of a 5-year-old child

Eric Garcia said he stabbed R.L. repeatedly with a knife during an interrogation
• His attorney wrote he has the mindset and cognitive ability of a 5-year-old child
• FBI Agent Mark Spencer made no mention of Garcia’s diminished mental capacity when describing his interrogation

See the case write-up

SMITH LAKE, N.M. — A Smith Lake man’s murder case is on pause after his attorney raised competency and wrote his client has the cognitive ability of a 5-year-old child.

FBI Agent Mark Spencer charged Eric Garcia, 40, with an open count of murder for the stabbing death of a man identified as R.L. in court documents, on March 9, 2021.

One day after Garcia’s initial appearance on March 15, 2021, and Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter ordered him held without bail pending a detention hearing, his attorney, Lucas Babycos, filed a motion for Garcia to be evaluated for his competency.

“Counsel has reason to believe that the defendant has been formally diagnosed with a severe form of intellectual disability,” Babycos wrote.

He wrote that Garcia has the mindset and cognitive abilities of a 5-year-old child and that he cannot effectively consult with him, nor can Garcia assist in his own defense.

“Defendant has no concept of what is occurring, or the magnitude of the allegations brought forward against him,” Babycos wrote.

Babycos and prosecutor Allison Jaros agreed to a competency evaluation by Julie Brovko or that he be sent to the Bureau of Prisons for an evaluation, he wrote.

Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing granted the motion the same day, according to the docket.

The next day, March 17, Fashing held a hearing on the case and Babycos told her he had “concerns” with Garcia remaining “at facility,” according to the minutes. Fashing ordered the case be stayed until the competency evaluation is complete.

No further court hearings are set.

The stabbing

Garcia stabbed R.L. repeatedly with a knife on March 9 after being told to leave R.L.’s house, after R.L. grabbed him.

Navajo Police Department officers initially received a call at 12:44 a.m., March 9, 2021. for a person laying on the floor of a house in Smith Lake, bleeding, Spencer wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint.

When officers arrived, they found R.L., YOB 1957, bleeding from the chest, abdomen and neck. Paramedics declared him dead 35 minutes later, at 1:19 a.m, Spencer wrote.

Long Canyon on the east side of NM Hwy. 371, southeast of Crownpoint, 35.6217 -108.1003, McKinley County, New Mexico, 18 May 2014. Photo by Patrick Alexander/Flickr.

A woman identified by the initials P.E., and referred to as Witness 1, told investigators she, R.L. and Garcia had been drinking inside the house. R.L. asked Garcia to leave “and a conflict happened.” Garcia had a knife and stabbed John Doe. P.E. ran outside, ran into another woman identified as M.L. and told her to call the police, he wrote.

M.L. told investigators she heard noises and went outside. P.E. told her to call the police. She went to the house and saw Garcia standing over R.L., left, told another family member what happened and then called the police, Spencer wrote.

Navajo police learned that Garcia lived a half-mile away, across the main road and knocked on his door, he wrote.

“GARCIA opened the door and had what appeared to be blood his hands, pants, and boots,” Spencer wrote. “GARCIA was taken into custody by NPD.”

FBI agents contacted a magistrate judge for an oral search warrant and found a bloody knife in a search of his house, he wrote.

FBI and Navajo Nation Police officers interrogated Garcia at the Crownpoint Police Department after Garcia waived his Miranda rights, Spencer wrote.

Spencer made no mention in his affidavit if it seems like Garcia has any cognitive issues, or the mindset of a 5-year-old child.

Defendants must “knowingly and intelligently” waive their Miranda rights, including the rights to remain silent and right to counsel.

In Garner v. Mitchell, a 2007 appeal in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court found that “petitioner’s waiver of his Miranda rights was invalid because testing demonstrated that the petitioner’s mental incapacity rendered him unable to fully comprehend the warnings and his right to remain silent.”

Spencer wrote that Garcia said he was drinking with R.L. and P.E. outside by the trees, and then moved into the house. Garcia helped to make dinner and R.L. gave him a knife to peel the potatoes. At some point, R.L. told him to leave and Garcia did not want to, he continued to tell him to leave and they started yelling at each other.

