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Accused killer to be moved to DOC

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Amid allegations that he plotted to escape from the county jail, an accused murderer will be moved next month to a more secure facility to await trial in a gruesome homicide case, a local judge ruled Wednesday.


Chase Smotherman

Second Judicial District Judge Briana Zamora on Wednesday partially granted a request by Bernalillo County to move Chase Smotherman to the Penitentiary of New Mexico after jail officials said an October body scan revealed he had a handcuff key stowed in his body. A Metropolitan Detention Center employee testified that Smotherman said he found the key in a courthouse holding cell.

An attorney for the county argued that Smotherman planned to escape custody during a court appearance, and he even shaved his beard in anticipation.

Smotherman is facing charges in two separate cases. One involves the alleged kidnapping and torture of Matthew Tressler, which is set for trial early next month, and a second involves the death of John Soyka, whose mutilated body was found near the Rio Puerco in the fall.

Smotherman’s attorney worried that relocating his client might impact his ability to prepare for trial.

Zamora said that Smotherman would be moved to DOC after the kidnapping trial wraps up. If he was moved immediately, he would have to be transported back to MDC each week for court hearings, and she questioned whether that might increase the risk of an escape attempt.

Although the county claimed Smotherman somehow sent Facebook friend requests to corrections officers, their attorney said Wednesday that turned out to be untrue.