Man accused in 2014 stabbing death found competent
February 16, 2017
CLOVIS — The man accused in the 2014 stabbing death of a Clovis mother in a city park has been found competent to stand trial.
District Judge Drew Tatum on Wednesday issued the order the day after hearing testimony and reviewing exhibits of evidence in the case against Matthew Jennings.
Jennings is accused of stabbing to death Ariel Ulibarri on Nov. 9, 2014, at Goodwin Trails Park in Clovis.
“(T)he defendant sufficiently understands the roles of courtroom participants, the facts surrounding his charges, the maximum exposure he faces if convicted on the charges, his constitutional rights and the role of his attorney in defending him in trial,” the judge’s order reads.
“This court further finds the defendant to have a factual and rational understanding of the charges and proceedings, and he possesses sufficient ability to assist his attorney in his own defense.”
District Attorney Andrea Reeb said the trial is scheduled for April.
“We’re glad that we finally have a resolution on this issue so that he (Jennings) can make a decision to accept a plea in the case or go to trial,” Reeb said. “My main concern is to get this case tried in April or resolved in a plea as soon as possible.
“The family wants closure and everybody on law enforcement who had anything to do with this case wants it to be resolved,” she added.
Ulibarri’s sister, Leanna Montano, said the family is “thankful” for the judge’s ruling and that the trial is nearing.
“Dragging it out longer is one of the worst things that you can do to a family that lost their mom, daughter (and) sister.”
Court records show Ulibarri, 23, was walking with her 6-year-old son when Jennings, now 27, attacked her in the park. She was stabbed multiple times. The child ran away and was not injured.
Family members found the knife allegedly used in the slaying a day later, near the scene of the homicide.
Officials have said Jennings’ DNA is on the knife.
Officials said Ulibarri did not know her attacker.
Jennings told investigators “Ariel came out of nowhere and yelled some weird words at him and made a quick action which caused him to become very angry and offended so he stabbed her multiple times in her chest,” according to court records.
Stephen McIlwain, Jennings’ attorney, filed a motion in 2015 claiming his client was incompetent to stand trial.
Efforts to reach McIlwain on Wednesday were not immediately successful.
The court heard arguments on the motion on Nov. 4, 2016, and on Tuesday before Tatum’s ruling came Wednesday.