Clark Eugene Perry, one of two men accused in the July 2002 killing of Albuquerque businessman Nick Nellos, had been scheduled to go to trial this week for first-degree murder and other charges, but decided on Friday to enter a second-degree murder plea, according to KOAT-TV.
But on Tuesday, according to KOAT and KRQE reports, Perry backed out of the deal that would have meant a maximum 55-year prison sentence and now will go to trial on the original charges, which could result in more than 100 years in prison if he is convicted.
According to police reports at the time, Perry and Timothy James Hawkins, a suspected Crips gang member from Los Angeles, had just robbed two convenience stores and were on their way to the West Side when early in the morning of July 3, 2002, they ran a stop sign at Silver and Girard SE and broadsided a pickup truck driven by Nellos.
When Nellos got out of his truck to see if the two men who’d hit him were all right, the men shot Nellos, first in the leg, then several other times as they pursued him, prosecutors said at later court hearings.
Hawkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other crimes in May 2003 and was sentenced that August to 46 years in prison for his part in Nellos’ killing.
Several factors — including a court-ordered competency hearing for Perry in February 2005 and legal wrangling over statements Perry made after his arrest — had delayed Perry’s trial until now.
According to KRQE, Perry told state District Judge Denise Barela Shepherd that he understood the terms of the plea agreement but wasn’t going to go through with it.
KRQE also reported that during a heated exchange with his attorney, Perry could be heard to say (in an off-the-record comment), "I just shot the man in the leg. That’s all I did."
Meanwhile, members of Nellos’ family, who thought the case had been resolved last week, were upset, even to the point of tears, as it became clear the trial would go forward, KRQE reported.
Jury selection began Tuesday, KOAT and KRQE reported.