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Lawyer: Suspects had fled before fatal shot

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FARMINGTON – The attorney for one of the men charged in a Farmington shooting says the two suspects had already fled the area when Christopher Valdez was fatally wounded.

Lawrence Kellywood of Farmington and Levi Wilson of Kirtland are charged with felony murder, attempted murder, shooting an occupied dwelling, two counts of aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with a July 27 shooting.

Arlon Stoker, Wilson’s attorney, said in a motion filed in district court on Wednesday that his client wasn’t involved in the shootout. He also states that Wilson and Kellywood had already left the area when Michael Tafoya of Farmington shot and killed Valdez, 40.

Prosecutors have said the bullet that killed Valdez wasn’t recovered from the scene, and it’s unclear who fired the shot that killed Valdez. Even if Tafoya fired the fatal shots, prosecutors have said in court documents that he was defending himself from Kellywood and Wilson.

The San Juan County District Attorney’s Office filed motions on Nov. 27 and Dec. 2 asking the court to allow the office to appeal New Mexico’s felony murder law to the state Supreme Court so they can try Wilson and Kellywood for first-degree murder despite not knowing who fired the shot that killed Valdez.

Court documents filed in the case accuse Kellywood and Wilson of both being armed with handguns and starting the shootout with Tafoya, who was at his home at 101 E. Hopi St. the evening of the incident.

Wilson, Kellywood, Tafoya and Kathleen Keck, who was just outside of Tafoya’s front door, were all shot and injured in the gunfight.

Valdez lived across the street from Tafoya on Orchard Avenue. He was with a young relative when the shooting started.

He ran toward the shooting and was struck by a stray bullet and died at the scene, according to court documents.

Stoker said in the motion filed Wednesday that there is no evidence Wilson was armed or fired a shot during the incident.

He said Kellywood and Wilson arrived at Tafoya’s home and when Kellywood knocked on the door, Tafoya came out of the house armed with a pistol.

“(Wilson) felt a searing pain in his hand, turned and ran eastbound … in fear for his life,” Stoker said in the motion.

Stoker said in his motion that Tafoya shot Keck and Valdez, and that Tafoya’s bullets were sprayed across the neighborhood after the shooting.

“Our decision to proceed was based on the evidence we obtained,” said San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien of the murder charges against Wilson and Kellywood.

He declined to comment on the evidence in the case.

Stoker’s motion was in response to the state’s motion, which asked the court to allow the state to appeal New Mexico’s felony murder law to the New Mexico Supreme Court before trial.

If the court doesn’t give the state the ability to appeal the law, the state’s motion asks the judge to dismiss the murder charge so prosecutors can appeal the court’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

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