A local judge rejected a request by the District Attorney’s Office Tuesday to hold a man without bond pending trial in a nearly three-year-old homicide investigation.
Judge James Hudson of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District denied a motion by the District Attorney’s Office for the concurrent preliminary examination and pretrial detention of Manuel Veleta, 28, of Roswell.
The District Attorney’s Office, Hudson said, had not proved Veleta met the threshold needed to be held in pretrial detention, namely that he poses a threat to others or the community and that no conditions of release would reasonably protect the safety of another person or the community.
Bond was set for Veleta at $10,000 cash or surety.
In September, Veleta and Paisley Terry, 40, of Roswell, were charged in the 2018 fatal shooting of Garland Troy Berg, 50, of Roswell. Veleta and Terry are each charged with first-degree murder, willful and deliberate; conspiracy to commit first-degree murder; tampering with evidence and conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
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Court documents state Terry is also charged with additional criminal counts of aggravated battery and kidnapping in the case.
On Tuesday, Judge Thomas Lilley approved the state’s request for the pretrial detention of Terry.
During Thursday’s hearing, Emily Fry, deputy district attorney, cited concerns Veleta could pose to an eyewitness in the case as well as the general public as a reason for pretrial detention. She also said that Veleta had in the past failed to appear in court on a firearm-related charge.
Greg Gaudette, Veleta’s attorney, countered that the past criminal charge was for negligent use of a firearm — a petty misdemeanor — and that Veleta ultimately had served his time.
He also disputed the prosecution’s assertion his client could represent a threat to the safety of a witness or a flight risk. Gaudette stated that though he was not formally charged until last month, Veleta had been aware of the charges against him in the case since March 2018.
Gaudette said if Veleta had wanted to flee, intimidate or harm a witness, he would have had ample time to do so.
Augustine Perez, detective with the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday testified that on March 8, 2018, the sheriff’s department received a call from Jason Henderson, 19, who was on U.S. 285 north and had run out of gas.
Henderson, according to court documents, is charged with tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence and false imprisonment in Berg’s death.
Perez said that Henderson during the call said he had seen another man — later identified as Berg — shot to death earlier in the day in the living room of a trailer house in the 6500 block of Old Dexter Highway in Midway.
Henderson, Perez said, had identified Terry and Veleta in the shooting. Henderson was also charged with one count of kidnapping in the case, according to court documents.
Henderson at the time told investigators that during the early morning hours of that day, he was at the 6500 block of Old Dexter Highway home when Terry had arrived at the house with Berg.
According to Perez, Henderson had said in the interview that two men and one other man were at the house with himself, Terry and Berg at the time.
Perez testified that Henderson had told investigators that following some conversation and yelling, Henderson had seen Terry allegedly stab Berg once in the chest with a knife, injuring Berg.
Henderson added he was then handed a knife and told to stab Berg should he try to escape. According to Perez, Henderson said Terry and another man then left the house, before allegedly returning about an hour later with Veleta.
Perez testified that Henderson said Terry then retrieved a .22 caliber rifle with a plastic bottle placed at the end of it to muffle the sound of the gunshot.
Henderson then alleged that Perez shot Berg once in the head killing him.
After Berg was shot, Terry allegedly placed the plastic bottle in the oven.
Perez testified that Henderson was then forced to help Terry and Veleta to allegedly wrap the body in white plastic, a shower curtain and a blue blanket.
The body was then placed in a wheelbarrow and wheeled over to a vehicle on the back of the property. Henderson said the body was then placed in the front of the vehicle.
Perez testified that Henderson said he, along with Terry, Veleta and another man at the scene then went to Veleta’s house.
Later, Perez testified, a search warrant was obtained for the Old Dexter Highway residence.
He said blood later identified as Berg’s was found in the living room and kitchen area, and a melted plastic bottle with traces of lead in it was also found in the trash can.
Berg’s body was also found in the front seat of a vehicle on the property wrapped in plastic, a shower curtain and a blanket. A wheelbarrow with a bloodstain on it was found near the vehicle.
Gaudette also questioned Perez on the stand. Under questioning, Perez admitted that no blood matching Veleta’s profile nor his fingerprints were found at the scene.
He also admitted that some details offered by Henderson contradicted the official autopsy report. The autopsy report said Berg had died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head, while Henderson had said Berg was shot in the forehead between the eyes.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or firstname.lastname@example.org.