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 — 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.

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

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”

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

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

See the case write-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See the case files on Document Cloud or Google Drive.

Continue reading “State Police charge Indianapolis man with running over woman, infant, west of Gallup”

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

  • Suspect: Jagjeet Singh
  • Victim: Jessica Ann Copey, 24
  • Victim: Unnamed infant
  • Date of incident: Jan. 19, 2021
  • Charges: One count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily injury or death, one count of possession of a controlled substance: heroin, one count of possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia; an additional count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily injury or death was dismissed by a judge.
  • Status: Bound over to district court; no district court case created yet
  • Investigating Agency: State Police
  • Investigator: Larry Reuter
  • Incident Location: Interstate 40 near mile marker 15, west of Gallup
  • Judicial District: 11th Judicial District
  • Prosecuting agency:  11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Div. II
  • Prosecutor: Unknown
  • Defense attorney: David Serna
  • Magistrate case number: M-35-FR-2021-0021
  • Magistrate Judge: Pat Casados
  • District Case number: n/a

Summary

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

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

Magistrate Judge Virginia Yazzie released him on an unsecured $100,000 bond following his first appearance on Jan. 21, 2021. Magistrate Judge Pat Casados dismissed one charge of knowingly leaving the scene of a crash and bound him over to district court following a preliminary examination on March 3, 2021.

The incident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bound over to district court

On March 4, 2021, following a preliminary hearing, Casados bound over Jagjeet Singh on one count each of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily injury or death, possession of a controlled substance: heroin, possession of a controlled substance: methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Casados dismissed one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily injury or death, according to her order.

As of March 20, 2021, no district court case appeared to have been created for the case and no court dates were set.

See the case files on Document Cloud or Google Drive.

Past stories

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

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

Florida man appeals second-degree murder conviction on five grounds

A jury found Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez guilty of second-degree murder for strangling Connie Lopez
• Judge Jarod Hofacket sentenced him to 15 years, the maximum in New Mexico

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

DEMING, N.M. —  Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez is appealing his second-degree murder conviction on five grounds, including that holding the trial during a pandemic hampered the transcription of the trial, therefore eliminating his right to a fair trial.

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

A jury convicted Lobato-Rodriguez, 57, of the second-degree murder of Connie Lopez, 57, of Lake Placid, Fla., following a four-day trial that ended Aug. 20, 2020. They deliberated for just an hour. He was charged in district court with first-degree murder. District Judge Jarod Hofacket sentenced Lobato-Rodriguez to 15 years in prison, the maximum sentence for second-degree murder in New Mexico, during a hearing on Nov. 2, 2020.

On Nov. 10, 2020, Hofacket appointed the public defenders office to appeal Lobato-Rodriguez’s conviction, according to the docket. On Dec. 21, 2020, his attorney, George Harrison, filed a docketing statement with the court of appeals, contending that five issues in the case were grounds for a new trial:

  1. Conducting the trial while adhering to COVID-19 protocols resulted in “the inability to properly transcribe the proceedings,” obviating a fair trial
  2. Hofacket’s multiple denials of motions to suppress evidence
  3. Denial of a mistrial motion after prosecutor Matthew Bradburn commented on Lobato-Rodriguez’s silence after asserting his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent
  4. Hofacket’s “failure to correct critical errors” by the interpreter
  5. Hofacket’s denial of a self-defense jury instruction

Harrison previously motioned for a mistrial on three grounds, repeated in the appeal — the Fifth Amendment statement, the improper interpreting and the denials of motions to suppress. Hofacket denied that motion.

Harrison wrote in the docketing statement that he hired a certified Spanish interpreter to compile a “complete interpretation” of Lobato-Rodriguez’s testimony.

“The interpreter filed an affidavit with the district court,” Harrison wrote. “The affidavit states, among other things, that the quality of the audio recording of Mr. Lobato-Rodriguez’s testimony during trial is so poor that a proper interpretation would not be possible.”

Harrison wrote in the docketing statement and other motions that there was an improper translation, where Lobato-Rodriguez mumbled that he thought the victim told him he would “be dead that day.”

When Hofacket denied the motion, he wrote that the interaction Harrison said happened in fact, did not happen, and he did not understand why the interpreter claimed something happened that he found did not, after he reviewed the audio.

Harrison wrote that the rules for a jury trial during a pandemic meant the jurors were seated in the audience section of the courtroom, the family of the victim, Harrison and Lobato-Rodriguez were in the jury box, with their backs to the jury, and everyone was wearing masks.

