SANTA FE – State prosecutors say they can prove Philip Zaman murdered a Santa Fe County woman when he ran her over twice early last year, but defense attorneys paint the chaotic ordeal as a tragic accident.
Zaman, 26, faces counts of second-degree murder, homicide by vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the death of Teena Larson.
On the opening day of his trial in state District Court in Santa Fe on Tuesday, prosecutor Michael Nunez told jurors that Zaman drove his friend Khristopher Marshall to visit Marshall’s on-and-off girlfriend, Natasha Larson, in the Lone Butte area south of Santa Fe the evening of Jan. 12, 2016. Natasha’s mother, Teena Larson, 54, was at the house and didn’t want Natasha to leave with Marshall, leading her and Marshall to have a “tug of war” over Natasha.
Marshall made it into the passenger side of Zaman’s BMW sedan and Natasha jumped into the back seat. Teena Larson, who was behind the car, was backed over when Zaman rapidly reversed. He ran her over again as he sped off the property, Nunez said.
Defense attorney Monnica Barreras said in her opening statement that the incident was an accidental death that was partly the result of an “intoxicated woman,” referring to Teena Larson. Her blood alcohol content was .14 at the time of her death, according to her autopsy, which is nearly twice the state legal driving limit of .08.
“Not all tragedies are crimes,” Barreras said. “It was an accident.”
Natasha Larson testified Tuesday that she saw her mother hit the back windshield of the BMW before falling underneath the car.
“On the left side I could feel her body under the wheel, and she was getting stuck under there,” Natasha Larson said. “I think he revved the engine to get over her body. He had to go faster to get over her. We started going forward, and my mom was run over again. I was in shock and feeling sick because I thought he would stop.”
Defense attorney Sam Bregman brought up that Natasha Larson told law enforcement later that night that she didn’t think anyone was run over and thought the car had gone over some bumps in the road. When asked why she wasn’t truthful to police, Natasha continually answered that she didn’t lie.
“I was scared and still in shock over what happened,” she said. “It wasn’t a lie.”
Similar charges against Marshall were dropped in February after prosecutors filed documents saying that they would have a hard time proving his guilt. Zaman is currently serving a 13½-year sentence for shooting and wounding two people in Las Cruces in November 2014.