A man accused of stabbing one of his roommates to death and injuring another pleaded not guilty to three criminal charges at his Dec. 2 arraignment in New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court.
Julio Cesar Franco Sanchez, 28, pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder, willful and deliberate; and two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
At the arraignment, Judge Thomas Lilley scheduled a jury trial for April 7 at 9 a.m. in the Chaves County Courthouse. A status conference was set for Feb. 6 at 1:30 p.m. and a pretrial hearing for April 2 at 1:30 p.m.
Sanchez faces charges in the Oct. 6 stabbing death of Joe Bettencourt, 62, which occurred at a house where both the suspect, the deceased and two other men resided.
According to court documents, on the night of the stabbings, Sanchez was knocking on the door of Bettencourt’s bedroom, complaining that he felt ill and needed to be taken to the hospital. When Bettencourt opened the bedroom door, Sanchez allegedly attacked him, stabbing him 10 times.
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The two other men who lived in the house with Sanchez and Bettencourt allegedly tried to stop Sanchez from stabbing the victim, resulting in one of the men being stabbed in the back.
A detective testified at an Oct. 17 hearing that the other roommates fled from the house, with the wounded man running to a dairy down the street to get help.
Bettencourt was found dead in the hallway and Sanchez was gone when Hagerman police and Chaves County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, according to the detective.
The man stabbed in the back was transported to Artesia General Hospital and then airlifted to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas to be treated for his injuries. The detective who testified said no weapon was found or motive established in the stabbing.
Sanchez was found and arrested Oct. 8 at a Church’s Chicken on North Main Street, after a customer at the restaurant saw a man he thought resembled Sanchez, whose photo was posted on the Sheriff’s Office’s official Facebook page.
Sanchez was subsequently arrested without further incident and taken into custody.
A motion for pretrial detention filed by the Chaves County District Attorney’s Office was granted by Judge Dustin K. Hunter Oct. 17, and as a result, Sanchez will remain held at the Chaves County Detention Center pending trial.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.