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Suspect in fatal stabbing surrenders to authorities

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A man wanted by Roswell police in connection with a recent deadly stabbing has been taken into custody.

John Lerma (Submitted Photo)

John Eric Lerma, 29, of Roswell, was apprehended by Hagerman police Friday at about 1:45 a.m. at a residence on Elford Avenue in Dexter. He faces charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence, according to information contained in an arrest warrant.

Lerma had been sought in connection with the May 11 fatal stabbing of 20-year-old Mario Zion Olivas Jr. in Roswell.

Rochelle Bateman, chief of the Hagerman Police Department, said Friday afternoon that she was contacted by Lerma, who told her he wanted to turn himself in.

Lerma surrendered shortly after an Amber Alert was issued for his 2-year-old son by New Mexico State Police at the request of the Roswell Police Department. A relative had reported Lerma’s girlfriend and son missing Thursday night.

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Todd Wildermuth, RPD public information officer, said soon after Lerma was picked up by police his girlfriend and their son were located and the alert was canceled. When the girlfriend later spoke with officers, she said that she and their son were not abducted by Lerma or held against their will.

Lerma had initially been named a person of interest in the stabbing death of Olivas, but was later identified as a suspect by Roswell police.

According to a press release issued by RPD last week, on May 11 there was “an altercation involving multiple people in the driveway of a residence in the 200 block of West Mathews Street” shortly before 8:30 a.m. Olivas was stabbed and later died at a hospital.

A motion to hold Lerma in pretrial detention was filed Friday by Taylor Jaggers, deputy district attorney. The motion characterizes Lerma as a fight risk.

Jaggers argues in the motion that no conditions of release can be crafted by the court that Lerma will comply with or that will reasonably ensure the safety of the community.

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

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