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Trial date set for quintuple homicide suspect

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A nine-day jury trial for a man charged with murder in the shooting deaths of his wife and four daughters is scheduled to begin Feb. 18.

Juan David Villegas-Hernandez

The trial date of Juan David Villegas-Hernandez, 38, was set by Judge Dustin K. Hunter of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court Nov. 25, during a pre-trial hearing at the Chaves County Courthouse, according to court documents.

An additional pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 15 at 1:30 p.m.

Villegas-Hernandez is charged with five counts of first degree murder, willful and deliberate; one count of intentional abuse of a child, age 12-18, resulting in death; and three counts of intentional abuse of a child under 12, resulting in death. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

John Sugg, District Attorney for the 12th Judicial District — comprised of Lincoln and Otero counties — will prosecute the case.

When asked why someone from the Chaves County District Attorney’s Office wouldn’t be prosecuting the case, a member of Sugg’s staff said Monday the case will be prosecuted by Sugg due to a possible conflict of interest involving the Chaves County District Attorney’s Office and a witness that might be called to testify.

The jury trial has been scheduled and postponed several times, starting in March 2018, court documents state.

Villegas-Hernandez is accused of fatally shooting his wife Cynthia Villegas, 34, and their four daughters: Yamilen, 14; Cynthia Janeth, 11; Abby, 7; and Ida, 3, on June 11, 2016 inside the family’s red brick house in the 2300 block of North Davis Avenue.

Ten .22 caliber shell casings were found at the scene.

The victims’ bodies were discovered at about 11:15 p.m June 11, 2016 when a 12-year-old female relative and the girl’s mother decided to check in on Cynthia Villegas and the four girls. They had gone to the home after other members of Cynthia Villegas’ family stopped by to check on them, but Villegas-Hernandez would not let the relatives into the house.

When the 12-year-old girl and her mother went to the house, Cynthia Villegas’ car was still parked in the driveway. When they knocked on the door, no one answered. The 12-year-old female then entered the residence through an open window.

When she got into the house, the girl saw the body of one of the victims. She then exited through the broken window and the police were called.

Police came onto the scene and entered the North Davis Avenue house, and discovered the bodies of the five victims, all dead, from gunshot wounds.

Villegas-Hernandez was not at the house when the bodies were found. Police issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) for him and the red Ford pickup truck he was reported to drive. A warrant was issued for his arrest and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol were also alerted, due to comments Villegas-Hernandez had made about planning to visit his sick father in Mexico.

Villegas-Hernandez was located and arrested June 12 by Mexican police in the town of Arizpe in the state of Sonora, in northwest Mexico. He was extradited back to New Mexico in March 2017 to face criminal charges.

According to an affidavit filed in Chaves County Magistrate Court June 13, 2016, a relative of Cynthia Villegas told investigators that Villegas-Hernandez has a “machismo” attitude and was controlling of his wife.

The affidavit states Cynthia Villegas told her brother she had asked for a divorce days before the killings because of some of the abuse she experienced.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.