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APD: Man shot and killed over debt of $40

A car with its door open and windshield shattered sits outside a northwest Albuquerque laundromat where police say a man was shot to death Saturday afternoon

A car with its door open and windshield shattered sits outside a northwest Albuquerque laundromat where police say a man was shot to death Saturday afternoon. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Cody Fair and his girlfriend were leaving their neighborhood laundromat Saturday afternoon, heading home to fold their clothes, when an SUV driven by a man who reportedly owed Fair $40 pulled up next to them.

Cody Fair

Cody Fair, 24 (Courtesy of Jamie Valero)

Fair, 24, and the driver began to argue and then, police say, a passenger, Juan Diego Montoya, 37, opened fire, shooting Fair in the neck as his girlfriend sat in the seat beside him.

“I didn’t even know a shot was coming,” Fair’s girlfriend Nikki Saulters said in a phone interview Monday. “It didn’t cross my mind, and then after I realized what happened, I immediately tried to save his life. I started screaming for anyone to call the ambulance.”

Fair died at the scene.

The SUV drove away and police found it burned out several hours later about a mile away.

Juan Diego Montoya, 37, and Jesse James Bowers, 28

Juan Diego Montoya, 37, and Jesse James Bowers, 28 (Source: MDC)

By Sunday evening, Albuquerque Police Department homicide detectives had filed arrest warrants for Montoya and Jesse James Bowers, 28, charging them with murder, conspiracy and tampering with evidence. Montoya faces an additional charge of arson because police say he destroyed the SUV the pair were driving during the shooting. He was still in the hospital being treated for burns Monday evening, according to an APD spokesman.

Bowers was booked into the county jail around noon Monday.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, officers were called to the Laundry Quarters on Candelaria near 12th Street NW shortly before 1 p.m. for reports of a shooting. When they arrived, they found Fair dead in the driver’s seat of his car.

When they interviewed Saulters, she told them the suspects had been driving a white Ford Escape she knew belonged to Bowers’ girlfriend. She said Fair had told her Bowers owed him $40 and they had fought Saturday morning because he didn’t want to pay it back, according to the complaint.

Saulters was able to positively identify Bowers as the driver from a photo array and after several interviews with other acquaintances, detectives took him into custody at a motel Sunday afternoon.

According to the complaint, Bowers told detectives he and Fair had argued that morning and then he spotted Fair’s car at the laundromat. He said he handed the gun to Montoya in the front passenger seat and Montoya shot him.

Montoya reportedly told witnesses, “I shot him and saw his head go back” and “The trigger was touchy. I think I killed him,” according to the complaint.

Fair, who grew up in Lubbock, Texas, moved to Albuquerque about two years ago with Saulters, following his parents.

His sister, Jamie Valero, said he leaves behind a 5-year-old daughter, who lives in Texas, and was passionate about getting his GED and going to trade school. But, she said, he had started using drugs and going down the wrong path, which is how she believes he knew Bowers. Both Bowers and Montoya have previously been charged with possession of a controlled substance and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, according to online court records.

Saulters said in the days since Fair’s death she and his parents have decided to move back to Texas. She said the clothes they washed Saturday are still sitting, unfolded, in the laundry basket.

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