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A jury on Tuesday found Steven Candelaria guilty of second-degree murder and other charges in the 2020 shooting death of a man during a confrontation outside an Albuquerque apartment.
The 2nd Judicial District Court jury also found Candelaria, 31, guilty of aggravated battery, aggravated assault and abuse of a child, a District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman said in a statement.
Candelaria faces up to 25 years in prison. A sentencing hearing had not been scheduled Tuesday.
Prosecutors said in opening statements last week that Candelaria and his brother arrived at the home of Luciano Montoya Jr., 39, seeking revenge for an earlier beating. Candelaria pistol-whipped a woman before the brothers fired more than a dozen gunshots at Montoya’s home, fatally injuring Montoya, prosecutors said.
Candelaria’s girlfriend, Raquel Martinez-Chavez, testified last week that Candelaria struck her the night before the homicide.
That beating prompted Martinez-Chavez to move out of Candelaria’s home and seek help from Montoya, with whom she had two children, she testified. Martinez-Chavez also had a son with Candelaria, she testified.
Montoya responded by sending armed men to Candelaria’s home to beat Candelaria the night before Montoya was killed, prosecutors told jurors. The following day, Nov. 17, 2020, Candelaria and his brother armed themselves and drove to Montoya’s apartment in the 1100 block of Louisiana SE, just north of Gibson, prosecutors said.
Martinez-Chavez told jurors that Candelaria approached her outside the apartment and struck her in the forehead with a pistol. Gunfire rang out moments later, she said.
Candelaria’s attorney, Stephen Lane, told jurors that Montoya emerged from his apartment and fired gunshots, initiating a gunfight that fatally wounded Montoya. Candelaria and his brother, Brandon Candelaria, returned fire in self-defense, Lane said.
Martinez-Chavez and another witness initially told police that Montoya was unarmed at the time he was fatally shot but later acknowledged that Montoya was armed with a handgun at the time, Lane said.
Brandon Candelaria, 27, also faces first-degree murder and other charges in Montoya’s death. His trial has not been scheduled.
Jurors convicted Steven Candelaria of aggravated battery against a household member and aggravated assault against a household member for striking Martinez-Chavez, DA spokeswoman Lauren Rodriguez said. He also was convicted of child abuse because his son was in Montoya’s apartment at the time of the shooting, she said.