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‘Dangerous’ Española murder defendant went free

Malcolm Torres

SANTA FE – A federal judge determined on Tuesday that Malcolm Torres – who’s charged with murder in the September death of 5-year-old Renezmae Calzada – was too dangerous and too much of flight risk to be allowed out of federal prison pending trial.

But two days earlier, Torres had been allowed to go free for several hours, apparently with no strings attached – even though a federal grand jury had indicted him for second-degree murder in the little girl’s death a month before.

Torres was released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County on Sunday, where he had remained for a month on unrelated minor charges.

While he was being held in that case, a grand jury indicted him on the murder charge – charges the public knew nothing about because the indictment was sealed.

Candace Hopkins, a spokeswoman for the MDC, said that Torres was released from the jail at 10:03 a.m. Sunday.

She said in an email that “MDC did not notify any agency that Mr. Torres was being released, because we did not receive a federal warrant or detainer.”

Torres was arrested later Sunday at Pojoaque Pueblo, about 80 miles north of Albuquerque, by the FBI with help from the Española Police Department, the FBI said Sunday night.

The Journal submitted questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque this week about whether Torres should have been taken into federal custody immediately as he was being checked out of the MDC on Sunday morning.

A statement released by the office Wednesday afternoon in response to the Journal’s inquiries did not address that issue and only repeated information previously made public.

The Journal asked whether federal agencies were aware Torres was being released from jail, whether there was supposed to be notification so he could be picked up at the local jail and whether Torres had been freed without supervision or monitoring.

Torres was indicted for the little girl’s death on Sept. 24, and court records show a federal arrest warrant was issued the same day. But both documents had been kept under seal until after he was arrested Sunday in Pojoaque.

Torres is the ex-boyfriend of Renezmae’s mother, Victoria Maestas of Española. Just a few weeks before the girl disappeared last month, Maestas filed court documents alleging he had been abusive during their four-year relationship. Torres faced domestic violence charges for allegedly battering Maestas on Halloween 2018, but the charges were dropped.

Renezmae was reported missing by her mother the evening of Sept. 8, the FBI and the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office said last month.

After an extensive search by police, other public safety agencies and community volunteers, Renezmae’s body was found three days later in the Rio Grande near Santa Clara Pueblo in Rio Arriba County.

Torres was arrested the night of Sept. 8, the day Renezmae’s disappearance was reported, but only on outstanding warrants for violating probation and failing to meet terms of his sentence in a DWI case in Albuquerque.

On Sept. 25, after a hearing in the case, he was sentenced to 64 days in jail. He was released Sunday after spending 32 days at MDC.

At an arraignment on the murder charge in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque on Tuesday morning, Torres pleaded not guilty. No details of the murder case against Torres have been made public.

Torres also waived his rights to a detention hearing, prompting the judge to determine he should be kept in jail based on his criminal history, the charge he faces, a history of alcohol or substance abuse and the lengthy period of incarceration he faces if convicted.

“I find that you are both a danger to the community and a flight risk,” Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa said.

MDC’s Hopkins said that Torres had received credit for the 26 days of pre-sentence confinement, for the time he had been held in the Rio Arriba County jail in Tierra Amarilla after his Sept. 8 arrest, and that he had also earned a sentence reduction for good behavior.

“Which left him 32 days to serve,” Hopkins said.

Police have said from the start of the case that Renezmae was last seen alive on the morning of Sept. 8. But the federal indictment of Torres on a second-degree murder count says the girl was killed “on or about Sept. 7.”

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