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Man accused of sexual assault held without bail

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A man who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman will remain in custody pending trial or further ruling of the court.

Judge Thomas Lilley of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court granted a motion by the District Attorney’s Office for the pretrial detention of Colby Thornton, 43, of Roswell, during a July 2 hearing in Chaves County.

In his ruling, Lilley determined no conditions of release could reasonably ensure the safety of individuals or the public if Thornton was released.

The District Attorney’s Office in their motion argued Thornton’s lack of a permanent residence would make notifying him of court dates nearly impossible.

According to the motion, the District Attorney’s Office also referenced Thornton’s nearly 20-year criminal history, which included a charge of second-degree murder in connection with a May 5, 2018 homicide of another man beneath a South Main Street bridge.

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The murder charge was later amended to one count of aggravated battery bodily harm. Thornton subsequently changed his plea in the case to no contest and in May, was sentenced to two years probation. A bench warrant was issued in June for failure to comply with probation requirements.

Thornton was arrested July 1 on one count each of criminal sexual contact, false imprisonment and battery at a 5500 block of North Main Street address after he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman who had given him a ride to that location.

Chaves County deputies were dispatched to the scene at 10:41 p.m. in response to a call about a male hitting a female, according to court documents. When deputies arrived, bystanders were trying to keep Thornton detained.

The woman later informed deputies Thornton — whom she said that she did not know previously — appeared to be on drugs or intoxicated.

Court documents state when Thornton was taken into custody, he was unable to be interviewed because he was in an intoxicated state and only became cooperative hours later when he disclosed his name.

When interviewed by investigators, the woman informed police she was with her two young daughters when she saw a man — later identified as Thornton — at a store in the 4500 block of North Main Street, where he appeared to be dirty and homeless.

The woman said she tried to give Thornton snacks and cleaning supplies when he asked her if she would drop him off at the location where the incident is alleged to have occurred. The woman said she agreed to do so, and with her two daughters in the back seat and Thornton in the front passenger’s seat, she drove him there.

As they pulled into the parking lot, the man began “acting strange” and as he was talking, the woman said she felt like he was lying. Court documents state she then instructed her children to get out of the vehicle and sit on a nearby bench.

Once the children were out of the vehicle, Thornton then allegedly began to slouch on the center console, aggressively grabbing and making sexual contact with the woman as she tried to push him away.

According to documents, Thornton continued to grab her despite her objections and efforts to push him away.

The alleged victim told investigators she then exited the vehicle through the driver’s side and went around to the passenger side to pull him out of the vehicle.

As she tried to force him out, she then fell forward onto the passenger seat. He then allegedly began exposing himself while standing over her.

The woman, according to documents, then screamed for help. A male and female who were nearby then pulled Thornton off of her.

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