Two Spanish interpreters translated during the trial for Lobato-Rodriguez and one juror.

“The COVID rules in effect made for great difficulty hearing potential jurors during voir dire and understanding witnesses called to the stand during trial testimony,” Harrison wrote.

No hearings have been set in the appeal and no responses have been filed by prosecutors.

The killing

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

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

According to Lobato-Rodriguez’s trial testimony, Lopez was driving him to his home in Mexico. Lobato-Rodriguez is a Mexican national.

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

Continue reading “Florida man appeals second-degree murder conviction on five grounds”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mistrial motion denied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez asks for reconsideration after guilty verdict

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

Read the case write-up

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

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

Isaias Loabto-Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improper comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation error

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harrison also filed a motion specifically to correct the error.

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

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

Motion to suppress

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

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

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

Continue reading “Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez asks for reconsideration after guilty verdict”

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

See the case write-up

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

Isaias Lobato-Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading “Trial date set for Florida man accused of strangling woman near Hachita”

Police seek suspect in fatal Vado hit-and-run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Roswell man killed in hit-and-run, State Police asking for help to find the culprit

ARTESIA, N.M. — State Police are asking for the public’s help to identify the person and vehicle that hit and killed a 39-year-old Roswell man on April 11, 2020 on U.S. Highway 82 outside of Artesia.

State Police officers found Jenio Berdoza, 39, had been hit by a vehicle that fled from the scene, on U.S. Highway 82, near mile post 80, State Police Officer Ray Wilson wrote in a press release.

“Berdoza was transported to Artesia General Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased by the Office of the Medical Investigator,” he wrote.

Berdoza, of Roswell, was walking on the side of the highway when he was hit by the vehicle, which then fled the scene, he wrote.

“If you were a witness or have any information about this crash, you are urged to call the New Mexico State Police at (575) 382-2500 option 1 and tell the dispatcher you have information related to the U.S. Highway 82 hit and run,” Wilson wrote.

See the case write-up or check for updates via the case’s tag.

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Continue reading “Roswell man killed in hit-and-run, State Police asking for help to find the culprit”

Judge gives drunk driver 6 years for killing woman, injuring her two children

  • Mateo Maestas received a 6-year sentence, although prosecutors wanted the max, 8 years, while the defense asked for the minimum, 5 years
  • The judge gave Maestas 60 days of release before going to prison
  • Maestas was arrested a month later for a host of violations, including drinking, and sent to prison

See the case write-up

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mateo Maestas will spend six years in prison after a federal District Court judge sentenced him for killing a Laguna Pueblo woman, and severely injured her two children, in a drunk driving crash.

Federal District Judge Dee Benson

Federal District Judge Dee Benson sentenced Maestas, 22, of Cuba, on Jan. 23, 2020 during a 90-minute hearing in federal District Court in Albuquerque.

Maestas, a member of the Acoma Pueblo, previously pleaded guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter on Sept. 9, 2019.  According to the plea deal accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, prosecutors agreed to a sentence range of five to eight years, called a binding plea. He was originally charged on April 18, 2019, arrested on May 22 and released pending trial on May 29.

Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of eight years, although prosecutor Elisa Dimas claimed he could have faced a much greater sentence, without the plea, for the injuries he caused the woman’s children.

Benson gave Maestas, who had been released to house arrest on May 29, 2019, pending the outcome of his case, 60 days to turn himself into to prison to start serving his sentence, according to the minute sheet.

A month later, he was wanted on a warrant for allegedly violating the conditions of his release.

According to the sentencing minute sheet, Dimas asked for an 8-year sentence during the hearing and Maestas’ defense attorney, Britany Schaffer, asked for a 5-year sentence.

Continue reading “Judge gives drunk driver 6 years for killing woman, injuring her two children”

UNSOLVED: Jenio Berdoza — 4-11-2020

  • Suspect: UNKNOWN/UNSOLVED (hit and run)
  • Victim: Jenio Berdoza, 39
  • Charges: n/a
  • Status: Unsolved; police seeking public’s help in finding suspect
  • Date of incident: April 11, 2020
  • Type of incident: Hit and run
  • Agency: State Police
  • Location: U.S. Highway 82, near mile post 80, outside Artesia, Eddy County
  • Magistrate case number: N/A
  • District case number: N/A

Summary

State Police are asking for the public’s help to identify the person and vehicle that hit and killed a 39-year-old Roswell man on April 11, 2020 on U.S. Highway 82 outside of Artesia.