“John Doe grabbed GARCIA’s arms and tried to get him out of the house,” Spencer wrote. “GARCIA had the knife from peeling the potatoes in his pocket and pulled it out and stabbed John Doe in the chest area. The next stab was to the neck and then continued stabbing John Doe in the chest and back. GARCIA left and went home.”

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Continue reading “Competency raised for Smith Lake man with mindset of a 5-year-old child”

Judge dismisses one hit-and-run charge for man accused of killing woman, her infant, west of Gallup

• A judge dismissed one of the two counts of knowingly leaving the scene of a crash causing death
Jagjeet Singh does not have a case in district court yet, even though he was bound over on March 4, 2021
• SP Agent Larry Reuter said in court documents that Singh admitted to running over Jessica Ann Copey and her infant child on Jan. 19, 202

See the case write-up or past stories on this case

GALLUP, N.M. — A magistrate judge bound over an Indiana man on a single charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death, as well as drug charges, for allegedly running over a woman and her infant near Gallup and then fleeing the scene.

Los Alamos Magistrate Judge Pat Casados bound over Jagjeet Singh, 24, of Indianapolis, to district court on additional charges of possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance: heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Singh is charged for allegedly killing Jessica Ann Copey, 24, of Tohlakai, and her unnamed infant on Jan. 19, 2021 in a hit-and-run on Interstate 40, west of Gallup

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

Casados held the preliminary examination on March 3 and entered her order binding him over on the charges the following day.

Singh has neither been arraigned in district court, nor has a district court case been created, as of March 20, according to district court records.

Casados’ order does not say why she did not find probable cause for the second count of knowingly leaving the scene of an accident causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of six years.

The two drug possession charges appear in the court record as “IMPROPER STATUTORY CITATION,” including in Casados’ order.

If convicted on all the remaining charges, Singh could face a maximum sentence of nine years, if he received the maximum on each and the sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, or one after the other.

Singh is living with his family in Indiana. He had been ordered to wear a GPS ankle bracelet but the monitoring company ran out and the defense, with the prosecution’s assent, requested he only be required to call his pre-trial monitors once a week, which Casados granted.

State Police Agent Larry Reuter charged Singh a day after a State Police officer found the bodies of Copey and her infant in the median. The infant was in a car seat, State Police Officer Dusty Francisco wrote in a press release. McKinley County Sheriff’s deputies had been alerted shortly before to a woman walking on the interstate.

Reuter wrote in an amended statement of probable cause for Singh’s arrest that Singh admitted to hitting someone, after Reuter read him his Miranda rights. Singh has requested an interpreter for his court case and Reuter made no mention of reading him his Miranda rights in any language other than English or that Singh had, or did not have, trouble understanding him. Miranda rights are supposed to be knowingly and intelligently waived.

When State Police officers searched his truck, they found heroin and methamphetamine, Reuter wrote.

For more on the incident, see the case write-up.

See the case files on Document Cloud or Google Drive.

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Tavor Tom to ask for 7 years at sentencing, prosecution for 17

Tavor Tom‘s sentencing is set, virtually, for 2 p.m., April 7
• The defense wants seven years while the prosecution wants 17.5
• Judge William Johnson has total sentencing discretion, up to life

See the case write-up or read previous stories on the case

SHIPROCK, N.M. — Tavor Tom is asking a judge to sentence him to seven years for stabbing his aunt 75 times at her Shiprock home, including twice through the skull, while federal prosecutors are asking for 17 years.

Tom pleaded guilty on Nov. 24, 2020, to second-degree murder for stabbing to death his aunt, Roberta Clyde, 45, in 2019, after being indicted on the same charge on July 9, 2019. There was no agreement as to sentence, which is up to the sentencing judge.

Tom’s sentencing is currently set for 2 p.m., April 7, 2021, after being reset multiple times because the judge, William Johnson, was unavailable.

Tom’s attorney, James Loonam, wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Tom should be sentenced to seven years, half of his calculated sentence guideline of 14 to 17.5 years. Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life.

