Year in review: DA, chief retirements leave space at the top
Last updated 1/1/2022 at 1:05pm
There will be new people in charge in 2022 at the Clovis Police Department and Ninth Judicial District Attorney's office, with the retirement of Chief Doug Ford and the upcoming retirement of DA Andrea Reeb in March.
Whoever takes over for them will have plenty on their plate, following a busy year in the justice system and various cases continued into 2022.
Ford, whose last day with the department was Friday, retired after more than five years as chief and 24 in the department.
“This decision was not an easy one,” Ford, a 1984 Clovis High graduate, wrote in his retirement letter, “and comes after lots of discussion with my wife, along with the desire to be able to enjoy retirement while we are still physically capable.”
Deputy Chief Roy Rice, who joined the department in 2019, was appointed as interim chief. Rice, who was previously the chief in Muleshoe, told The News he wasn't sure if he would apply for the permanent position, but was leaning toward it.
Reeb will retire as district attorney on March 31, following more than 25 years as a prosecutor.
Reeb, a 1989 Clovis high graduate, didn't intend to come back home with her legal career. But it worked out that way when her husband David, a Colorado native, took a prosecutor position with the district. She started her career in November of 1996, and was a prosecutor every step of the way.
"I just felt it was time to give somebody else a shot at the position," said Reeb, who has been DA for seven years. "I thought it was time to get my retirement, move on and try some other things."
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is tasked to appoint Reeb's successor, with the position up for grabs in the 2022 election. The governor's office has declined to identify the candidates who applied prior to the Dec. 22 deadline, and The News has filed a public records request for that information.
The court system already saw a change in its ranks earlier this year, following Matthew Chandler's retirement from the bench in August. Chandler, who spent 10 years as district attorney and five as a district judge, retired to move to Texas. Benjamin Cross, who previously served as a staff attorney for the district, was appointed to the judge position by Lujan Grisham.
Cross, a 1998 Clovis High graduate, has been the staff attorney since the position was created 10 years ago. Its various duties included covering for the lack of a local Legal Aid office overseeing the district's truancy program and children's court docket.
In other notes for the justice system from the year past and the year ahead:
Taylors appeal: The New Mexico Supreme Court has granted a review of a New Mexico Court of Appeals decision upholding the 2019 convictions of former Portales daycare owners Sandi and Mary Taylor.
The Taylors were sentenced to 30 and 36 years in prison, respectively, after two children in their care were left in a hot vehicle for 2 hours and 40 minutes in July 2017.
Maliyah Jones, 22 months, died as a result of the incident. Aubri Loya, then 23 months, was seriously injured but survived and has recently started public school.
Officials said temperatures outside the vehicle exceeded 90 degrees.
The Taylors have argued the 2017 incident, while unquestionably tragic, was accidental in nature and did not rise to the level of reckless child abuse
Former deputy sentenced: Former Roosevelt County Deputy Chris McCasland was sentenced in April to 182 days for a misdemeanor charge of possession of stolen property following a February bench trial conviction.
McCasland, who is appealing the case, was originally charged with burglary in Colfax County and felony charges of possession of stolen property. The burglary charge was dismissed due to an issue on statute of limitations, and the Roosevelt charges were reduced based on the value of a stolen television McCasland was alleged to have possessed.
2016 suspect arrested: After more than five years of chasing rumors, interviewing possible witnesses in two murder cases, and following leads across the country, law officers arrested Jose Zapata in connection with a gruesome 2016 double homicide.
Zapata is accused in the March 15, 2016, slayings of Christina Winters-Griffin, 31, and John Jesse Bustamante, 39, both of Portales. Police said rescue workers found Griffin and Bustamante after responding to a house fire in the 900 block of North Avenue J in Portales, which had been reported at 1 a.m. on March 16, 2016. The jury trial is set for Jan. 24.
Man faces manslaughter charge: Theodore Avalos is scheduled to be in court Monday to discus potential trial dates on an involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Malik Martinez-Daniels.
According to court documents, Avalos believed a firearm he owned was unloaded when he pointed it at Martinez-Daniels during a party.
Two remain at large: Warrants are still out for David Valdez and Victor Quintanilla. The two, who were last seen in the Lubbock area, are accused in the shooting death of Ivan Leuvano.