State Police officers found Jenio Berdoza, 39, had been hit by a vehicle that fled from the scene, on U.S. Highway 82, near mile post 80, State Police Officer Ray Wilson wrote in a press release.

“Berdoza was transported to Artesia General Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased by the Office of the Medical Investigator,” he wrote.

Berdoza, of Roswell, was walking on the side of the highway when he was hit by the vehicle, which then fled the scene, he wrote.

“If you were a witness or have any information about this crash, you are urged to call the New Mexico State Police at (575) 382-2500 option 1 and tell the dispatcher you have information related to the U.S. Highway 82 hit and run,” Wilson wrote.

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San Diego man killed in hit-and-run after being released from SF County jail

SANTA FE, N.M. — State Police detectives are looking for a 2015 Ford truck, and its driver, which allegedly hit and killed 45-year-old Kevin Poirer around 10 p.m., March 27, 2020, as he walked down Highway 14, near the Santa Fe County Detention Center, which he had just been released from.

Mug shot of Kevin Poirer
Kevin Poirer

The driver of the truck, described as having front end damage and a missing mirror, allegedly fled the scene after hitting Poirer, State Police Officer and spokesman Ray Wilson wrote in a press release.

The truck hit Poirer near near mile post 43, he wrote.

Wilson spelled Poirer’s last name as “Poirier.”

Although Poirer was transported to St. Vincent’s Hospital, he died from his injuries, he wrote.

“The investigation indicates Poirier (sic) was walking south on Highway 14 and was struck by what investigators believe to be a south bound 2015 Ford Pick-up Truck,” Wilson wrote. “After striking Poirier, (sic) the truck fled the scene.  The truck will have front end damage and will be missing a mirror.”

Continue reading “San Diego man killed in hit-and-run after being released from SF County jail”

UNSOLVED: Kevin Poirer — 3-27-2020

  • Suspect: UNKNOWN/UNSOLVED (Driver, 2015 Ford truck, with a missing mirror and front-end damage)
  • Victim: Kevin Poirer
  • Charges: n/a
  • Status: Unsolved; police seeking public’s help in finding suspect
  • Date of incident: March 27, 2020
  • Type of incident: Hit and run
  • Agency: State Police
  • Location: Highway 14, outside Santa Fe County Detention Center, Santa Fe County
  • Magistrate case number: N/A
  • District case number: N/A

 

Summary

Kevin Poirer, 45, of San Diego, was allegedly killed following a hit-and-run near the Santa Fe County Detention Center, on Highway 14, on March 27, 2020, around 10 p.m. State Police are actively seeking the public’s help to find the alleged killer and his or her truck.

The hit and run

According to a press release from Officer and spokesman Ray Wilson, State Police detectives are looking for a 2015 Ford truck, and its driver, which allegedly hit and killed 45-year-old Kevin Poirer around 10 p.m., March 27, 2020, as he walked down Highway 14, near the Santa Fe County Detention Center, which he had just been released from.

Mug shot of Kevin Poirer
Kevin Poirer

The truck fled the scene after hitting Poirer. The truck is described as having front end damage and a missing mirror. The truck hit Poirer near near mile post 43, Wilson wrote.

Wilson spelled Poirer’s last name as “Poirier.”

Although Poirer was transported to St. Vincent’s Hospital, he died from his injuries, he wrote.

“The investigation indicates Poirier (sic) was walking south on Highway 14 and was struck by what investigators believe to be a south bound 2015 Ford Pick-up Truck,” Wilson wrote. “After striking Poirier, (sic) the truck fled the scene.  The truck will have front end damage and will be missing a mirror.”

According to a booking sheet from the Santa Fe County Detention Center, Poirer was booked on March 26 at 2:27 p.m. and released the following day, March 27, at 8:25 p.m., before he was hit around 10 p.m. It is not clear, from State Police, when the initial call was received.

Poirer was booked on a failure-to-appear warrant, according to the booking sheet.

According to a court docket, Poirer was initially arrested on a charge of breaking and entering on Dec. 9, 2019.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Poirer allegedly “pried open the doors to a Best Western hotel,” where police found him inside, and he told police he “just wanted to warm up.

