Regarding Stephanie Houston (Patrick Murillo killing of wife Stephanie) - McCracken involvement (year 2000) Notice several of the names and agencies/organizations associated with this case are also associated with the Mark and Melanie McCracken case: McCracken himself - “scene supervisor” Ortiz, Art; Martinez, Lemuel - new DA; RE: Stephanie Houston: On February 27, 2000, Stephanie Houston was run over and killed by her boyfriend Patrick Murillo. They had argued and she was walking in the shoulder of the roadway after having refused several of his attempts to get her to get back into his vehicle. A field investigation report prepared telephonically from the scene based upon a call received at OMI headquaters from OMI field investigator Luis Brown documented that "LE believe it was intentional". LE is OMI's standard abbreviation for law enforcement. In addition, the physician who pronounced Stephanie dead at UNM Hospital reported the death to OMI as a "possible homicide". However, once Stephanie was pronounced dead, Art Ortiz was called to the scene as a criminal investigator and Mark McCracken became the scene supervisor. Without interviewing an eyewitness or performing an accident reconstruction, Ortiz and McCracken declared that Stephanie's death was accidental. McCracken then made a series of comments to the media that the accident was in fact Stephanie's fault. Despite Patrick Murillo being considered by some law enforcement officers to be a murder suspect, Mark McCracken, the highest-ranking officer at the state police Los Lunas office personally drove Patrick Murillo back to his hotel in Belen. Within a day of Stephanie's death, her parents, William Houston and Joyce Fisher began receiving telephone calls from different people that were with Stephanie the night she was killed and the night prior to her death. These people reported that Patrick Murillo had publicly beaten Stephanie and that he had gotten into an altercation with a male friend of Stephanie's just a few minutes before Stephanie's death. Next, several of Stephanie's friends contacted the parents to tell them that Stephanie had been beaten many times by Patrick Murillo and in fact had been treated multiple times at the hospital because of those beatings. William Houston provided a list of the callers complete with their phone numbers to the state police. However, the state police did not incorporate this information into their investigation choosing instead to focus only on the moment in which Patrick Murillo's vehicle struck Stephanie. As a result, Stephanie's death was treated as having occurred in a vacuum; thus, allowing it to be ruled an accident. Dr. Kathleen Enstice, the pathologist from the Office of the Medical Investigator was deeply troubled by the lack of investigation by the police into the domestic violence history. She requested on numerous occasions that the police reopen the case and question Patrick Murillo about the domestic violence. However, neither McCracken nor Ortiz would return her telephone calls. Finally, Dr. Enstice gave up; however, she wrote in the autopsy report that it was possible that Stephanie was deliberately killed. In January 2001, I formally asked newly elected DA Lemuel Martinez to have his staff conduct an investigation into Stephanie's death. This request was contained in the same letter as the request pertaining to Melanie's death. I provided DA investigator Larry Diaz with my full investigation. At the start of his inquiry, Larry Diaz asked Ron Lopez of the DA's office for the authority to question Patrick Murillo or at the least request that Murillo take a polygraph exam. However Lopez denied Diaz's request. Diaz was ordered to stop investigating Stephanie's death. Ron Lopez of the DA's Office knew Patrick Murillo personally, and while the case was under his review made a statement to a former co-worker of Stephanie's that Stephanie's death was her own fault. Lemuel Martinez asked Michael Cox from the AG's Office to take over the case. But once again (and despite AG Madrid's offer of assistance) he declined. He refused to look at any allegations of impropriety by the state police. It was later learned that Cox was a prosecutor of record on a high profile high budget death penalty case in which Art Ortiz was a prosecution witness. In the Summer of 2003, the media took an interest in the case. The top homicide investigation expert in the nation, Vernon Geberth, evaluated the state police investigation of Stephanie's death and called Art Ortiz's work "less than half-assed". In particular he cited the failure to investigate the domestic violence history, which he believed should have been made the focus of the death investigation. At that time, the state police re-opened the case. A new supervisor, Pete Kassetas oversaw the investigation. Patrick Murillo agreed to take a polygraph exam, which he failed. He was then re-interviewed and admitted to knowing that Stephanie was in harm's way when he gunned his truck forward. The state police contacted the DA's Office to find out what charges they could file against Murillo. However, Ron Lopez and another DA in the Valencia County Office declined to press charges. The state police asked Lemuel Martinez to appoint a special prosecutor. Again, Martinez declined, but turned the case over to the Sandoval County District Attorney's Office citing a conflict of interest within his Valencia County Office, which he also supervised. The case was assigned to Joe Arite in August 2003. Arite initially reported that he believed that he could bring a second-degree murder case against Patrick Murillo. However, over time Arite began to criticize the case to the victim's family. It took until late December 2003 for Arite to present the case to a grand jury, despite the fact that no new investigation was conducted on the case. He did not present any of the domestic violence testimony to the grand jury, who turned down Arite's request to indict for second degree murder and instead indicted Murillo on one count of homicide by vehicle. At Murillo's bond hearing, the DA failed to present any of the domestic violence evidence