Loonam wrote that Tom’s age at the time, 18, was one reason, and that Tom, high on and addicted to dextromethorphan, also known as Mucinex, was “operating under diminished capacity” when he stabbed his aunt to death. That he killed a family member, and “will face consequences of loss of part of his family for the rest of his life,” was the third reason for giving Tom a sentence below the guidelines. Tom had been addicted to the drug since he was 14.

“Tavor knows that his actions have caused everyone he loves and cares about almost unbearable pain,” he wrote.

Loonam wrote that Tom was hospitalized 10 times for dextromethorphan overdoses and five times were suicide attempts. He included a timeline of the overdoses.

“Each hospitalization indicates that Tavor exhibited signs of chronic depression,” he wrote.

Loonam wrote that Tom’s actions were “a product of that (drug) abuse and addiction.”

Prosecutor Joseph Spindle wrote in his own sentencing memorandum that Johnson should sentence Tom to the high end of the sentencing guideline calculated by the U.S. Probation Office, 17.5 years.

Spindle wrote that Tom went to Clyde’s house to steal her car.

“However, once he was inside her house, the attempted theft became infinitely worse,” he wrote. “Before stealing her car, Defendant decided to stab his aunt seventy-five times in the face, back, abdomen, arms, hands and neck. She died of blood loss on the floor of her bedroom, alone and suffering.”

Among the reasons for a sentencing at the top of the guideline was how “senseless and brutal” it was.

“The stabbing was so frenzied, two of the stab wounds penetrated her skull,” Spindle wrote. “She died of blood loss. This level of brutality far exceeds what would have been necessary to effectuate a murder.”

While Tom is young and experienced traumatic events, his drug use contributed to them and he seems disinterested in curbing his use, he wrote. Spindle wrote:

“According to Defendant, treatment “takes up too much time.” (Doc. 38, ¶ 60). This level of apathy to his drug use, even after multiple overdoses and the murder of a loved-one, indicates that he is not interested in changing his life. Therefore, even if the brutal murder of his aunt can be partially attributed to Defendant’s drug use, the fact that he does not intend curtail his drug use indicates he will remain a public safety risk.”

Spindle is also asking for $21,606 in restitution.

The stabbing

At 10 a.m., July 2, 2019, Clyde was found dead in her house by her father. Sometime during that same morning, Tavor Tom was found in her Jeep Cherokee, after he crashed into a fence in front of a church in Nenahnezad. Navajo Nation police officers found a bloody knife in the car, FBI Agent Cary Cahoon wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

During an interrogation, Tom told FBI agents he killed Clyde with a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle. He intended to go to her house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex. After he stole it from the store, he drove on the back roads toward Shiprock and he crashed the vehicle into the fence. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.

Pathologist Ross Zumwalt wrote in the autopsy report that Clyde suffered a total of 75 separate “sharp force injuries,” meaning stab wounds and incised, or slashing, wounds.

“Two of the stab wounds of the back of the head penetrated the skull resulting in bleeding around the brain,” Zumwalt wrote.

Clyde also has four stab wounds in her chest and one in her abdomen, which penetrated her stomach. She also has cutting wounds on her hands, which Zumwalt classified as probable defensive wounds.

“Death was a result of the blood loss caused by the multiple wounds,” Zumwalt wrote.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

See the case on CourtListener.com or read the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

 

Continue reading “Tavor Tom to ask for 7 years at sentencing, prosecution for 17”

Eric Garcia: R.L., YOB 1957 —3-9-2021

 

Summary

On March 9, 2021, after being asked to leave the house of neighbor R.L. in Smith Lake, and then grabbed by R.L., Eric Garcia grabbed a knife R.L. gave him to peel potatoes and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest and neck, FBI Agent Mark Spencer wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint.

The case has been stayed after Garcia’s attorney raised competency and wrote that Garcia has an extreme intellectual disability and the mindset and cognitive ability of a 5-year-old child. Garcia is being held without bail.