Jail staff refused to admit him to the jail because of “severely infected” arm wounds, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Wilson wrote that anyone with information should call State Police at (505) 841-9256, option 0, and tell the dispatcher they have “information related to the Highway 14 hit and run.”

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See the current case documents on Google Drive.

Acoma Pueblo man pleas in fatal DWI crash, to get 5-8 year sentence

  • Mateo Maestas drunkenly crashed into an unidentified Laguna Pueblo woman’s car on April 19, 2019, killing her
  • The binding plea deal mandates his sentence will be between 5-8 years
  • In secret court documents, federal prosecutor Elisa Dimas asked for Maestas to receive either the maximum sentence or one greater than allowed under his plea deal

Read the full case summary

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 22-year-old Acoma Pueblo man is tentatively set to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020, for an April 2019 crash that killed a woman and injured her two children on the Laguna Pueblo.

Laguna Pueblo as seen from I-40. Photo by Ken Lund/Flickr

Mateo Maestas pleaded guilty to a single count of involuntary manslaughter on Sept. 5, 2019. According to the plea deal, accepted by federal Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing, the sentencing judge is bound to sentence Maestas to five to eight years in prison. Eight years is the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter. He was previously indicted on the manslaughter charge on June 12, 2019.

According to an order continuing his sentencing hearing, Federal District Court Judge James Browning is set to sentence Maestas at 8:30 a.m., Jan. 17, 2020 in Federal District Court in Albuquerque.

In preparation for the sentencing hearing, his attorney, Britany Schaffer, filed a 15-page sentencing memorandum on Dec. 31, 2019.

She wrote that Maestas drove because his friends left him at his car following a minor argument.

“He made a terrible error in attempting to drive back to safety, one for which he will be haunted by for the rest of his life,” Schaffer wrote. “He called out for help to one of his loved ones, but he was too far away to be able to help.”

Schaffer does not write how Maestas was in danger, or what he was in danger from, that he needed to drive, drunk, to safety, or what safety he was trying to drive toward.

The presentence report, which isn’t public, suggested a sentence of 2 1/2 to 3 years, she wrote.

Schaffer wrote that she wants Browning to give Maestas a sentence at the low end of the plea agreement.

“Mr. Maestas has a criminal history of zero: that is, prior to this case, he has never been convicted of a crime, other than a single speeding ticket,” she wrote. “He is young, hard-working and educated, and aspires to help others in his future as he has been doing during his counseling sessions while this case has been pending.”

He is the grandson of Wilson Joe Chiquito, who was killed in his home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into his killing is still unsolved.

“Although there is no excuse for his actions on the date of the accident, Mr. Maestas was heavily impacted by the loss of his grandfather, and, at the time when this accident occurred, he had unfortunately fallen into a pattern of using alcohol in an unhealthy manner. He was forthright with his probation officer when he discussed his drinking habits, and that he ‘was struggling with alcohol use,'” Schaffer wrote.

Prosecutor Elisa Dimas wants Browning to give Maestas a sentence above the maximum of eight years agreed to in his plea deal because of his “uncharged conduct,” Schaffer wrote. This is because of the injuries to the Laguna Pueblo woman’s children.

One child, L.R., received “liver lacerations and spleen injuries.” She was unrestrained in the back seat.

Dimas’ actual request to increase Maestas’ possible sentence does not appear in the public court docket. The public docket is missing entries 38 and 39 and 44 through 46.

According to Schaffer’s sentencing memo, Dimas’ request for Maestas to receive a sentence above what she agreed to in the plea agreement is document 45, which does not appear on the public court docket. There is no explanation as to why the document is being kept secret and there are no entries indicating it was sealed, or that either the defense or prosecution requested it be sealed.

According to Schaffer’s memo, Dimas wants Maestas to be sentenced to at least a maximum of eight years and one month, one month above what was allowed in his plea deal, although it is not clear if she is seeking a sentence above that and her request is not on the public docket.

In 2018, journalist Jeff Proctor wrote about prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes federal cases, and public defenders, improperly sealing court documents, a process that requires a judge’s consent.

Maestas also wrote a letter to Browning and the dead woman’s family. Although he wrote that he feels sympathy for the woman’s family and he regrets the decision he made, because it killed the Laguna Pueblo woman, much of his letter is about the unsolved killing of his grandfather.

Maestas is tentatively set to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020.

The details of the crash are in the case write-up.

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Continue reading “Acoma Pueblo man pleas in fatal DWI crash, to get 5-8 year sentence”