The second day of the jury trial for Harvey Salinas began with a review of the crime scene investigation. Salinas is charged with second-degree murder for the July 6 shooting of Arnulfo Villela Jr.
Crime Scene Technician Laverne Amir told the jury about processing the scene and locating the shell casings which stretched from 815 E. Hendricks to 827 E. Hendricks. She reported finding six 9 mm, six .40 caliber and four .22 shell casings, and two bullet fragments.
Defense attorney Luke Ragsdale asked if the shell casings had been fingerprinted and the bullet fragments weighed to ascertain their size. She said they had not.
Amir also participated in search warrants at several addresses. During the searches, the RPD found a rusted 9 mm magazine in a drawer hidden under children’s clothes at one location and a .22 caliber revolver.
Technician Russel Whitebear testified that he used a metal detector during one of the searches in an attempt to find a .40 caliber gun that was reported buried in a backyard. The firearm was eventually located in a trash can at one of the residences.
The jurors were active participants in the trial asking questions to clarify the testimony.
The State called Ross Zumwalt, chief medical investigator for the state of New Mexico, to give the findings of Villela’s autopsy. Zumwalt said that Villela had been shot seven times. Deputy District Attorney Michael Murphy led Zumwalt through his list of credentials which included nearly 7,000 autopsies. One shot Zumwalt remembered as standing out because the angle of its trajectory, where Villela was shot on the right side of the face near the chin. The bullet ricocheted off the jawbone and exited through the neck. Another shot hit the victim’s ribs, went into the chest cavity and pierced the heart. A third caused damage to the lungs. The fourth damaged the liver.
A further three Zumwalt described as superficial, or not life-threatening. Four could be viewed as killing shots. However, he stated that all would have contributed to Villela’s death due to blood loss. According to Zumwalt, the bullet fragments indicated that the most serious shots were probably caused by a .22 caliber firearm. He said he did not know what size bullets hit the limbs since those exited the body and left no fragments.
Joseph Lucero, one of the three who were charged with the slaying, took the stand. He admitted that he had pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. He told the court that he had carried a .22 pistol to Hendricks Street. “Most of us always have a gun. We didn’t go to shoot anybody. We just went to beat up who had hurt to his (Isaac Salazar’s) cousin.”
Lucero said Villela head-butted him and then tried to stab him. He reported shooting Villela six times at point-blank range. “I had my hand in his face when I shot him. … Every time I shot I heard him scream.”
He said he could not recall if Salinas had discharged his weapon during the incident.
Murphy asked Lucero about the contradictions in his statements in the District Attorney’s office and with the police during the initial investigation when he said that Salinas had fired his 9 mm and continued to fire his weapon after he got in the car. Lucero responded, “I may have said that, but I don‘t remember it.”
In his testimony, lead investigator Detective Kim Northcutt refuted much of what Lucero said. The detective reported that Lucero informed the police that Salinas discharged his weapon and then later threw it into a swimming pool. During cross examination, Northcutt referred to a series of small dents found on the top of the white Honda Accord, which he said were consistent with the damage done as shell casings hit the roof of a vehicle when a person fired a gun out a window.
When Ragsdale inquired if there could be any other cause for the dents, Northcutt replied, “I’ve never seen hail leave marks on only a portion of the vehicle.”