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Prosecutors painted a picture of revenge that ended with a 17-year-old bystander dead outside an Albuquerque house party. A defense attorney tried to pick apart that story with accusations of a sloppy police investigation, unreliable witnesses and too many guns.
The back-and-forth unfolded Friday during closing arguments in the first-degree murder trial of 20-year-old Izaiah Garcia, who stands accused of killing Sandia High School student Sean Markey on Sept. 29, 2019. Garcia is also charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence in the case. Jurors were sent home for the weekend and will continue deliberations Monday morning.
Markey died after being hit by a stray bullet outside a house party in Northeast Albuquerque and later died at a hospital.
Garcia is also charged in the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Cayla Campos, 21, on Oct. 18, 2019, less than three weeks after Markey’s killing. He will be tried separately for that shooting.
Deputy District Attorney John Duran said Garcia’s hatred for Christian Mattock, 19, was years in the making when the two crossed paths at the house party in 2019.
The grudge stemmed, he said, from Mattock’s previous attack on Garcia’s friend. Duran said that, in the years that followed, Garcia often told friends how much he hated Mattock and bragged about “mad dogging” him at school.
Duran described it as “a seed that grows and grows into a grudge and into hatred and into violence.” He repeatedly played video that allegedly showed Garcia firing a gun at Mattock outside the house party.
He said some of Garcia’s friends testified to seeing the shooting firsthand while others said he told them he held a gun out “like Superman,” with a bottle in his other hand, and shot at Mattock. Garcia told another friend, Duran said, that he thought he hit Mattock.
Finally, Duran said, a ballistics expert linked the “cluster” of bullet casings from the shooting to the 9 mm bullet that ricochetted off the ground and hit Markey.
“At the end of the day he killed a boy who was just waiting for his ride,” he told jurors. “… The defendant is guilty, we ask you to find him as such.”
Nicole Moss, Garcia’s attorney, said it is still not known who killed Markey.
“What we do know is there were a lot of guns at that party and a lot of people waving guns around at that party, drinking, doing drugs, waving guns,” she said.
Moss said evidence shows that seven guns were fired in the area and five of them were 9 mm – the same caliber that hit Markey.
“Even if you believe that (Garcia) had a gun that night, even if you believe he fired a gun that night, you still cannot say he killed Sean Markey because we don’t know,” she told the jury.
Moss said the testimony of the ballistic expert – who didn’t go to the crime scene until months after the shooting – is “only as good” as the investigation it’s based upon. She called that investigation, by Albuquerque police, “sloppy, lazy” and “incomplete.”
Moss said police parked mobile crime RVs “in the middle” of the crime scene, mixed up the locations of bullet casings. She said the lead homicide detective, Sarah Kastendieck, didn’t interview all eyewitnesses, try to find others seen with guns or look into reports of a drive-by shooting.
“She didn’t follow up on any of this. This leaves a huge hole in the state’s case … She had tunnel vision for Izaiah Garcia,” Moss said of Kastendieck, calling her “the most uninquisitive detective I’ve ever seen.”
She said the evidence points in “so many different directions” that the state cannot say for sure who killed Markey.
“And because we don’t know the answer to that question, beyond a reasonable doubt, justice will not be served by convicting an innocent man,” Moss said.
In rebuttal, senior prosecutor Shonnetta Estrada asked the jury to not “miss the forest for the trees.” She urged jurors to rely on the testimony of Garcia’s friends, video and the state’s evidence.
“You were just asked ‘who killed Sean Markey’ and you were told you don’t have an answer, but that’s not true. Izaiah Garcia killed Sean Markey,” Estrada said.