Day three of the State of New Mexico v David Vega started with Officer Ted Sandoval reviewing the extent of his injuries that occurred during the shoot-out which followed the murders of Christopher Vega, 25, and his girlfriend, Alisa (Michelle) Montgomery, 31. Sandoval still has shotgun pellets in his elbow because any attempt to remove them will cause more damage than leaving them in place. In addition, hospital staff found 10 pellets including two in his knee.
Vega is facing two counts of first-degree murder for the May 10, 2010, killings, three counts of attempted murder on a police officer and one count of assault.
Forensic psychologist for the defense, Dr. Samuel Rolls, gave his assessment of Vega’s mental status. He reported that his evaluation came from interviews and a battery of psychological tests, including the Rorschach or inkblot test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Weshsler Adult Intelligence Scale.
According to Rolls, the tests revealed that Vega had sustained organic damage to the left side of the brain as a result of an accident he had in 2007. Rolls called Vega borderline retarded, with overall IQ of 87. In terms of memory loss he referred to Vega as retarded.
“He (Vega) showed deficiency in reality tests … a severe impairment where he will misperceive an event which results in frequent failures to anticipate the consequences of his actions,” said Rolls.
He cited information from a note the police found on his back porch. Rolls referred to Vega’s mental status as a “psychotic degree of mental disturbance…. He had issues with the police that led to the belief that some people posing as the police were drug dealers.”
Rolls did not believe that Vega deliberately set out to kill the police. “Nothing in his personality indicates that level of malevolence.”
However, when asked by Judge Charles Currier about insanity and Vega’s ability to distinguish right from wrong, Rolls said Vega did not qualify for the legal definition of insane. He also said that Vega understood the difference between right and wrong.
Rolls explained the often repeated phrase “they’ll never take me alive” as “an adolescent fantasy rather than adult reasoning thought.”
Dr. Clinton Rhyne, forensic psychologist, took a different view. “In talking to the defendant and reviewing the report, I see no evidence of psychosis.”
About Vega’s distortion of reality as noted by the results of the inkblot test, Rhyme said that he placed little faith in the test. “The scoring system is complicated and given to error. The system is not 100 percent objective.”
He told the court that an IQ of 87 is not retardation rather it is on the low side of normal with scores of 70 to 79 considered borderline.
Vega’s attorney Jesse Cosby asked Rhyne, why he did not take the opportunity to review all the test scores. Rhyne replied that Dr. Rolls was esteemed in the field and he saw no reason to distrust the results.
During his interview with Vega, Rhyne said, “He comes off as relatively anxious average Joe.” He did feel that Vega showed hostility toward the police. “The police are responsible for what happened, if they had just done their job.”
Rolls returned to the stand to defend his use of the Rorschach test. He also pointed out that the Weshsler did not just provide an overall IQ score, but provided scores in different categories, such as memory, where Vega scored significantly lower.
Jennifer Otto, forensic scientist for the state of New Mexico, testified that she had found DNA evidence on two of the weapons found in Vega’s backyard which were sent to Santa Fe. Otto said, “David Vega could not be eliminated.” She clarified that the odds of the DNA belonging to someone else was in range of 1 in 18 billion and 1 in 14 trillion. She said that she found no blood on the weapon from Vega, Christopher or Montgomery, and believed the DNA came from skin cells.
Ballistics expert Stephen Guerra confirmed that the shells found at 1007 Rancho Road and sent to his laboratory by the Roswell Police Department had been “cycled through” one of the two shotguns also found in the Vega’s backyard where the officers had been shot.
Guerra explained that he could not say definitively if they had been “fired by” the shotgun since he had only been able to match the marks on the casings made by the extraction mechanism. However, he could confirm that the 9 mm casings had been fired by the Taurus, which New Mexico State Police located in the backyard where most of the gun battle between Vega and the police occurred.