The incident

Navajo Police Department officers initially received a call at 12:44 a.m., March 9, 2021. for a person laying on the floor of a house in Smith Lake, bleeding, FBI Agent Mark Spencer wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint.

When officers arrived, they found R.L., YOB 1957, bleeding from the chest, abdomen and neck. Paramedics declared him dead 35 minutes later, at 1:19 a.m, Spencer wrote.

Long Canyon on the east side of NM Hwy. 371, southeast of Crownpoint, 35.6217 -108.1003, McKinley County, New Mexico, 18 May 2014. Photo by Patrick Alexander/Flickr.

A woman identified by the initials P.E., and referred to as Witness 1, told investigators she, R.L. and Eric Garcia, 40, had been drinking inside the house. R.L. asked Garcia to leave “and a conflict happened.” Garcia had a knife and stabbed John Doe. P.E. ran outside, ran into another woman identified as M.L. and told her to call the police, he wrote.

M.L. told investigators she heard noises and went outside. P.E. told her to call the police. She went to the house and saw Garcia standing over R.L., left, told another family member what happened and then called the police, Spencer wrote.

Navajo police learned that Garcia lived a half-mile away, across the main road and knocked on his door, he wrote.

“GARCIA opened the door and had what appeared to be blood his hands, pants, and boots,” Spencer wrote. “GARCIA was taken into custody by NPD.”

FBI agents contacted a magistrate judge for an oral search warrant and found a bloody knife in a search of his house, he wrote.

FBI and Navajo Nation Police officers interrogated Garcia at the Crownpoint Police Department after Garcia waived his Miranda rights, Spencer wrote.

Spencer described the interrogation of Garcia:

“GARCIA stated that he was drinking at John Doe and Witness 1 ‘s house, located at 22 52 Rte. 49, Smith Lake, NM. They started drinking outside by the trees but eventually went to the house. GARCIA helped make some food and John Doe gave GARCIA a sharp knife to peel the potatoes. After a time, John Doe told GARCIA to leave. GARCIA did not want to leave. John Doe continued to tell GARCIA to leave but GARCIA did not want to. John Doe and GARCIA began yelling and cussing at each other. John Doe grabbed GARCIA’s arms and tried to get him out of the house. GARCIA had the knife from peeling the potatoes in his pocket and pulled it out and stabbed John Doe in the chest area. The next stab was to the neck and then continued stabbing John Doe in the chest and back. GARCIA left and went home.”

Spencer charged Garcia with an open count of murder.

Competency

Magistrate Judge Jerry Ritter ordered Garcia held without bail on March 15, 2021 at his initial appearance and set a formal detention hearing for March 17, according to court records.

On March 16, Garcia’s attorney. Lucas Babycos, filed a motion for Garcia to be evaluated for his competency.

Babycos wrote that Garcia has been formally diagnosed with a severe form of intellectual disability, he has the mindset and cognitive ability of a 5-year-old child.

“Defendant has no concept of what is occurring, or the magnitude of the allegations brought forward against him,” Babycos wrote.

Babycos wrote that he cannot effectively consult with his client, nor can Garcia assist in his own defense.

Babycos and federal prosecutor Allison Jaros agreed a competency evaluation should be conducted by Julie Brovko and, in the alternative, he asked that Garcia be sent to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be evaluated, he wrote.

Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing granted the motion the same day, according to the docket.

The following day, Fashing held a hearing and Babycos told her he has “concerns” with Garcia remaining “at facility,” according to the minutes. Fashing ordered the case be stayed until the competency evaluation is complete.

Spencer made no mention in his affidavit if it seemed, during the interrogation, like Garcia had any cognitive issues, or the mindset of a 5-year-old child.

Defendants must “knowingly and intelligently” waive their Miranda rights, including the rights to remain silent and right to counsel.

In Garner v. Mitchell, a 2007 appeal in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court found that “petitioner’s waiver of his Miranda rights was invalid because testing demonstrated that the petitioner’s mental incapacity rendered him unable to fully comprehend the warnings and his right to remain silent.”

No further court hearings are set.

View the case files on Document Cloud, Google Drive or Court Listener.

