SANTA FE, N.M. — The trial against a landlord in a double-homicide case is set to begin Friday with two routes jurors could take to find Arthur Anaya guilty of first-degree murder.
Anaya, 55, of Santa Fe, is charged with shooting and killing Theresa Vigil, 51, and her daughter’s boyfriend, Austin Urban, 16, in a dispute over $100 of unpaid rent on Jan. 23, 2012.
The District Attorney’s Office is pursuing two counts of first-degree murder along with other charges in the killings.
The jurors will have two theories through which they could find Anaya committed first-degree murder. The first is by finding that Anaya killed Vigil and Urban in a willful, deliberate and premeditated manner; the second is by finding Anaya killed Urban and Vigil in the commission of another felony — aggravated burglary, a charge that was filed because an armed Anaya barged into the home where the homicides took place.
Deputy District Attorney Tim Williams told state District Judge Stephen Pfeffer on Tuesday that he would dismiss another alternative theory of murder in the case: that Anaya committed the murders while being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Following the hearing, Williams said there’s a question about whether Anaya’s possession of the firearm despite his prior criminal record was an inherent danger to human life, required for “predicate” felonies needed to support a first-degree murder charge. He said that theory has yet to be tested in an appellate review and that getting a conviction from this angle posed a risk to the case should Anaya appeal.
The prosecutor said following the hearing that he felt confident in the state’s case on the other two theories.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Williams and defense attorney Joe Campbell were discussing whether to sever the felon in possession of a firearm charge from Friday’s trial and instead try it in a separate trial. Campbell said a separate trial wouldn’t prejudice the jury in the murder case by informing them of Anaya’s criminal history.
“It’s more prejudicial than probative,” Campbell told Pfeffer.
At a preliminary hearing last year, Natalie Vigil, the daughter of Theresa Vigil and Urban’s girlfriend, testified that Anaya came to a mobile home he owns off Old Agua Fria Road and demanded the rent for the month. Anaya was the Vigils’ landlord.
The Vigils were short by $100. There was an argument in which Anaya punched both Theresa and Natalie Vigil, according to Natalie’s testimony. Urban came from another room and tried to intervene, but Anaya shot Urban once and then fired a second shot, killing Theresa Vigil.
Anaya then tried to get Natalie and Javier Salcido, 17, who was playing video games with Urban that day, to put the bodies in a car trunk.
Anaya was arrested following a days-long manhunt. Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Detective David Jaramillo testified at the preliminary hearing that when police tracked Anaya to a vacant mobile home near the murder scene, Anaya pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire.
Campbell argued during the preliminary hearing that the evidence in the case did not show cause for first-degree murder.
He also noted that Anaya fired his gun only after Urban intervened in the argument. He said Anaya was the home’s owner and he had authorization to enter the home.
Anaya is being held in the Santa Fe County Jail.