Double homicide trial in February: Danny Price stands accused of fatally shooting Ricky Johnson and Kennedy Hodge near Prince and Grand streets. His trial is scheduled for Feb. 22.
Former airman faces trial: Matthew Delaware was arrested for vehicular manslaughter in connection with a May 29 crash at an apartment building that left its occupant dead.
Gillian Sweeney, 74, was in her bedroom at the time of the crash on the 3400 block of Lore Street.
His trial is scheduled for March 8.
Stabbing trial set: Jesse Lujan, who is accused of fatally stabbing his cousin, is set to go on trial March 22.
Roy Courtney Lujan, 41, died in the September incident.
Teen faces shooting charge: Xavier Lucero will stand trial March 28 for charges in connection with the death of 16-year-old Ricardo Gonzales.
Three others, all juveniles, are facing murder charges in the May 14 shooting.
Portales woman faces manslaughter charge: Shona Williams is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 21 for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Quintasha Harris.
According to court documents, Williams said she and Harris had an argument, and that a gun Harris introduced to the struggle discharged accidentally.
The affidavit alleged inconsistencies with Williams' story, including whether she held the gun at any point and that her clothes had no signs of blood despite the close-range shooting, and that police body cam footage showed Williams at one point moving the weapon by handling it with a pair of boxer shorts.
Trial delayed for third time: Rancher Greg Smith has a two-week trial setting on 2019 allegations of improper financial dealings while he ran the Miss New Mexico pageant.
Smith, who is scheduled to go on trial April 18, is accused of overcharging pageant contestants and using the money for his private business dealings.
The latest delay was related to the retirement of Chandler. The state has requested a two-week trial setting due to a case that includes dozens of material witnesses.
Man pleads to manslaughter: Steven Hogues pleaded guilty in April to manslaughter charges. He was accused of shooting William Romero of Clovis in November 2019 in the course of an argument.
The plea agreement was a 13-year sentence, with nine of those years suspended. Following his four years in prison, Hogues is scheduled for five years of probation and two years of parole.
Trial set for January: Johnny Rae Vigil will stand trial Jan. 28 for a 2019 shooting.
Vigil is accused of killing Jahmail Burge with a handgun owned by Burge.
Homicide trials scheduled: Two men stand accused of killing a Muleshoe woman because she was a potential witness in another shooting.
Francisco Bustamante and Keith Cordova face charges in connection with the October 2020 death of Jamie Edgmon. Prosecutors believe Edgmon, whose body was found in Roosevelt County, was killed because she witnessed a shooting a few hours before near 10th and Pile in Portales.
Bustamante is slated to go on trial March 31, while Cordova faces a May 17 trial.
Two of three convicted: Two people accused of a robbery attempt that ended in a fatal shooting have been sentenced, and a warrant is out for a third.
Jonathan Mendez was sentenced to 33 years in the Department of Corrections, followed by five years of probation, in the fatal shooting of Brady Vallejos.
The 19-year-old Dexter resident died Sept. 29, 2020, at University Medical Center in Lubbock, 18 days after he was shot while traveling to Portales with Jean Pierre Brodie.
Brodie pleaded to a charge of distribution of a controlled substance and received 18 months probation.
Diego Morales is wanted on charges related to the case after failing to appear for an October hearing.
He was released the prior month on a $5,000 bond and placed on house arrest.
Prosecutors have not announced charges against juveniles in the case, and juvenile charges are not public record.
Father wanted on warrant: Christian Alonzo of Texico faces charges of abuse of a child and tampering with evidence stemming from the April 26 death of 5-month-old Pryncess Alonzo. Alonzo was last known to be living in Arkansas, relatives told police.
Former band director pleads: Former Muleshoe Band Director William Alan Shelly was sentenced in October to 14 years in federal prison. In April, Shelly accepted a plea agreement for enticement of a minor.
Under the terms of the deal, Shelly faced between 10 years and life. In the plea deal, Shelly admitted he sexually abused a girl in the eighth grade from January to early March of 2021.
Physician sentenced in Capitol charges: A Clovis physician who pleaded guilty to entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 events at the U.S. Capitol was sentenced to 24 months probation, a $500 restitution charge and a $3,000 fine, according to court documents.
Leonard Gruppo, 56, pleaded guilty Aug. 18 to a charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a capitol building after surrendering in early June.
Attorney Dan Lindsey said Gruppo went to the Capitol in support of President Donald Trump, who did not show up.