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Suspect in fatal stabbing to remain in custody

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On Wednesday a local judge ruled a man accused of stabbing to death his grandfather will remain in custody up through his eventual trial.

Following a hearing in New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court in Chaves County, Judge Dustin K. Hunter granted a motion by the District Attorney’s Office to keep 29-year-old Joel Hernandez in pretrial detention while awaiting trial.

“The court finds the evidence presented sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no conditions of release will reasonably protect the safety of other members of the community or in this case, the victims and witnesses involved,” Hunter said.

Hernandez is charged with second-degree murder, tampering with evidence, battery against a household member and interference with communications.

The suspect is alleged to have stabbed to death 63-year-old Jesus Hernandez — his maternal grandfather — on the evening of May 8 at the 1500 block of West Country Club Road residence where they both lived.

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In her closing argument, Taylor Jaggers, deputy district attorney and prosecutor in the case, warned that if released, Joel Hernandez would pose a threat to the only eyewitness in the case. She also noted the brutality of the crime, explaining that an autopsy showed the victim was stabbed 13 times.

“This is an extremely violent crime of an extremely personal nature,” she said. Jaggers added that the suspect had been staying with the victim while on probation in another case, in which he had been charged with aggravated battery of a household member.

Joel Hernandez’s record, she said, also indicates he once had probation revoked in a case where he had been charged with criminal damage to the property of a household member.

In her closing statement, Joanne Angel, Joel Hernandez’s attorney, said her client has followed a no contact order. However, she advised that her client does not have any financial resources or a place to stay.

“He (Joel Hernandez) understands that where he is at is probably where he will remain,” she said.

One witness was called by the prosecution to testify at the hearing: Detective Jeromy Parmer of the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office.

He testified that a woman who was with the defendant and the victim at the time of the incident said that earlier that night they had gone into town to get a pizza and that while driving, Jesus Hernandez told the suspect he needed to get a job.

Parmer said when they returned to the house, the suspect went straight into the kitchen, confronted the victim about where the pizza was, and reportedly began attacking the victim.

Parmer testified that the witness did not know until later that Joel Hernandez had a knife, believing the suspect was hitting the victim with his fists.

The witness, Parmer said, later told him she tried to separate the two men and in doing so was allegedly struck in the head three times by Joel Hernandez.

“She said that she then tried to pull (out) her cellphone and call for help and that is when Joel took her cellphone,” Parmer said.

He added that he also had a chance to speak with Joel Hernandez, who claimed to have stabbed his grandfather in self defense.

While they were going to pick up a pizza, Parmer said the suspect explained the victim had been trying to argue with him.

In his testimony, Parmer said the suspect told him that when he got home, the victim began throwing punches at him. While attempting to dodge the punches, the suspect said he fell down on a couch and kept being hit.

Parmer said the suspect told him that is when he went to the kitchen, got a knife and stabbed the victim.

Joel Hernandez also admitted to having perhaps hit the witness, because he believed she was attacking him too, and to throwing the knife in a burn-barrel before driving off in a vehicle to get help

Under questioning by the defense, Parmer said the suspect was cooperative, not hysterical, and as far as he knows, did not put up any resistance to deputies and investigators.

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