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Woman claims no memory of murder; ‘Poisoned chicken’ potentially led to fatal argument, defendant says

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Marcella Reese, 41, is directed by a Chaves County Sheriff’s deputy to sit next to public defender Jared Kallunki during a motion hearing Wednesday afternoon in Chaves County District Court. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

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As two court appearances have passed since 41-year-old Marcella Reese was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon Monday, both the defendant and police have released further details on the stabbing that left one man with a severe laceration and a woman dead.

Gino T. Basile, a detective for the Roswell Police Department, testifies in Chaves County District Court Wednesday afternoon during a motion hearing for Marcella Reese. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

During an arraignment before Chaves County Magistrate Judge K.C. Rogers Tuesday afternoon, Reese was informed of the charges against her for the murder of 46-year-old Charlotte Byrd and aggravated battery to 55-year-old Nigel Murray.

“Even if I don’t remember what happened?” Reese spoke out to the judge.

Reese was advised not to speak out again by Rogers.

On Wednesday afternoon, an expedited motion hearing for pretrial detention was held before judge James M. Hudson in Chaves County District Court.

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Deputy district attorney Matt Stone, joined by assistant district attorney Lance Jaggers, informed Hudson there would only be one witness — Detective Gino T. Basile of the Roswell Police Department — to testify against Reese in determining if any conditions of release should be set.

Public defender Jared Kallunki represented Reese.

Reese, who has been in custody at the Chaves County Detention Center, appeared responsive throughout — though no clear emotion could be read from her face.

Though Basile was not the case agent for the affidavit made by police of a stabbing report at 314 S. Birch Ave. Apt. A at about 8:25 p.m. on March 26, his narrative of the events was consistent with RPD detective Robert Scribner’s original report.

“Detective Scribner got briefed by officer (Trevis) Reese and officer (Chance) Cavin — they were the first two officers on scene,” Basile said. “Officer Reese made some comments about who was being stabbed, who stabbed who, Marcella Reese had mentioned that ‘we all did this’ when asked who stabbed (her).”

Stone then asked how Basile learned of the events on South Birch.

“Everything I learned was given from officer Reese, to Scribner, to myself, and to you,” he responded.

Basile stated Byrd, Murray and Reese were all living together at the apartment and that the relationship between Byrd and Reese was a romantic one. The detective then described the scene based off of the statement from Johnny Norris, Byrd’s brother.

Norris, who made the 911 call, had entered the apartment after Byrd asked him to bring a lighter via text message as Reese had apparently taken hers.

Norris had described the scene to police with Murray laying in the corner bleeding and appearing to have been stabbed and that Reese had jumped up from the couch and said, “Cuz, he tried to stab me.”

Norris did not see Byrd at the time, Basile added.

“He went to his apartment, which is just around the corner, kind of the same apartment complex,” Basile said. “(He) went to grab his cellphone, which he did not have on him at the time. (He) called 911 and that’s when officers were dispatched to the scene.”

Basile told Stone, the last he knows, Murray is unconscious, but in stable condition at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center (ENMMC).

Reese was also transferred to ENMMC at the time of the incident.

Stone then asked if police had the opportunity to speak with her.

“It was approximately two to three days later,” Basile said. “She was finally at the point where she was able to speak — she was in a medically induced coma for a day or two.”

Basile said, after she was read her Miranda Rights at the medical center, she agreed to give a statement to police.

“She told us that Charlotte (Byrd) was making some sort of chicken dish for dinner,” Basile said. “She had asked if she could have some, Charlotte said yes. Marcella (Reese) then decided she believed that she was poisoned from something that Charlotte put in the chicken.

“The next thing she remembers is they were in an argument, and Charlotte was sitting at the couch, and the knife was on the table. Charlotte grabbed the knife. Somehow, Marcella got the knife from Charlotte, and then Charlotte ended up getting cut.

“She was unsure where she was cut, and that was pretty much the extent of her statement.”

Basile said no physical injuries were observed from Reese.

Kallunki later cross-examined Basile, who questioned what took place after the alleged poisoned chicken statement, though his answer repeated much of what he had already said.

Basile was unaware of Reese’s criminal history.

The blood was most concentrated in one area, on the “north” armrest of the couch at the home, the detective told Kallunki.

“Which is where Charlotte Byrd was when officer Reese came into the apartment,” Basile explained. “At that time, she was actually sitting on the floor, hunched up, onto the side of the side of the couch. Officer Reese laid her down to attend to her — to try to attempt CPR.”

Basile said blood was on Reese’s hands — though he was unable to tell if it was a large or small amount, as he knew this from police lapel video.

Kallunki then asked if it was plausible for Murray, the stabbing victim, to be the one to have committed the violent actions.

“(It’s) highly unlikely, given Mr. Murray’s condition — having a prior stroke — half of his body was practically paralyzed,” Basile said.

When asked how he would know that, Basile said the knowledge of Murray’s physical limitations came from Norris.

Kallunki then asked if it was possible for Norris to have committed the actions. Basile stated he had no suspicion of Norris committing any of the actions.

Basile later added, given the condition of the apartment when police arrived, were no signs of a fight.

After police interviewed Reese at ENMMC, Basile stated Reese had been admitted into Sunrise Mental Health Center as she had made statements to a nurse she wanted to kill herself.

Basile said he believes she was sent to the hospital due to claims that she was poisoned.

According to a news release from the RPD Tuesday, Reese was hospitalized for treatment of conditions believed to be related to her apparent intoxication.

After further questioning from Stone, the deputy DA stated to Hudson no conditions of release should be made for Reese.

Hudson, referring to Reese’s lack of criminal history, asked Stone to explain why the court should not consider other options.

“Even with a GPS monitor, they don’t stop somebody from going somewhere,” Stone said. “We find that out after the fact, essentially.”

Kallunki mentioned how Reese has an aunt living in a different area in Roswell, and how Reese could stay with her as he explained why the defendant should be given consideration for some conditions of release.

“Reece subjects herself to any conditions the court saw fit to impose upon her,” Kallunki ended.

After the court broke for a brief recess, Hudson mentioned how he had considered detective Basile’s testimony, the prosecution’s petition, the affidavit and Reese’s lack of criminal history.

“This case is somewhat different because Ms. Reese does not have a prior criminal history,” Hudson explained. “I think that the evidence shows, that, given the nature of these proceedings, the violence involved evidence by nature of the injuries suffered both by Ms. Byrd, who died from those wounds and Mr. Murray — a life may still be in somewhat danger — but at least it was a rather extensive, potentially life-threatening injuries — the apparent possession and use of a weapon that belonged to and was seen with the defendant shortly before these incidents.

“I do find that Ms. Reese does — may likely pose a threat to the safety of others if released, pending trial.”

Hudson had also referenced Stone’s prior statement of how imposing some conditions of release could lead to difficulties.

“There (are) no conditions of release that would reasonably protect the safety of others,” Hudson said. “Therefore, I’ll find that the state has proved clear and convincing evidence that the defendant poses a threat to others of the community, and that no conditions of release will reasonably protect the safety of any other person in the community.

“The defendant shall be detained, pending trial, and shall not be allowed release on any condition.”

A preliminary examination for Reese is set for Wednesday in magistrate court.

Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.