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Judge orders audit of Santa Fe murder case evidence

SANTA FE — A Santa Fe District Court judge has ordered an independent audit of evidence held by the Santa Fe Police department from a 2017 murder investigation, in light of the recent disclosure that the department lost evidence in the case.

The SFPD can’t find 11 pieces of evidence, including hair and fingernail clippings, connected to the June 2017 murder of 21-year-old Selena Valencia at a south Santa Fe apartment complex.

Her boyfriend, 28-year-old Christopher Garcia, has been charged with fatally stabbing her.

Christopher Garcia

In June, the SFPD sent a letter to the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office saying it lost evidence that the DA’s Office had asked to be sent to a laboratory for testing. That spurred Garcia’s attorney, Jennifer Burrill, to ask a judge to dismiss the case against Garcia.

Burrill also filed another motion last week asking for a judge to order an independent audit of the evidence.

Court records show that the following day District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ordered an independent audit that is to be completed no later than Aug. 30.

The order says the auditor shall prepare a report “that will address any irregularities found in the evidence collection and storage practices as well as any variances from the Santa Fe Police Department’s policies and procedures…”

In response to losing the hair and fingernail clippings, the SFPD said in July that it was conducting its own internal investigation into its evidence management practices.

The department also released a statement Tuesday in response to Marlowe Sommer’s order.

“More than a year ago the Santa Fe Police Department sought out best practices for evidence management and identified software to enhance evidence management,” Deputy Chief Robert Vasquez said in the statement. “Additionally we have sent our evidence management personnel and supervisor to advanced evidence management seminars and training.

“The Santa Fe Police Department has also solicited an outside vendor to come in and conduct an independent audit of our evidence room and evidence management process. All of the above initiatives came before the evidence was reported lost in the case in question. We look forward to cooperating with an independent audit appointed by the court in this case and correcting any deficiencies.”

Garcia allegedly stabbed Valencia at the Vista Allegre Apartments on Airport Road on June 22, 2017. He’s also accused of breaking into another apartment and attacking a resident inside and attacking a bystander outside the apartment complex after the alleged murder.

The motion to dismiss the case will be heard over a four-day period starting in late September.

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