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Former officer pleads guilty in vehicular homicide

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A former Alamogordo police officer accused of driving while intoxicated last December when he caused an accident that left one person dead and two others injured pleaded guilty to various charges Thursday as part of a plea agreement.

Luke Maxwell Towner (Submitted Photo)

During a hearing in New Mexico’s Fifth Judicial District Court in Chaves County where he appeared via video, Luke Maxwell Towner changed his initial plea of not guilty to one of guilty on one count each of homicide by vehicle, driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug; great bodily harm by a vehicle, driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug; and aggravated driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, bodily injury.

Lee Deschamps, Towner’s attorney, told District Judge James Hudson at the hearing he had gone over the terms of the agreement “word by word” with his client.

As a result, a criminal trial that according to electronic documents was scheduled for Dec. 1 is canceled.

Sentencing will be imposed at a Dec. 14 hearing, but Hudson said that in the agreement, the office of the district attorney of the Fifth Judicial District recommends a 15-year sentence for Towner, of which 12 years will be served in prison with the remaining three suspended and served on supervised probation.

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The charges stem from a Dec. 5 crash involving Towner, who according to a representative with the Alamogordo Police Department’s personnel division had been an officer with the department from 2013 to 2016.

Court documents state that on the night of the incident, Towner was traveling at a speed of about 70 mph in a 35-mph zone in his Toyota Tundra when he allegedly rear-ended a Hyundai Genesis that had stopped for a traffic light at the intersection of Hobbs and Southeast Main Streets in Roswell.

Doug Annis, 26, of Roswell, who was seated in the backseat of the Hyundai, died at the scene from injuries he sustained in the collision.

The Hyundai’s 46-year-old female driver and a 28-year-old man from Las Cruces who was in the vehicle’s passenger seat were later transported to Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, where they were treated for injuries.

During the collision, a red Chevy sedan, which also was waiting at the traffic light, was also allegedly struck on the passenger side by Towner, however no one in the sedan was reported injured, court documents state.

According to court documents, Towner was confronted by police officers at the scene of the accident, where he is alleged to have repeatedly told them that he was drunk and responsible for the accident.

Officers said they detected the odor of an alcoholic substance on Towner, who had bloodshot eyes and had a hard time walking due to an injury to his right ankle.

He allegedly told police he had consumed whiskey before the accident because his wife had been upset with him earlier in the day.

Towner has been incarcerated since December when District Judge Kea Riggs granted a motion by the District Attorney’s Office to hold Towner in pretrial detention.

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