Just as Santa Fe prosecutors got the green light from a judge to proceed on murder charges against a teenaged suspect in an August killing this week, they were back in court a day later, filing motions to detain two other people, 19 and 25, until trial in a separate suspected homicide.
In the more recent case, a 21-year-old woman was allegedly killed with a sword in a Southside neighborhood over the weekend. The pretrial detention motions are pending.
Meanwhile, First Judicial District Judge T. Glenn Ellington on Monday ruled from the bench that prosecutors cleared a probable-cause hurdle and can try Elijah Judah Trujillo on first-degree murder and evidence tampering charges. Trujillo was 15 when police say he fatally shot Samuel Cordero, 60.
Trujillo, now 16, will remain in custody as the case proceeds.
Jerry Archuleta, one of Trujillo’s lawyers, tells SFR he and his co-counsel, Les Romaine, have not spoken with Trujillo in private, and they plan to file a motion to release Trujillo before his trial.
Prosecutors used police testimony, cellphone data and three home security videos to make their case that Cordero showed up to Ragle Park for a Grindr “rendezvous” on Aug. 10 before Trujillo killed him. Trujillo’s attorneys argued the state failed to show Trujillo and Cordero were the only ones at the park that morning.
Ellington said in his ruling that the “testimony and evidence in respect to identification of the alleged shooter is all circumstantial” before binding Trujillo over for trial.
Assistant district attorneys Ramon Carrillo and Jeanine Salustri used Cordero’s and Trujillo’s phone data to show the two were at Ragle Park within minutes of each other and that Cordero’s phone was near Trujillo’s home before someone ditched it near Rodeo Road.
Prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of Santa Fe Police Det. Rebecca Hilderbrandt, who tested that data from Cordero’s phone shows he was using the dating app marketed towards the LGBTQ community while at the park, but little else.
“I could see that Samuel Cordero was using the dating app Grindr, and I didn’t see any incoming or outgoing messages around the time that he left work or phone calls,” Hilderbrandt said from the witness stand.
Prosecutors argued an email address they say is associated with Trujillo was linked to a Grindr profile showing a user aged 19. Hilderbrandt tested there was no evidence showing the two communicated or connected on the app.
The DA’s office also relied on three videos from a security camera at the home of Trujillo’s stepfather, which Hilderbrandt said from the witness stand show Trujillo walking up to the home several minutes after police say Cordero was killed. The videos, according to Hilderbrandt, also show Trujillo leaving the house 20 minutes later with his mother and sister and returning to the house with his mother around 5 am.
During cross examination Archuleta pressed Hilderbrandt on statements from Trujillo’s mother about her work hours. Hilderbrandt testified that Trujillo’s mother said she usually gets up for work around “3 am-ish.”
Search warrants police executed on two addresses believed to be associated with Trujillo turned up several guns, Hilderbrandt tested, particularly two 9 mm handguns. Others tested on Monday that 9 mm casings were found near Cordero’s body.
Trujillo’s lawyers successfully blocked testimony from Hilderbrandt about further test results on the guns, arguing that it was hearsay.
Trujillo turned 16 about a month after Cordero was killed. Ellington did not set a trial date on Monday.
The day before, Santa Fe Police arrested Kiara McCulley, 19, and Isaac Apodaca, 25 as suspects in the killing of Grace Jennings, 21.
According to a criminal complaint first filed in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court, police say McCulley stabbed Jennings to death and that they found a bloody sword at the scene.
The two have not made their initial court appearance, but prosecutors filed a motion on Tuesday to detain them until trial. The criminal complaint alleges that McCulley told police she suffers from undiagnosed multiple personality disorder and that Apodaca pushed McCulley to kill Jennings.
McCulley does not have a criminal history in New Mexico, a search of online court records shows, but Apodaca was charged with domestic violence against McCulley in April. That case was dismissed the day after the two were arrested on suspicion of killing Jennings.
According to the DA’s office, McCulley asked for the domestic violence case to be dismissed and Apodaca agreed to go through a year-long domestic violence program. Prosecutors could still refile that case.
Jennings’ death marks Santa Fe’s sixth homicide case this year.