ABQ man acquitted of murder in 2020 shootings near Downtown - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ man acquitted of murder in 2020 shootings near Downtown

Alex Vallejos is led out of court by a deputy during his trial. A jury this week found Vallejos not guilty of murder and other charges. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

A jury acquitted Alex Vallejos of murder and other charges this week in a 2020 incident that resulted in one fatal shooting and three serious injuries from gunfire.

Second Judicial District Judge Cindy Leos ordered Vallejos, 22, released from custody on Thursday for the first time since his arrest in May 2020.

Jurors deliberated about two hours Thursday before finding Vallejos not guilty on seven felony counts, including first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and three counts of aggravated battery, said Lisa Torraco, Vallejos’ attorney.

Just a week before his acquittal, Vallejos rejected a plea deal that required him to plead guilty to three counts of conspiracy and carried a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

“He insisted on his innocence,” Torraco said of Vallejos. “He just believed that they would do the right thing.”

Prosecutors alleged that Vallejos was among a group of armed teenagers who barged into a house in the 600 block of Arno SE on March 14, 2020, and fired dozens of gunshots, killing Jeff Baca, 38, and seriously wounding a woman and two teenage girls.

Jurors apparently agreed with the defense’s argument that Vallejos did not participate in the shootings, and instead remained outside in a van as gunmen entered the house.

“It is abundantly clear that he did not want to participate in what they were doing,” Torraco said of Vallejos. “It was very clear that my client stayed in the van.”

Vallejos got into the van driven by his stepfather, Austin Crespin, before others conspired to rob people in the house, Torraco said Friday in a phone interview.

“Once you get in a car and somebody else is driving, you don’t have a lot of choices,” she said.

A trial for Crespin, 27, ended with a hung jury in September. A retrial has not been scheduled. Crespin remains in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

The conflict began earlier in the evening when one of Vallejos’ co-defendants, Anthony Lopez, “got into a heated argument about music” with one of the girls and was asked to leave the house, prosecutors told jurors in a trial last year for another co-defendant.

Lopez, 22, later called a group of friends who decided to return to the house with weapons, prosecutors said.

Lopez pleaded guilty in July 2021 to second-degree murder and other charges and faces between 20 and 22 years in prison. His sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

Criminal cases for other co-defendants remain in various stages.

Nathaniel Hernandez, 21, was found guilty by a jury in 2022 of first-degree murder, attempted robbery and other charges. He was sentenced in August to life in prison.

Nathan Peco, 20, is charged with seven felonies, including first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated battery. His jury trial is scheduled for May 22.

Rudy Orozco, 21, pleaded guilty in 2020 to aggravated burglary and two counts of conspiracy and faces up to nine years in prison. His sentencing has not been scheduled.

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