Mario Montoya, 23, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder in the first degree, tampering with evidence and felon in possession of a firearm in 5th District Court, Monday morning.
The charges stem from the alleged revenge killing of Jericole Coleman, 21, on Aug. 22 at the intersection of Ash and Albuquerque streets.
Coleman turned State’s evidence on a previous case where Montoya was charged with shooting at an occupied dwelling and tampering with evidence during an incident that occurred in April 2008.
Coleman was arrested for the same incident. He appealed his conviction in May 2011. According to the appellate court records, Coleman received a phone call from Montoya around 4 a.m. asking for a ride home from a party. Coleman drove Montoya to 2409 Mesa St. Montoya exited the vehicle in front of the home of Richard Villa and shot at it. The bullet entered the bedroom, traveling through the kitchen and living room, and hit one of the vehicles.
A Sheriff’s deputy was in the area at the time of the original drive-by shooting. In the high speed chase that followed, Coleman’s vehicle achieved speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
Montoya pleaded no contest to the charges in December of 2008. He was sentenced to 1.5 years for the shooting charge on Jan. 9, 2009. He was released in August of 2010.
After his release, Montoya is purported to have invited Coleman to his residence on the 800 block of East Albuquerque Street, around 3:30 p.m.
According to witness testimony Montoya brought Coleman into his home to show them bullet holes from a previous drive-by shooting. The witness stated that he took the two men around the house to show how well it was guarded.
When the three exited the building to the backyard, Montoya pointed to the basement and said: “That’s where I’m going to put my bodies.”
According to statements made in the criminal complaint, “Montoya shot Jericole …. and asked for help with the body.”
Coleman died at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, before he could be flown out to a regional hospital.
First-degree murder is a capital offense in New Mexico, while tampering with evidence in connection with a capital crime is a third- degree felony. Capital murder can carry a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
The trial is scheduled to begin in February.