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Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Fingers Point at Probation Officer
By Scott Sandlin
Journal Staff Writer
A longtime probation office supervisor in Valencia County testified Monday that a line officer overseeing Elias Chavez's probation was so remiss in her job that she was fired.
Philip A. Snedeker, now a probation supervisor in Albuquerque, said he reviewed Chavez's file after Chavez allegedly stabbed his wife in the head and fatally knifed his father-in-law, Paul Artiaga, and brother-in-law Jerome Artiaga in 2003.
The violent actions were only the final culminating event in a string of violent incidents involving Chavez, who is in jail pending trial on murder charges.
Chavez's ex-wife, Elaine Artiaga, sued the Los Lunas Police Department and the Valencia County Sheriff's Department, contending their failure to arrest and prosecute Chavez, even when there were restraining orders in place, was a cause of the injuries to her and her family.
Defense attorneys for law enforcement said in opening statements that much of the blame can be placed at the feet of the probation department, where Chavez's probation officer failed to report him to the court when he failed urinalysis tests, failed to report and violated the law in other ways.
Snedeker said Chavez's probation officer also failed to enter his probationary status in the National Crime Information Center database as required.
Valencia County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Donald Derrick said Chavez's probationary status did not show up when law enforcement officers from his agency responded to calls about him and checked their computers.
But he said the sheriff's office is understaffed and typically would respond in Los Lunas only as backup to the Los Lunas police.