Autopsy results released in Vega trial

August 18, 2011 • Local News

The state presented its case on day two of the State of New Mexico versus David Vega murder trial. Vega is facing charges of first-degree murder for the May 10, 2010, shooting death of his son Christopher, 25, and his son’s girlfriend, Alisa Montgomery, 31.

The Chief of Medical Investigation, Dr. Ross Zumwalt, testified on the autopsy results. According to Zumwalt, Christopher received two gunshot wounds — one in the right upper chest that traveled through the body, shattered the collar bone, fractured the spine, severed the spinal cord and severed the major artery in the heart. The second entered the back of the left arm, fracturing the large bone of the upper arm.

Zumwalt said he did not know the sequence of the shots, but said either one could have been fatal. He told the police that after severing of the spinal cord, “Christopher would have dropped.”

According to his estimation, the presence of wadding inside the body (the plastic outer casing that enclosed the shotgun shell) indicated that Vega was between two and six feet away when he shot his son.

Zumwalt said Montgomery received three shots — one to the right side of the head. He [auth] also found wadding lodged inside the victim’s brain. Montgomery had a second shot to her arm that carried through her face and a third through her buttocks.

Zumwalt estimated the distance from Vega to Montgomery was between 18 inches and 10 feet away.

Zumwalt reported that toxicology reports on Christopher were negative for alcohol, with residual for marijuana, and negative for Montgomery on both counts. When defense attorney Jesse Cosby asked if the reports noted the presence of prescription drugs, Zumwalt said a full drug screen had not been completed. It was no longer standard due to state budget cuts.

Jeremy Shangraw, Vega’s nephew, described incidents on the day of the shooting. Shangraw described the arguments and said his uncle became violent when he drank.

Shangraw was present at the time of the shooting. “I heard David pumping the shotgun and loading it.” He testified that Vega called a friend, Boni, saying he was going to kill them.

Shangraw wept when he spoke of the killing. He said he heard gunfire, then Alisa’s protest to Vega, followed by more shots. He tried unsuccessfully to get to Christopher after Vega went outside, but retreated when his uncle returned to the house.

Shangraw said his uncle was loading more clips into his shotgun and told him to leave. When Shangraw called the police he warned them that Vega was armed. He testified that Vega would say, “They won’t take me alive.”

Boni Sena, Vega’s friend, discussed the phone call he received from Vega saying, “I’m going to do it,” but said that Vega would not say what he was going to do.

Sena corroborated Shangraw’s statement that Vega said ‘They would never take him alive.’ Sena then talked about Vega’s second call when Vega confessed, “I did it.” The call prompted Sena’s driving over to his friend’s house but Vega refused to let him in.

Alana Baxter, wife of Boni, also talked to Vega briefly on that fateful night when he told her that he had done it, but when she asked, “Done what?” Vega replied, “Never mind.”
Baxter spoke of Vega’s anger at the police who had arrested him when he called for help, and she agreed that Vega had said about himself many times that “They’d never take me alive.”

Police supplied additional testimony, video and audio tapes. Officer Scott Stevenson described a service call made to the Vega residence on May 7 when he wanted his son removed from his home.

At that time Christopher reported that his father had hit his mother, but Vega’s wife Kathy denied it. He also said that his father had been drinking, but a breathalyzer-type test yielded negative results.

Cosby commented at the end of Stevenson’s testimony, “Basically, you left him with no avenue (to get his son out of the house).”

Detective Albert Aldana discussed Vega’s arrest for disorderly house on May 9 and the events in the early morning hours of May 10 when two police officers were shot and wounded.

Officer David Andries said, “(RPD Officer Ted) Sandoval came over (the radio), saying ‘Shots fired. I’m hit’.” Andries saw Officer Keith Rightsell stumble backwards and begin to return fire.

Officer Benjamin Davin reported that he saw Rightsell fall to the ground, followed by a long burst of rapid fire.

Sandoval conveyed the sequence of events when he was wounded. “I heard the gunshot. … It felt like I’d been hit by a baseball bat.”

Cosby asked Sandoval where the shot was aimed. The officer replied, “Apparently at me. It hit me.”

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