One of six suspects charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of an Ignacio man had his charges dropped Thursday in 6th Judicial District Court.
Joe Ray Vallejos, 27, appeared relieved and began sobbing moments after accepting a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office for making false reports to law enforcement – a significantly reduced charge compared to premeditated murder.
Vallejos of Farmington had no idea his friends were going to kill Joey Benavidez on April 3 in Ignacio, said his Durango defense lawyer Tom Williamson.
Vallejos was a passenger in a car used by several New Mexico residents who are suspected of driving from Farmington to Ignacio to kill Benavidez in a drug deal gone bad.
Vallejos passed a polygraph test Wednesday verifying he had no previous knowledge of the shooting, Williamson said. He should never have been charged with murder, Williamson said.
After the shooting, Vallejos lied to law enforcement about what happened because he was scared, Williamson said. He wanted to distance himself from the situation he found himself in.
He had no motivation to protect the shooting suspects, Williamson said.
Vallejos, who has served 100 days in jail, was given credit for time served and was released Thursday.
The other suspects, all from northwest New Mexico, charged with murder are Elijah Anglin, Jeremiah Mayson, Tommy Mitchell, Shanice Smith and Armondo Yazzie.
District Judge Jeffrey Wilson advised Vallejos to be “a little more careful in the future” with his choice of acquaintances.
Details of the shooting remain sealed from the public. District Judge David Dickinson said he plans to release the affidavits after Friday if lawyers can’t show “good cause” for keeping them secret.