James Gomez took the stand in his own defense, Thursday, and admitted to stabbing Zachary Perez in February 2010. â€œI stabbed him. I donâ€™t know many times.â€
The confession from the witness stand came after the state rested its case on day three of the trial of The State of New Mexico v. James Gomez. Gomez, 20, is charged with first-degree murder for killing of 16-year -old Zachary Perez.
Perezâ€™s body was found around 3 a.m. on Feb. 13, 2010, in a vacant lot between Mulberry Avenue and Fifth Street. Before Gomez testified, attorney Randall Harris presented a motion to the court for a directed verdict, where a presiding judge directs the jury to return a particular verdict.
Harris argued, â€œWe have no evidence, no witnesses, directly linking James Gomez to the murder. We have opines. We have mights and maybes…. I donâ€™t question the procedural knick-knacks, but the elements are not there.â€ Assistant District Attorney Debra Hutchins countered, â€œWe have the evidence.
They did not turn right to [auth] take him (Gomez) to the hospital. They did not turn right to take him home. They turned left onto Mulberry, a dead end road. They were looking for Zachary … his blood is there at the body.â€ Judge Steven L. Bell denied the motion. Harris called his first witness, Agent L. Leos, of Eddy County, who is related to Gomez by marriage.
Leos was called by the family to bring Gomez to Roswell, where he could turn himself in to the police. Detective Lisa Brackeen met Gomez at Waymaker Church, 202 S. Sunset Ave., on July 18, 2010, after a July 14 Daily Record article alerted the family that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
During his testimony, Gomez said he had no gang affiliation, but had heard of Zachary Perez and was afraid of him. He described the events of Feb. 12.
Gomez testified that he was cleaning his knife, a 4-1/2 inch Gerber blade, in his Hagerman home when a cousin dropped in and the two decided to go to Roswell.
They ran into Jesus Carranza, co-defendant in the Perez killing, at McDonalds. Gomez referred to Carranza as a hunting buddy whom he had known for years. Gomezâ€™s cousin left to return to Hagerman, while Gomez stayed with Carranza and began drinking Grey Goose vodka and cranberry juice.
His story mirrors that of stateâ€™s witness. Carranza and Gomez went to Allsupâ€™s where Carranza purchased beer and vodka. They met up with Ortega, Perez, Gonzalez and the others at a second Allsupâ€™s.
Then the group went to the 600 block of East Sixth Street, cruised to pick up Carranzaâ€™s girlfriend at Up Your Alley and then returned to Sixth Street. According to Gomez, Perez asked for a beer, and when he bent over to pick it up, Perez stabbed Gomez and ran off. Carranza started to drive.
He turned left onto Garden and then turned on Fifth Street. Carranza stopped the car and got out. Gomez followed. Carranza ran off in a southeasterly direction. His girlfriend drove away, leaving Gomez alone. Gomez said he pulled his knife from his pocket. â€œI seen a figure running towards me â€” it was Zachary â€” with a knife in his hands …. Either I was gonna die or it was gonna be him.â€
Harris questioned Gomez how he felt about stabbing Perez. â€œBy no means was I proud. I wish I had never gone out that night,â€ Gomez said.
He then explained the choice of Artesia for the treatment of his wounds and how he managed to elude police for five months.
â€œI left Hagerman to protect my family and went to Mexico.â€ In cross-examination, Hutchins asked, â€œHe was stabbed 22 times.
In this alleged knife fight, didnâ€™t you notice he (Perez) was not fighting back? Didnâ€™t you notice he was no longer stabbing at you? Both the state and defense will present their closing arguments this morning, and after instruction from Judge Bell, the jury will deliberate.