Previous stories

Competency raised for Smith Lake man with mindset of a 5-year-old child

Sentencing delayed again for Allister Quintana in Dulce torture killing

Update: Sentencing has been moved to April 6, 2021

• Sentencing had been set for March 5, 2021
• Co-defendant Andrew Bettelyoun still hasn’t been sentenced

See the case write-up or previous stories on this case

DULCE, N.M. — Allister Quintana‘s sentencing has been moved yet again, this time to March 2021, although a lack of required court filings appear to indicate the sentencing hearing will be pushed out further.

District Judge William Johnson moved the sentencing hearing to March 5, 2021, after Quintana’s attorney, Ray Twohig, requested an extension of deadlines on Dec. 15, as he continues to wait for a psychological evaluation, made more complicated by the restrictions on in-person visits created by the pandemic. The motion to extend deadlines is Twohig’s fifth in the case.

Problems completing Quintana’s evaluation have been the reason behind many of the previous requested continuances.

Twohig wrote that the evaluation also brings up issues that “require further exploration.”

Mug of Allister Quintana
Allister Quintana

Twohig’s sentencing memorandum was supposed to be filed by Dec. 30, 2020, although no memorandum appears in the court record.

Quintana, 26, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder on Jan. 22, 2020. His codefendant, Andrew Bettelyoun, 25, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping a year prior, on Jan. 30, 2019.

Quintana and Bettelyoun admitted to torturing Travis Howland, 28, before binding his hands and feet and leaving him, naked, in a closet to die on Feb. 2, 2018 in Quintana’s house, according to court records. (Details are in the case write-up.)

Although Bettelyoun was supposed to be sentenced in May 2019, court records do not indicate that he was ever sentenced and he does not appear to be in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons.

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Continue reading “Sentencing delayed again for Allister Quintana in Dulce torture killing”

John Lodgepole to be sentenced in April for brutal killing of woman in Nenahnezad

John Lodgepole beat Michaelene Warren and staved in her head with a cinderblock
• When he saw she was still alive, he propped up her legs and beat her ankles with a cane
• Prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez gave him a plea deal of six to eight years

See the case write-up here or past stories on this case

Update: On April 2, 2021, the sentencing date was vacated. No reason was given and no new sentencing date has been set.

Albuquerque, N.M. — A sentencing hearing has been tentatively set for John Lodgepole, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for beating Michaelene Warren, staving in her head with a cinderblock and, after he saw she was still alive, beating her ankles with a cane.

Lodgepole, 21, of Fruitland, is tentatively set to be sentenced at 3 p.m., April 14, 2021, by District Judge James Parker, according to a hearing notice. The hearing will be held virtually, via Zoom. No courtroom is listed on the hearing notice, entered on Feb. 10, 2021.

Lodgepole pleaded guilty to a single count of voluntary manslaughter, on Nov. 3, 2020, for Warren’s brutal beating death, on Aug. 1, 2019, in Nenahnezad. He signed a binding plea deal that set his sentence at just six to eight years. The deal was proffered by federal prosecutor Raquel Ruiz-Velez. The sentencing judge, Parker, can still reject it.

A view from the Indian Service Route 36 near Nenahnezad. Photo by Gene Selkov/Flickr.

Lodgepole wrote in the plea deal that he punched Warren in the head and face 10 times because she called him names and threatened him. After throwing her to the ground, he took a cinderblock and “smashed the back of her head.”

Warren, 43, was a friend of Lodgepole’s mother.

“When I noticed that Jane Doe was still breathing, I took the block, placed it under her feet and used a cane to strike her ankles for approximately five or six times,” according to the plea deal.

The reasons behind the plea deal are unknown. He was indicted Oct. 9, 2019, on a charge of voluntary manslaughter.

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Tavor Tom to be sentenced in March for brutal stabbing death of aunt

Tavor Tom stabbed or slashed aunt Roberta Clyde at least 75 times
• Tom pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November
• Judge William Johnson has total discretion to sentence him from no time to life imprisonment

See the case write-up or read previous stories on the case

SHIPROCK, N.M. — Tavor Tom could be sentenced as early as March 12, 2021, after he pleaded guilty in November to second-degree murder for the brutal stabbing death of his maternal aunt, Roberta Clyde, 45, of Shiprock.

