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Murder charge dismissed as part of plea deal

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One of two men suspected in the fatal shooting of a husband and father during a burglary in Roswell seven years ago has pleaded no contest to one count of aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon.

Joseph Barnhill

The change of plea by Joseph Barnhill, 32, on the burglary charge, at a hearing Monday in New Mexico 5th Judicial District Court in Chaves County, was part of a plea and disposition agreement with the Office of the Chaves County District Attorney.

In exchange for Barnhill changing his plea from not guilty to no contest on the burglary charge, the District Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss the first-degree murder charge against him in the death of Saul Sanchez, 39, of Denver City, Texas.

Barnhill is set to be sentenced at a later date. At that time, the prosecution and defense will put forth their sentencing recommendations for the case. District Judge James Hudson at that hearing will then determine Barnhill’s sentencing.

A second degree felony, aggravated burglary carries a basic sentence of nine years incarceration followed by two years parole and a $9,000 fine, Hudson said at the hearing. Because of his conviction on an unrelated 2008 felony charge of possession of methamphetamine, any prison sentence Barnhill receives will be enhanced by one year that cannot be waived or suspended.

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Barnhill and Luis Jimenez, 30, were both arrested in November 2018, charged with one count each of of first-degree murder and aggravated burglary for the Dec. 11, 2012 shooting death of Sanchez. Both men pleaded not guilty to each of the charges.

The two men were allegedly burglarizing a 1500 West Third Street house that Sanchez, his wife and two daughters were staying at while in town for a funeral.

Documents filed in Chaves County Magistrate Court state Sanchez and his family returned to the house after the funeral to collect their belongings when they found the place ransacked.

When Saul Sanchez spotted one of the burglars inside the house carrying out some of the family’s belongings, he confronted the burglar in a hallway and was shot. Sanchez died at the scene.

Sanchez’s wife and two daughters — then ages 6 and 16 — were hiding in a room of the house when the shooting occurred.

The five-day jury trial of Jimenez on one charge of first-degree murder and aggravated burglary is currently scheduled to start May 11, according to electronic court records.

Roswell Police announced Feb. 4 that Jimenez — who was out on bond — was arrested and charged with one count of trafficking controlled substances and one count of receipt, transportation or possession of a firearm or destructive device Jan. 31, after he was found to have a total of 763.2 grams of methamphetamine, with a street value of $12,000, and five firearms inside a West Wells Street residence.

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