By Carlos Padilla
Deann Chavez is back in custody following an hour-long revocation hearing held last week in Seventh Judicial District Court, where she was found to be in violation of her conditions of release. District Judge Matthew Reynolds presided over the hearing, taking into consideration a wealth of information provided by witnesses called by Keith Valles from the District Attorney’s Office and Defense attorney Gary Mitchell of Ruidoso.
In the end, Judge Reynolds found in favor of the prosecution, after considering the testimony provided by the witnesses for the prosecution as well as statements made by Ms. Chavez and a defense witness in court on Friday morning, Nov. 21, specifically that Ms. Chavez had violated her conditions of release by being in Palomas Canyon earlier this month.
Frank and Deann Chavez were arrested June 22, and each were charged with one count of principal or accessory to murder (a first-degree felony), and one count each of tampering with evidence (a third-degree felony).
On July 14, the murder count filed against Deann Chavez was withdrawn, and she was able to post a $10,000 cash or surety bond – or $1,000 in cash.
As has been reported in previous articles published by The Herald, Ms. Chavez was prohibited from entering the Truth or Consequences city limits – except to attend court – or Palomas Canyon, where 37-year-old Jeffery Loren Martin was murdered.
PROSECUTION’S CASE: INVESTIGATOR BAKER
Mr. Valles, representing the District Attorney’s Office and standing in for District Attorney Clint Wellborn, called upon Sierra County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Joshua Baker, who took the witness stand upon being sworn in by Judge Reynolds.
Investigator Baker testified that he was on duty on Friday afternoon, Nov. 7, when he came into contact with Deann Chavez. When asked how he had come into contact with the defendant, Baker stated that he had received a phone call from a resident of Palomas Canyon, “telling me that he had observed…”
At that point, defense attorney Mitchell objected – citing hearsay.
Mr. Valles then addressed the court, stating that it was his understanding that Friday’s hearing was an informal appearance and hearsay was admissible.
Judge Reynolds verified that was in fact correct, and allowed the defense to proceed.
Baker continued that the witness – later identified in court as being James “Shorty” Montoya – had observed Ms. Chavez in a vehicle parked “off the interstate at the Las Palomas exit.”
Upon Investigator Baker’s arrival at the Palomas exit, he made contact with Mr. Montoya, who stated that Deann Chavez had left, traveling southbound on Interstate 25 in a white, two-ton truck pulling a flatbed trailer.
Investigator Baker, accompanied by Deputy Julian Diaz in a separate patrol car, then traveled southbound on I-25 in an attempt to locate Chavez. Baker testified that his understanding, due to the copy of the court’s order of the stipulations of her release, was that Ms. Chavez was not to be in Palomas Canyon.
Baker located the vehicle a few miles south of the exit for Las Palomas, and noted that the trailer being towed lacked a registration plate. Deputy Diaz then conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle being operated by Ms. Chavez. Once Deputy Diaz issued a citation to the defendant, Investigator Baker spoke to Ms. Chavez, who was in the truck, alone.
Chavez told Baker that because she wasn’t allowed to enter Truth or Consequences, she had asked a friend to pick up some groceries for her, and they were to meet at the Las Palomas exit.
During the traffic stop, Investigator Baker stated that a vehicle operated by another woman had stopped at the scene and then left in a southbound direction.
Ms. Chavez gave Investigator Baker permission to search the vehicle. Although there were no firearms inside the truck, Baker noted the presence of ammunition for a 38 Special, specifically six or seven rounds inside the vehicle, as well as a flask. Chavez claimed the flask belonged to her husband, who is presently incarcerated on a charge of homicide.
Baker stated that his search revealed no presence of alcohol or firearms, both of which would have been stipulated violations of Ms. Chavez’s release.
The flask was seized and logged into evidence by Investigator Baker, who then contacted District Attorney Wellborn, to inform him of the encounter and the technical violation of Chavez’s conditions of release.
Mr. Mitchell reiterated that Ms. Chavez’s friend was supposed to bring groceries to Ms. Chavez and they apparently were to meet at the Las Palomas exit. Mitchell questioned Baker more than once about the location of Ms. Chavez’s vehicle, and whether or not her location “off the exit” constituted her physically being within Palomas Canyon.
Baker held fast, testifying that the exit itself is located in the canyon.
Mitchell stated that Ms. Chavez had pulled off the interstate, but argued that to enter the canyon, motorists have to travel north.
“No, sir,” Investigator Baker responded.
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