Jurors begin deliberations in case of 2017 fatal crash - Albuquerque Journal

Jurors begin deliberations in case of 2017 fatal crash

Elexus Groves with her attorney, Douglas Wilber, at her trial on two counts of first-degree murder. The charges stem from a fatal 2017 crash that killed an Albuquerque woman and her 14-year-old daughter. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Jurors began deliberations Wednesday in the trial of Elexus Groves, who both defense and prosecution attorneys agree drove a stolen van that crashed into a car in 2017, killing an Albuquerque woman and her 14-year-old daughter.

But while a defense attorney told jurors Wednesday that the crash was a “terrible accident” that Groves, 25, had tried to avoid, prosecutors argued that she was fleeing police and acting with extreme recklessness worthy of the two felony murder charges she faces.

“Elexus Groves is not a murderer,” her attorney, Douglas Wilber, told jurors in closing arguments. “Ms. Groves isn’t denying that she is at fault for this accident. Make no mistake, it was an accident.”

Moments before the crash, Groves took her foot off the gas pedal and hit the brakes, Wilber said.

“Once she realized this crash could happen, she tried to stop it,” he told jurors. “You don’t brake if you don’t care about human life.”

Groves is charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder in the Jan. 18, 2017, crash that fatally injured Shaunna Arredondo-Boling, 39, her 14-year-old daughter, Shaylee Boling, and injured her 3-year-old son.

Shaylee Boling, a Sandia High School freshman, died at the scene. Arredondo-Boling died in a hospital 13 days later having never regained consciousness. Her son was hospitalized with a broken leg.

Her attorney acknowledged that Groves was driving an electrician’s van that she and an accomplice had stolen that morning as it idled in front of the worker’s home in Northeast Albuquerque.

The van contained a GPS tracking device that allowed police to take up pursuit on Tramway NE.

Police broke off pursuit when Groves make a right turn on to Copper NE, according to testimony.

Wilber told jurors that police were no longer in pursuit at the time of the crash, eliminating a key element in the felony murder charges against her.

A felony murder conviction would require that Groves caused the deaths while committing a felony crime — in this case, aggravated fleeing from law officers.

Deputy District Attorney Guinevere Ice told jurors that Groves began driving fast and recklessly because she knew police were pursuing her.

“She made a conscious decision to floor it and go 78 mph in a residential area,” Ice said. “She blew through that stop sign and killed two people. She drove this way because she was fleeing police.”

The passenger in the stolen van, Paul Garcia, 28, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of motor vehicle theft and two counts of conspiracy for his role in the crash. The plea agreement recommends he serve six years in prison and required him to testify in Groves’ trial. His sentencing has not been scheduled.

Garcia testified last week that just hours before the fatal crash, he gave Groves an injection of methamphetamine, which she had never done before.

Wilber told jurors that the injection likely influenced Groves’ actions that morning.

“It’s probably not a coincidence that when Paul Garcia took a needle and injected it into Ms. Groves’ arm that something terrible happened,” Wilber said.

Wilber also told jurors that Groves testified in her own defense.


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