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Suspect in homicide to be held pending trial

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A suspect in a deadly shooting will be held without bond following a Feb. 25 pretrial detention hearing and concurrent preliminary hearing.

Jeffrey Contreras (Submitted Photo)

Judge Dustin K. Hunter of New Mexico’s Fifth Judicial District Court granted a motion by the District Attorney’s Office to keep Jeffrey Contreras, 25, incarcerated up through the conclusion of his eventual criminal trial in connection with the death of Anthony Vasquez, 57, of Roswell. Hunter also bound the case over to district court for trial.

Contreras is charged with one count each of first degree murder, willful and deliberate; tampering with evidence; and receipt, transportation and possession of a firearm or destructive device by a felon in connection with the Feb. 5 fatal shooting of Vasquez. Contreras is accused of having fired multiple rounds into an RV trailer where Vasquez resided in the 400 block of South Missouri Avenue. Vasquez was shot once in the back and later died from his injury after being taken to Eastern New Mexico Medical Center.

The incident occurred just days after Contreras allegedly shot and killed Johnny Pacheco, 23, of Roswell, in late January. As a result, Contreras is now charged in that case with first-degree murder, willful and deliberate; kidnapping, first degree, no intent to commit sexual offense; robbery; tampering with evidence; and aggravated assault, deadly weapon. He is scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial detention hearing in that case today.

Hunter said based on testimony of several witnesses called by the prosecution at the Feb. 25 hearing, the court believes no condition of release or combinations of conditions can reasonably ensure the safety of witnesses or members of the public.

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Freeman Faust, Contreras’ attorney, on Feb. 25 argued against his client’s continued detention, and said conditions could be crafted that would allow Contreras to be released from prison while awaiting trial.

“Alternate conditions of release such as an ankle monitor, checking in with probation and the like could be placed in order to keep the community safe, while at the same time not overburdening the jails, especially during COVID, and allowing the release, pretrial, as is the supposition of the New Mexico Constitution,” he said.

Emily Fry, chief deputy district attorney for Chaves County, expressed fear for the safety of witnesses and stated Contreras already failed to abide by conditions of release by allegedly possessing a firearm at the time of Vasquez’s death. She added that he also has a history of failing to successfully complete probation.

“This obviously gives the state big concern with regards to him being able to comply with any conditions of release if the court were to grant those,” Fry said.

Jesse Lack, of the Adult Probation and Parole Division of the New Mexico Corrections Department, who has been Contreras’ probation officer, was among the witnesses called by Fry.

Lack stated Contreras failed to report to Adult Probation and Parole upon being released from prison twice last year. He was wanted at the time of the Pacheco and Vasquez shootings for failing to report to Adult Probation and Parole following his Dec. 31, 2020 release from the Chaves County Detention Center.

Other witnesses called by the prosecution included one woman who was allegedly with Contreras when he was apprehended by Roswell police and U.S. Marshals at a motel in the 2100 block of North Main Street; a woman who called police to report Vasquez’s death; and Gino Basile, Roswell Police Department detective and lead investigator in the case.

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

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