By Carlos Padilla
A bond hearing was held in Seventh Judicial District Court in Truth or Consequences for 55-year-old Frank Chavez – who is facing an open count of first-degree murder – on Friday morning, Oct. 31.
District Court Judge Matthew Reynolds presided over the hearing with Frank Chavez present along with his wife, Deann Chavez, both represented by well-known defense attorney Gary Mitchell, and the state represented by Seventh Judicial District Attorney Clint Wellborn.
Due to a mix-up in transportation orders, the 10:30 a.m. hearing was delayed, however, that gave the court an opportunity to clear up the matter of whether or not the criminal cases filed against Frank Chavez and Deann Chavez are joined.
At this point, according to records obtained from the District Court Clerk’s Office, the two criminal cases are not joined.
Judge Reynolds, asking for clarification from the attorneys, deduced that the open count of murder originally filed against Ms. Chavez has been dropped, and the attorneys confirmed in open court and on record that the two cases have not been joined at this time.
Addressing the transport issue, Judge Reynolds held a brief pretrial conference concerning Ms. Chavez, since she was present in court.
“Before we get into the bond hearing,” Judge Reynolds posed a question regarding “the motion for consolidation filed by DA Wellborn,” and was informed that the motion was for purposes concerning the Sierra County Magistrate Court level.
Gary Mitchell clarified that was done for purposes of the preliminary hearing.
Judge Reynolds further clarified that, if need, the cases could be joined for trial at a later time.
After a recess, open court resumed.
Mr. Mitchell, addressing the court, stated that Mr. Chavez is in fact facing an open count of first-degree murder, and two counts of tampering with evidence.
“Mr. Chavez is a lifelong resident of this county and community,” Mitchell stated, adding that Frank Chavez has no prior felony convictions, owns his own business, owns a home and a shop in Truth or Consequences as well as a home and a shop in Palomas Canyon, and had a number of employees working for him at the time of his arrest. “I would advise the court that, according to the New Mexico Constitution, in cases of capitol murder charges, the court does not have to set a bond. If there is likely a conviction, the court can refuse to set a bond. Even with the statements, we have a meritorious self-defense claim. Mr. Chavez is asking the court today, and he has a lot of people here to speak on his behalf…” Mr. Mitchell continued that Mr. Chavez was seeking to have his bond reduced to $100,000, and be able to use property in lieu of cash. Mitchell claimed that the property in question has been valued at more than $100,000, “appraised – not just assessed – for that amount by the County Assessor’s Office.”
Mr. Chavez has been incarcerated since June 21, and hasn’t been able to work in that amount time, Mitchell told the court.
Mr. and Mrs. Chavez are both facing criminal charges for roles they played in the June 21, 2014 shooting death of 37-year-old Jeffrey Loren Martin.
“Like a lot of people in the construction and farming industries, he has a lot tied up in equipment and assets, but doesn’t have cash,” Mitchell said, adding that there is no question that both attorneys have serious concerns about, if Mr. Chavez were allowed to be freed on bond, that Mr. Chavez would be allowed to reside outside of Sierra County, except for purposes of court and medical visits.
Arrangements were made for Deann Chavez in this regard, and defense attorney Mitchell stated his hopes that the same consideration could be made for Frank Chavez.
Mr. Mitchell then spoke of “major medical issues” experienced by Frank Chavez, who reportedly “needs medical procedures taken care,” and UNM Hospital being “reluctant to cooperate.”
Apparently, Mr. Chavez underwent “major surgery before” and his attorney anticipates some of that might be reoccurring, including “internal bleeding.” Some has been taken care of, stated Mitchell, but needs to be treated.
“If the court wishes to set a higher bond, that will be very difficult for us to meet, or if the court asks that I set up twice the amount in property,” which Mitchell characterized as being “free and clear…I can’t do all the paperwork today,” adding that it could be done.
Mitchell stated friends of the couple have been assisting in removing equipment from the Palomas Canyon property, and that removal has taken a “lengthy amount of time,” and it “should be accomplished in the next few weeks. Mr. Mitchell added that Mr. Chavez “owns property elsewhere in Sierra County, ranch property as well as property in town.”
I don’t think the argument lies on whether he will appear in court or not, Mr. Mitchell told the court, adding that Deann Chavez showed up in court today, although she “didn’t have to be here,” and has to leave the community as per the agreement with the court.
Mitchell spoke to the fact that Mr. Chavez has been held in facilities “in Socorro then Sierra County and now Deming.”
District Attorney Wellborn then addressed the court, stating, “Regarding medical treatments…in the past, we have made arrangements with people facing lesser charges to get out and seek medical treatments. In this case, this is a first-degree capitol homicide. The State opposes any kind of release or any kind of bond.”
As the court knows, Wellborn stated, the New Mexico Constitution states that all offenses are able to have bail, except for capitol offenses “when proof is evident or presumption is great.”
“This necessitates me having to talk about the evidence in this case,” Wellborn stated, adding that he did have Detective Baker, “who is here, and who interviewed Mr. Chavez. He attended the autopsy. Detective Baker did in fact interview Mr. Chavez and Mr. Chavez did make an admission to shooting the victim twice with the shotgun.”