Oct. 30—A Hernández man was arraigned Monday on a charge of first-degree murder — but the man he is accused of stabbing is still alive.
Rodney Gallegos Jr., 32, told a Rio Arriba County magistrate the charge was “bunk.”
The charge was baffling to longtime Santa Fe defense attorney Dan Marlowe.
“How can you charge someone with a crime that hasn’t happened?” said Marlowe, who is not involved in the case. “There’s no such thing as first-degree murder if the victim is alive — if there’s no body, then there’s no murder.”
Along with first-degree “felony murder,” Gallegos faces felony counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence in a Saturday incident in Hernández, a small community north of Española. He is suspected of stabbing a cousin, fellow Hernández resident Moses Gallegos, in the neck, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court.
Rio Arriba County sheriff’s officials and the judge who arraigned Rodney Gallegos indicated they were aware Moses Gallegos didn’t die from his wounds.
Maj. Lorenzo Aguilar, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said Moses Gallegos was alive and had been released from a hospital Monday morning.
During the arraignment, Magistrate Alexandra Naranjo told Rodney Gallegos, “You are being charged with, count one, first-degree murder. They’re saying that you did attempt to kill Mr. Moses Gallegos, a human being, without lawful justification or excuse.”
Naranjo noted the murder charge is a first-degree capital felony, punishable by life in prison.
Rodney Gallegos replied, “I’m going to try to get an attorney, your honor, because that’s all bunk information right there.”
Aguilar said in an interview Gallegos was charged with first-degree murder because “there is no attempted murder charge.”
Not true, Marlowe said: Attempted murder is indeed a charge used in criminal courts, including Naranjo’s.
She presided over a hearing in early October for Ryan Martinez, a 23-year-old Sandia Park man charged, among other things, with attempt to commit first-degree murder in a shooting at a Sept. 28 protest in Española over the planned reinstallment of a statue of Juan de Oñate. That case is now in the First Judicial District Court.
Aguilar noted the criminal complaint filed against Rodney Gallegos states he “did attempt to kill” Moses Gallegos and cites two statutes, one concerning murder and another on manslaughter.
Still, the charge listed on the criminal complaint is first-degree murder and not attempt to commit murder.
Aguilar said the sheriff’s office used that language “at the direction of the [district attorney].”
Moses Gallegos could not be reached for comment on the alleged attack by his cousin.
Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched Saturday to a home in Hernández following a report of a stabbing, according to the criminal complaint. When they arrived, they found medical personnel attending to Moses Gallegos’ neck wounds.
Rodney Gallegos, identified by witnesses as the suspect, had fled.
He later was found and arrested by New Mexico State Police, and was booked into the Rio Arriba County jail in Tierra Amarilla early Sunday morning.
A deputy wrote in the criminal complaint Rodney Gallegos admitted to him “several times” that he had stabbed Moses Gallegos with a “shank” three times “in or around the neck area.”
Rodney Gallegos also physically demonstrated “how he executed the stabbing,” Sgt. Jonathan Coriz wrote in the complaint.
Rodney Gallegos said he had stabbed Moses Gallegos because the cousin had called him derogatory names, Coriz wrote.
“I asked Mr. Rodney Gallegos what or how he felt during the time of the incident, which he stated he was angry and felt ‘horrible’ that Mr. Moses Gallegos would call him names,” Coriz wrote. “Mr. Rodney Gallegos also stated to me that he ‘wished I could have got him all the way,’ referencing the stabbing.”
Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court manager Melissa Lujan said the court had not been made aware of any changes to Rodney Gallegos’ charges.
“It would be up to the District Attorney’s Office to file an amended complaint if the charges changed,” Lujan said.
Nathan Lederman, a spokesman for the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office, did not confirm whether Gallegos’ charges would be amended.
“The [District Attorney’s Office] will amend the charges in this case if deemed necessary based on our preparations for Mr. Gallegos’ upcoming proceedings,” Lederman wrote.
Prosecutors were planning to file a motion seeking to have Rodney Gallegos detained until his trial, Lederman added.
A hearing to determine Gallegos’ conditions of release from jail was scheduled Tuesday.
Elaine Hadley is a dedicated journalist covering the ever-evolving landscape of U.S. news. With a keen interest in politics and a commitment to uncovering the truth, she provides insightful commentary and in-depth analysis on domestic issues. When not reporting, Elaine enjoys exploring the diverse cultures and landscapes of the United States.