Trial dates set for Hilburn, VHS hazing defendants and RC homicide

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Three high profile criminal cases moved forward Wednesday as a district court judge set trial dates stretching into next year.

The murder case against Benjamin Hilburn, a boy accused of shooting and killing his father in 2009, has been scheduled to begin May 20, 2013.

But that's assuming an appeal motion filed by the state clears the New Mexico Supreme Court by then.

Earlier this year, Pro-Tem District Court Judge Tommy Jewell ruled 8-year-old Emily Hilburn, sister of the defendant, is not fit to testify during the trail of her brother.

Prosecutors say Emily Hilburn is the only eye witness to the shooting death of her father, 42-year-old Byron Hilburn, and her testimony is critical. The state appealed Jewell's decision, but no decision has been made by the higher court.

On Wednesday, District Court Judge George Eichwald set the spring trial date, telling Assistant District Attorney Brian McKay and defense attorney Donna Trujillo Dodd, "If we don't have a decision from the Supreme Court by then, I will vacate this."

Without the girl's testimony, the state must rely on the 911 tape from the incident where Benjamin Hilburn, then 10 years old, told dispatchers he shot his father after he was asked questions about what happened that day.

In November, former District Court Judge John Pope ruled to allow jurors to hear the 911 tape of the incident. Benjamin Hilburn called 911 after he said he shot his father in the head on Aug. 27, 2009.

Hilburn told dispatchers, "I shot him in the back of his head. I got so angry at him," court documents said.

The remaining two of the three defendants in the Valencia High School locker room hazing case will go to trial starting on Nov. 27.

Eichwald said he wanted any plea agreements finalized no later than the pre-trial hearing, three weeks before the trial.

"I want this matter resolved," Eichwald said.

In May, 13th Judicial Deputy District Attorney Ron Lopez said the state was prepared to offer both Jake Sanchez and Jeremiah Carroll plea deals for their admission of guilt in their roles in the case.

At a hearing that month, the defense argued there was a need to vacate the hearing since not all the phone and video records have been obtained in the case.

Defense Attorney Marc Lowry said he recently learned the victim and his father canceled a scheduled interview with defense attorneys.

Pro-Tem District Court Judge Tommy Jewell ordered the plea hearing to be vacated.

In November 2010, allegations surfaced when the alleged victim claimed the three defendants, Carroll, Sanchez and Curtis Peralta, sexually assaulted the sophomore high school football teammate in a VHS locker room.

All three were indicted on criminal sexual penetration and conspiracy charges that stemmed from the alleged incident.

Peralta was indicted in adult court on identical charges as the other two defendants, but was not indicted on the kidnapping charge.

In August, Peralta pleaded guilty to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, fourth-degree felonies, in exchange for his testimony.

Eichwald also set a firm trial date for two men involved in the death of a 41-year-old Rio Communities woman in 2011.

The trial for Juan Diego Lopez and Jonathan Duncan will begin March 25, 2013.

Police said three juveniles, Malachi Coleman, Terone Collins and Jonathon Duncan, broke into JoAnn Quintana's home at the Altura Apartments in Rio Communities and killed her.

Lopez, who was 18 at the time, was also charged for his involvement.

Quintana died of blunt force trauma to the head and lower torso and had bleeding of the brain and the left lung, based on an autopsy report.

In June, Malachi Coleman, 16, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for his testimony against the three others who are accused in the incident.

Duncan and Lopez are charged with a first- and second-degree murder count, aggravated burglary, criminal damage to property of more than $1,000, tampering with evidence, aggravated burglary and larceny under $250.

The defense attorney for Lopez, Mike DeMarco, told Eichwald he would most likely file a motion to sever his client's case from that of Duncan's.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.