Attorneys are preparing for a trial later this year that will try Damian Herrera of Ojo Caliente for the murder of Michael Alan Kyte of Tres Piedras, one of five people Herrera allegedly killed...
The following is a selected overview of recent case activity in or related to the Taos County court system. All dates and times are subject to change.
No trials are currently scheduled for this month in selected cases.
Damian Herrera, notice of intent to call witnesses – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
Attorneys are preparing for a trial later this year that will try Damian Herrera of Ojo Caliente for the murder of Michael Alan Kyte of Tres Piedras, one of five people Herrera allegedly killed in a shooting rampage that crisscrossed Taos and Río Arriba counties on June 15, 2017.
The trial has been tentatively scheduled for five days beginning May 6. In preparation, prosecutor John Lovelace of the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has compiled a list of witnesses he may call on to testify.
Before Kyte was killed, investigators say Herrera first murdered his mother, brother and stepfather during an argument at his family’s home in La Madera. After fleeing in a vehicle and running out of gas, Herrera then allegedly hitched a ride with Kyte to his home in Tres Piedras. When they arrived in Kyte’s driveway, the investigation alleges that Herrera then shot Kyte and stole his vehicle.
As law enforcement in Taos and Río Arriba responded to the two homicide scenes and sought the shooter responsible, a report of a third shooting came in at Bode’s General Store in Abiquiú. There, investigators believe Herrera shot and killed Manuel Serrano, a worker at the Georgia O’Keeffe house and studio.
Shortly after the final call came in, Río Arriba County Sheriff’s deputies caught up with Herrera headed south and pursued him until he crashed on U.S. 84. Herrera was arrested after a brief altercation with the deputies.
The four first-degree murder counts for the killings of Herrera’s three family members and Serrano are being prosecuted in Santa Fe County. The case was moved after Herrera’s defense counsel expressed concern that a jury in Río Arriba would be overly biased due to the high-profile nature of the case. Kyte’s murder is being prosecuted in Taos County since it took place just within the county’s western line.
Lovelace’s list of potential witnesses includes former Taos County Emergency Services Chief Joaquin Gonzalez, who now runs a local funeral business in Taos, numerous law enforcement officials and Kyte’s wife, Andrea Kyte, who found her husband outside their home in Tres Piedras after the deadly shooting. For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.
Roxanne Sanchez, conditional discharge – Taos District Court, Courtroom B, Judge Jeff McElroy
A Taos woman charged in five felony cases last year will serve three years of probation in exchange for pleading guilty to a slew of drug-related charges, which may be conditionally discharged if she successfully completes her sentence.
Roxanne Sanchez was incarcerated at the Taos County Adult Detention Center early last year for trafficking controlled substances. After she was locked up, court documents indicate her drug use continued. She allegedly began smuggling strips of Suboxone, a medication used to wean heroin addicts of opiates, and “a plastic bindle of methamphetamine.”
Two jailers at the detention center were arrested last year for allegedly participating in drug smuggling at the jail, but the cases were dismissed without prejudice pending their presentation to a grand jury.
Sanchez was released from the jail multiple times on court orders. Over the course of the year, she picked up three other cases, also for drug-related offenses.
In one instance last April, she was arrested at a residence at 123 Kit Carson Road. Deputies with the Taos County Sheriff’s Office found 30 grams of meth and other drugs inside, as well as a a firearm that had been stolen during a burglary at SMD Zombie Tactical in 2017. A wanted felon was also hiding at the home, deputies said, prompting them also to charge Sanchez with harboring or aiding a felon, another felony.
While on probation, Sanchez will be required to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment, but will be allowed to travel outside the state with prior approval. If she fails to comply with her probation, she may face the full sentence for her crimes, which amounts to many years in state prison.
For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.
Moses Romero, scheduling conference – Taos District Court, Courtroom A, Judge Sarah Backus
A man charged in connection to a fight outside a local bar which touched off a deadly car chase in 2017 is set to appear for a court hearing this month that will determine the timeline of his case.
Investigators say Moses Romero, 31, fired a handgun at three men as they were leaving The Alley Cantina after closing early the morning of Sept. 30, 2017. Law enforcement later learned that one of the men, Juan Espinoza of Bakersfield, California, climbed into Romero’s vehicle and fled south on State Road 68. Romero allegedly sped after Espinoza in another vehicle and may have fired a shotgun at the back of the vehicle as the man continued south.
The chase ended when Espinoza lost control and crashed head on into another vehicle, killing two people inside and partially paralyzing another person.
While Espinoza was initially charged with vehicular homicide in connection to the crash, his charges were dropped and a new case was filed against Romero after investigators say they uncovered evidence of the altercation outside the bar and the car chase that ensued.
Romero, who has a prior conviction for drug trafficking, was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of shooting at or from a motor vehicle, one count of possession of a firearm by a felon and criminal damage to property below $1,000.
The scheduling hearing set for this month will help his attorney and the state determine how to proceed with the case.
For more on this case, refer to our past coverage here.
– Compiled by John Miller
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