District Judge William Johnson tentatively set the virtual sentencing hearing via a notice entered on Jan. 27. Assuming the case is not continued, it will be conducted over the video conferencing platform Zoom.

Federal sentencing guidelines appear to place Tom’s suggested sentence at 16 to 20 years. No sentencing memorandums, from the prosecution or defense, have been filed n the case.

Tom, 19, of Shiprock, pleaded guilty on Nov. 24, 2020, to second-degree murder for stabbing Clyde to death in 2019. The plea was conditionally accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa during a virtual hearing that lasted just over 30 minutes.

federal grand jury indicted him on July 9, 2019, on a charge of second-degree murder. He stabbed his aunt to death on July 1, 2019. According to the plea deal proffered by federal prosecutor Joseph Spindle, there is no agreement as to the sentence.

The stabbing

At 10 a.m., July 2, 2019, Clyde was found dead in her house by her father. Sometime during that same morning, Tavor Tom was found in her Jeep Cherokee, after he crashed into a fence in front of a church in Nenahnezad. Navajo Nation police officers found a bloody knife in the car, FBI Agent Cary Cahoon wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

During an interrogation, Tom told FBI agents he killed Clyde with a folding knife he took from his father’s vehicle. He intended to go to her house to steal her car so he could drive it to Farmington to steal Mucinex. After he stole it from the store, he drove on the back roads toward Shiprock and he crashed the vehicle into the fence. He was found in it the next morning, Cahoon wrote.

Pathologist Ross Zumwalt wrote in the autopsy report that Clyde suffered a total of 75 separate “sharp force injuries,” meaning stab wounds and incised, or slashing, wounds.

“Two of the stab wounds of the back of the head penetrated the skull resulting in bleeding around the brain,” Zumwalt wrote.

Clyde also has four stab wounds in her chest and one in her abdomen, which penetrated her stomach. She also has cutting wounds on her hands, which Zumwalt classified as probable defensive wounds.

“Death was a result of the blood loss caused by the multiple wounds,” Zumwalt wrote.

For more details on the crash, see the case write-up.

See the case on CourtListener.com or read the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud

Continue reading “Tavor Tom to be sentenced in March for brutal stabbing death of aunt”

More competency tests ordered for Richard Griego, charged for death of Jimmy Griego

Richard Griego has been in custody since 2017
While in jail, he has been charged in two more cases

See the full case write-up or read previous stories on this case

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Four years and five competency evaluations after he was arrested on a charge of murder in 2017, Richard Griego is still being evaluated for his competency to stand trial.

Griego is accused of throwing Jimmy Griego, 37, off the bridge over the Pecos River on March 28, 2017, an allegation backed up by data from an ankle bracelet he was wearing for a separate case, and an eye witness account, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

Richard Griego was bound over to District Court on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence on May 1, 2017. His case has essentially placed on pause since Nov. 15 2017, when competency was first raised as an issue.

According to the log of a Dec. 23, 2020 hearing, prosecutor Thomas Clayton said stipulating to Richard Griego’s lack of competency to stand trial would be “imprudent.”

Defense attorney Todd Farkas said the main question on competency is Richard Griego’s ability “to assist,” presumably in his own defense.

Mug shot of Richard Griego
Richard Griego

In New Mexico, a competency finding requires three things of a defendant, according to State v. Flores (2005):

  1. Understand “the nature and gravity of the proceedings against”
  2. Have a “factual understanding of the criminal charges”
  3. Be “capable of assisting in his own defense”

District Judge Gerald Baca ordered Griego be sent to the New Mexico Behavior Health Institute in Las Vegas to be further evaluated.

In a Nov. 18, 2020 hearing, Farkas told the judge that Griego had previously been found not competent to stand trial and Clayton said it was the fifth evaluation. Two prior evaluations found him competent while three, including the only recently completed, found him not competent.

