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Teen arraigned in death of woman found in back yard

PORTALES — A Portales teenager was arraigned Thursday morning on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of a Portales woman.

Richard Baca, 18, is accused in the April slaying of Amber Robinson, 19. Her body was found in the back yard of the house where Baca lives. Baca was indicted last week by a Roosevelt County grand jury.

Baca was also charged with two counts of tampering with evidence for allegedly burying Robinson’s body and burning carpet and rags covered with her blood.

District Attorney Brett Carter said the trial could be held late in 2004, and maybe into 2005.

“The judge gave us a one-day trial, but we’re going to need more than that,” Carter said. “These cases take anywhere from a week to two weeks to try.”

Steven Quinn has been assigned to the case. Both Carter and the public defender, James Wilson, said the case would require a multi-day trial, but the time of the trial depends on Quinn’s schedule and a complete examination of the evidence.

“It’s going to be mostly the court docket that determines that,” Wilson said. “This case is so new that there are still things to be discovered.”

Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said Robinson may have died from blows following a confrontation with her attacker. The homicide was Portales’ first since 1998.

Baca has been held in the Roosevelt County Detention Center since his arrest on May 12. Parker set a cash-only bond of $300,000 for Baca.

A news release from Carter’s office said Robinson was killed on April 27, one day after she was reported missing by her family.

Baca was originally charged with first-degree murder in juvenile court because he was 17 at the time of the incident. The state moved to impose adult sanctions.

“Whatever he’s convicted of,” Carter said, “we’ll be seeking the maximum sentence due to the brutality of the crime.”

The murder charge carries a maximum charge of life in prison. Carter said a life term means a prisoner would serve at least 30 years before that prisoner is eligible for parole. The tampering with evidence charges could be served either during or after the life sentence, at the discretion of the judge.

Wilson said his client entered no plea, meaning the court automatically enters a plea of not guilty.

“At this point, we don’t know what we’re going to do ultimately,” Wilson said. “We’re preparing with the assumption that we’re going to go to trial.”

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