- Suspect: Joseph Vargas
- Victim: Kenneth Torres, 23
- Non-fatal victim: Julian Torres, 20
- Charges: Second-degree murder, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm
- Status: Plea to second-degree murder and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm
- Sentence: 8 years followed by 5 years of supervised probation
- Date of incident: March 31, 2017
- Agency: Rio Rancho Police Department
- Location: Eventide SE, Rio Rancho, NM
- Magistrate case number: M-45-FR-2017-00240
- District case number: D-1329-CR-201700155
Joseph Vargas fatally stabbed Kenneth Torres at a party on March 31, 2017, and also stabbed, but not fatally, Julian Torres. Vargas was initially charged with murder.
A grand jury indicted Vargas on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, among other charges, on April 20, 2017.
On May 23, 2018, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. According to his plea agreement, he received a sentence of eight years followed by five years of supervised probation.
On March 31, 2017, Joseph Vargas and Kenneth Torres were at the same party, at an apartment at 95 Eventide Road SE in Rio Rancho.
Vargas allegedly stabbed Kenneth Torres, 23, killing him, and stabbed but did not kill Julian Torres, 20. The pair are not related, Rio Rancho Det. Shawn Ginn wrote in a statement of probable cause for Vargas’ arrest.
On April 6, Ginn managed to arrest Vargas on a probation warrant and brought him in for an interview.
“Joseph stated he went downstairs to where he observed two subjects involved in an altercation,” Ginn wrote. “Joseph was able to identify the two subjects as ‘dead guy’ and ‘Juelz.'”
Juelz had a handgun, which he handed to Kenneth Torres.
Vargas allegedly said he then stabbed Torres and saw “Juelz” going to a car, Ginn wrote.
“Joseph said that he was not sure if Juelz was going to get a bigger gun and stabbed Juelz as he was getting into the car,” Ginn wrote. “Joseph said he took the gun from Kenneth and left the area in Kenneth’s vehicle as the passenger. Joseph stated he remembered waking up the next morning with the gun and knife however could not account for the whereabouts of the weapons at this time.”
He was arrested on an open murder count and a charge of tampering with evidence.
Indictment, plea and sentence
On April 20, 2017, grand jurors indicted Vargas a total of six counts:
- Second-degree murder
- Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon
- Four counts of tampering with evidence
When he was arraigned, on June 6, 2016, District Court Judge George Eichwald ordered Vargas be held without bail pending his trial.
A year later, on May 23, 2018, and without any intervening court hearings, Vargas pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
According to the plea agreement, accepted by Eichwald and signed by Assistant District Attorney Andoni Garrote, Vargas had his sentence set at eight years in prison followed by five years of supervised probation. (Technically, Eichwald sentenced Vargas to 15 years, the maximum, and then suspended seven of those years, resulting in a sentence of eight years.)
In the plea, Vargas also admitted his identity to one prior conviction, for aggravated battery on an officer and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery on an officer. He pleaded guilty in that case on Sept. 16, 2016, in case D-202-CR-201600853.
According to the judgement and sentence, he received credit for 413 days served.