Griego has two other cases pending against him, both of which happened after he was jailed in the murder case, and both of which are rolled into the broader competency proceedings.

The first, from Aug. 3, 2018, resulted in two counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner. The second, on March 1, 2019, resulted in a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

No new court dates are set.

Possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner

Las Vegas Police Officer Caleb Marquez wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant that he was sent to the San Miguel Detention Center on Aug. 3, 2018, for a report of a prisoner who has a weapon.

Jail staff told Marquez they found several items on Griego “during a shakedown of a housing pod.” The items were a hollowed-out bolt with a nut that had a nail pushed through the hollow end, about 4 inches in length, described as a shank, Marquez wrote. The second item was a handcuff key.

Clayton filed a criminal information on Oct. 19, 2018 in district court charging Griego with two counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner.

Aggravated battery

Las Vegas Police Officer Estevan Martinez wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant, on a charge of aggravated battery, that he was called to the San Miguel Detention Center on March 2, 2019, for a report of a fight involving Griego and Johnny Gallegos.

Martinez wrote that he watched a surveillance video from the incident and in it, he saw the two men got into a fight and Griego pushed Gallegos out of their cell and into the hallway with a crutch. Griego then allegedly beat Gallegos in the head and back with the crutch as Gallegos crawled away on his hands and knees. On the third strike, the crutch broke and Griego kept on hitting him with it, a total of eight times.

The two men were fighting after Gallegos tried to inject a crushed pill, he wrote.

On April 16, 2019, Clayton filed a criminal information in district court charging Griego with a single count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Continue reading “More competency tests ordered for Richard Griego, charged for death of Jimmy Griego”

Zachariah Joe sentenced to 15 years for stabbing death of cousin, per binding plea

• The binding plea deal offered by prosecutor David Cowen mandated a sentence of 15 years
Zacharian Joe stabbed cousin Brett Micah Morgan to death as he begged him to stop

See the full case summary or past stories on the case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal district court judge sentenced Zachariah Joe to 15 years in prison for fatally stabbing his cousin in Shiprock, after accepting a binding plea agreement.

District Judge James Browning sentenced Joe on Jan. 14, 2021, to 15 years followed by supervised release for three years, according to a sentencing minutes sheet filed eight days after the hearing.

The minutes do not state if anyone spoke at the hearing.

Joe admitted to stabbing his cousin, Brett Micah Morgan, 10 times, although court documents indicate he also kicked him after repeatedly stabbing him. Morgan begged him to stop as Joe stabbed him, according to court documents.

Joe owes $6,546 to his cousin’s family, according to the judgement filed in the case.

He pleaded guilty on Oct. 31, 2019, to a criminal information charging him with second-degree murder for Brett Micah Morgan’s death, offered by federal prosecutor David Cowen. Joe admitted to stabbing Morgan 10 times in the chest and neck.

Multiple family members wrote letters to the judge encouraging him to accept the plea.

The stabbing

On Jan. 3, 2019, Joe showed up at a house where Morgan, 32, and another man, identified by the initials B.M., were hanging out. Joe had just been fired from Burger King in Shiprock, Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Lance Roundy wrote in an affidavit for a criminal complaint for the arrest of Joe.

Photo of Shiprock on a snowy day.
Shiprock in the snow. Photo by Larry Lamsa/Flickr. CC-BY

Joe hit Morgan in the face with the back of his hand, then tried to attack Morgan, on the ground, but B.M. wrestled him to the ground. Morgan and B.M. got out of the house and Joe could be heard searching through kitchen drawers and cabinets. B.M. ran to Joe’s house and broke a window. While he was gone, Joe had stabbed Morgan 10 times, Roundy wrote.

Joe admitted in the plea deal to stabbing Morgan as he begged him to stop.

Another witness, D.T., told Roundy that he saw Joe kicking an unresponsive Morgan, after he had been stabbed, Roundy wrote.

See the full case summary, as well as a more complete narrative of the killing. Read the affidavit for a criminal complaint written by FBI Agent Lance RoundySee all the documents on Google Drive or Document Cloud view the case and documents on Court Listener.

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