Home News Local News $30K bond set for battery, robbery suspect

$30K bond set for battery, robbery suspect

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A local judge ruled last week that a man facing armed robbery and aggravated battery charges could not be held without bond while awaiting trial.

Mario Caballero (Submitted Photo)

At a pretrial detention hearing May 4, Judge Dustin K. Hunter of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court denied a motion by the District Attorney’s Office that would have kept Mario Caballero, 21, incarcerated until after his trial or otherwise ordered by the court.

Caballero, of Los Lunas, is charged with one count each of armed robbery and aggravated battery, deadly weapon in connection with an April 6 incident at a truck stop north of Roswell. Caballero is accused of robbing a woman of her vehicle before dragging her across the pavement and then later leading police on a chase.

Two other charges in the case — aggravated assault and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle — have been dismissed by the prosecution, according to court documents.

Hunter said the violent nature of the alleged incident “shocks the conscience” and that part of him wanted to grant the state’s motion on that basis alone. However, he said, evidence presented by the state did not show the public could not be kept safe if Caballero was let out on conditions of release pending trial.

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“Ultimately the court is going to find that the state did not prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that there is no condition of release … that could reasonably protect the safety of the community and the victim,” he said.

Bond was set for Caballero at $30,000 cash or surety. He will be released to the custody of his mother. Other stipulations of his release include that he not leave his residence between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., that he acquire employment and/or education and that he make weekly contact with his attorney.

In arguing for the pretrial detention motion, Taina Colon, deputy district attorney, noted the vehicle’s owner was dragged for 12 to 18 feet by her own vehicle as the suspect reportedly sped away. “The disregard for her life that was shown in trying to get this vehicle by robbing her indicates a serious risk to the community if this defendant is released,” she said.

Frank Rio, Caballero’s attorney, argued at the hearing that the incident is not part of a larger pattern of dangerous or criminal behavior by his client. He noted his client does not have any felony convictions and at the time of the April 6 incident he was not on parole, probation or court-ordered conditions of release.

“It’s just an isolated incident that something went wrong that day with my client’s mental health situation when this occurred,” Rio said. He added that he, along with his client and Caballero’s mother, are considering whether to file a motion to have Caballero evaluated for competency.

Colon called two witnesses at the hearing: The victim — a 62-year-old woman — and Detective Augustin Perez of the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office. No witnesses or evidence were presented by the defense.

The victim testified that on April 6 she encountered a man, later identified as Caballero, at a Roswell restaurant. She recalled in her testimony that she had just walked out of the restaurant and was proceeding to her Toyota Corolla when she heard a waitress call out from the restaurant for Caballero to pay for his meal.

In her testimony, the victim said she was told by Caballero that he did not have any money. She then gave him a $20 bill to pay for his meal. The victim added that Caballero also asked her if she could drive him to the truck stop at The Chisum Travel Center, which she agreed to do.

The victim testified that when she and Caballero reached the truck stop, she was taking the keys from the ignition and beginning to climb out of the driver’s seat when he reportedly grabbed the keys from her hand. She added that she then saw a knife fall to the floorboard of the front passenger’s seat before Caballero allegedly tried using his feet to push her out the driver’s side door.

“I just remember hearing him say give me the car, give me the car. Get out of the car, give me the car, get out of the car,” the victim said.

Caballero then reportedly climbed into the driver’s seat, placed the vehicle in reverse, and dragged the woman along the pavement before he reached U.S. 285.

The woman said she sustained several injuries, including stitches on her head and on her right arm, fractured ribs, a hole in her left elbow, and an injury to her left knee.

New Mexico State Police later spotted the Corolla, which had been reported stolen, heading north on U.S. 285. A stop was attempted on the vehicle, which did not stop, according to court documents. After hitting a spike strip deployed by law enforcement south of Vaughn, the car came to a halt and Caballero was taken into custody.

He also faces charges of aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer and possession of a stolen vehicle in Guadalupe County.

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

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