including Murillo having been arrested on two occasions for domestic violence. The DA's representative actually told the judge that he wanted to wait until trial to present the issues that could be considered at the bond hearing. As a result Murillo was released on his own recognizance, when in other cases of homicide by vehicle bond can range from $30,000 on up to $200,000. Following the bond hearing Lemuel Martinez was asked to appoint a special prosecutor and again he denied the request. Another request for a special prosecutor was made in early March 2004 after it became clear that Joe Arite had not adequately reviewed the file with the trial being only three weeks away. Once again, Martinez declined citing the lack of time although the trial eventually was re-set for late June. Lemuel Martinez promised that his office would do everything possible to secure a conviction against Murillo. But, Joe Arite continued to refuse to incorporate the domestic violence evidence into the case. In May 2004, Arite met with Linda Atkinson, who appeared as Bill Houston's victim's advocate and myself. At that meeting, Arite promised to call the domestic violence witnesses including Stephanie's son Jonathan should Patrick Murillo take the stand and testify that Stephanie's death was an accident. In addition, Arite promised to call a witness who could testify to the fact that Stephanie contacted a law firm to find out about getting a restraining order against her killer just two days before her death. Further, he also promised to call a witness who could testify that Stephanie had made an appointment to come into a battered woman's shelter on what turned out to be the day after her death. No effort was undertaken to get that information in front of the jury. Further, witnesses who could corroborate that Murillo beat Stephanie the night before her death and who could testify to Murillo's jealous state of mind the night of Stephanie's death were not called to testify either. At trial just like at the grand jury, Joe Arite refused to present the evidence that could have led to a conviction. Arite even refused to call Stephanie's son as a rebuttal witness despite his being present in the courtroom when Patrick Murillo lied on the witness stand. And in an unbelievable turn of events, Art Ortiz testified at trial as a defense witness and intentionally withheld information from the jury that would have helped to convict Murillo. Despite only having spent two days on the case and having nothing to do with any investigation that took place after the case was re-opened, Ortiz opined on the stand that the death was an accident. He then went on to blame Stephanie who he described as jealous of Murillo's wife for causing her own death. Dr. Enstice flew in from Alabama to testify without even charging her standard fee. However, despite getting Dr. Enstice admitted as an expert, Arite did not ask her opinion as to the cause and manner of death or whether the injuries she observed were consistent with Patrick Murillo's statement of how Stephanie was killed. Arite also did not ask Dr. Enstice about the difficulty she had in getting the state police to investigate the case. After the jury came back with a not guilty verdict, Lemuel Martinez complained about a shortage of time to prosecute do to the statute of limitations, but stated that he was glad that the case went to trial so the defendant could move on with his life. The trial originally was assigned to Judge Pope; however, William Sanchez had himself assigned as trial judge since he was chief judge in the 13th Judicial District. The case was moved out of Valencia County to ensure that the media was not present during the trial. The defense cited the publicity around the criminal charges against Mark McCracken, who the defense listed as a "key witness" as the reason for needing to move the trial out of Valencia County. Mark McCracken was never called as a witness at trial, and was not mentioned by the defense counsel at the different times when he discussed witnesses he might call during the defense portion of the case. RE: Request for Federal Investigation: In 2002, I requested that the US Dept. of Justice civil rights criminal division conduct an investigation. However, I received a form letter back stating that US DOJ was only investigating cases involving beatings by police officers. RE: Citizens Grand Jury Petition: Because the DA and AG refused to investigate the allegations of misconduct stemming from the handling of both cases, a citizens grand jury petition as authorized pursuant to Article Two, Section 14 of the New Mexico State Constitution was drafted and a petition drive commenced. Under the state constitution, citizens of a given county can have a grand jury convened upon the submission of petitions bearing signatures of 2% of the registered voters of a county. Nancy Grice and Bill Houston submitted enough signatures (701) that were qualified by the Valencia County Clerk in accordance with the state constitution to have a grand jury convened to investigate whether government employees were covering up domestic violence homicides that occurred in Valencia County. The 701 signatures qualified are beyond challenge and were verified by registration and by address. Approximately 1000 signatures were submitted in total. The petition's wording was based upon petition that had successfully fought off a challenge in other county. The state constitution provides that a judge "shall order" upon presentation of the appropriate amount of signatures. The petition was filed on April 23, 2004 in Valencia County District Court and assigned case number D-1314-CS-04-036. However Judge William Sanchez following discussions with Ron Lopez and other attorneys from Lemuel Martinez's Office has refused to convene the grand jury. Lemuel Martinez despite having no legal authority to do so, has requested a non-binding legal opinion from the Attorney General's Office. To date, Judge William Sanchez has declined to order the grand jury.
NOTES 2017-13b
POLICE FACTOR - NEW MEXICO Policing, Borders, Drugs, Crime and State Corruption: Resources