Nearly six years to the day after the murder of a 12-year-old boy shocked the community of Meadow Lake, a jury delivered a guilty verdict in the trial of the young man who killed him.
On Monday, Feb. 10, 12 jurors found Brandon Villalobos, 20, guilty of second-degree murder in the beating death of Alex Madrid, as well as guilty of tampering with evidence.
Barbara Romo, chief deputy district attorney for the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said the prosecution team felt it had a strong case for first-degree murder but respected the jury’s verdict.
“We understand the jury had a lot of important information to take into consideration,” Romo said. “This, at least, means there is some accountability and will hopefully bring some closure to Alex’s family.”
Because Villalobos, who was 15 years old at the time of the crime, was found guilty of second-degree murder, Romo said he could be sentenced as either an adult or a juvenile.
That decision will be made by District Court Judge James Lawrence Sanchez after an amenability hearing is held to determine whether Villalobos would be responsive to treatment and rehabilitation in a juvenile facility.
He will have to undergo an evaluation before that hearing, Romo said, which will take place sometime this spring.
“At the amenability hearing, there is the opportunity to present a lot more information,” she said. “There will be more from us and probably (the defense) as well.”
If he is sentenced as an adult, Villalobos could face up to 15 years in prison for the murder, and up to three for the tampering with evidence conviction. If he is sentenced as a juvenile, Villalobos would most likely be incarcerated until the age of 21.
Belen Police Chief James Harris was one of the Valencia County deputies who worked to investigate the murder case in 2014 and was in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered.
“I’m content with the verdict. Obviously, we were hoping for first degree, but this was a good decision,” Harris said. “Hopefully, this will give the family some closure.”
Evidence was presented during the four-day trial of the brutal beating death of Madrid — the boy sustained 19 blows to his head, several of which fractured his skull — and the deliberate hiding of his body.
On the night of Feb. 17, 2014, Madrid and Villalobos, who were by all accounts friends, left the Villalobos home at 11 De Colores in Meadow Lake to go for a walk. According to statements by Villalobos to law enforcement during the investigation, the two were heading to an abandoned mobile home near the Meadow Lake Community center to vandalize it.
Villalobos told detectives that while there, three men pulled up in a car and jumped them, one of which had a gun. Villalobos said he struck one of the men twice with a crowbar he was carrying and the two boys ran. At one point, Villalobos looked back but didn’t see his friend.
When he returned home that night, he told his mother, Loretta Villalobos, what had allegedly occurred. That story was repeated to Madrid’s aunt the next morning when she came looking for him, and to deputies from the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office when they responded to her call for a missing child.
Villalobos went with deputies to the abandoned mobile home, but they found no signs of a scuffle as described by the then 15 year old. When they confronted him, Villalobos led them to Madrid’s body, which was hidden beneath a discarded box spring in an empty field less than half a mile south of his home.
During his testimony last week, Lt. Lauren Milligan, who was the crime scene team supervisor for the New Mexico State Police at the time of the murder, said blood evidence at the scene suggested Madrid was killed on a footpath that runs south from Manzano View, then drug off the path and covered with the box spring.
Milligan and the team also found two sets of shoe prints at the scene that were consistent with the shoes Madrid was wearing when his body was found, and the ones Villalobos was wearing the next day when he was interviewed by deputies.
Due to the brutality of the beating, the hood of the white sweatshirt Madrid was wearing was soaked through with blood, the crime scene photos showed. The lieutenant testified it was his theory that the assailant drug Madrid’s body off the path by grabbing his sweatshirt, covering his hands in blood.
Then, he grabbed Madrid’s legs to move him further out of sight, transferring a large amount of blood to the bottom of the boys pant leg.
The box spring, which was drug from another area of the empty lot, had no blood on it, Milligan said.
“There’s no evidence anyone with bloody hands touched the box spring,” Milligan said. “It’s possible someone with no blood on their hands moved it later, after Alex was pulled off the (footpath) but I’m not sure how long he was there before the box spring was moved.”
Dr. Laurie Proe, the forensic pathologist with the Office of the Medical Investigator who performed DNA testing on more than a dozen pieces of evidence in the case, testified she found three sources of human DNA on the areas of Madrid’s pants that she tested.
The majority contributor was Madrid himself from the transferred blood. The two minor samples were too small to analyze for a comparison, Proe said, and she could not specifically say who they were from.