LAS CRUCES — Jose Luis Salazar Jr., 17, has been charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Carlos Contreras, 20, at an East Mesa house party this past weekend, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Doña Ana County Magistrate Court.
Witnesses told Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office investigators Salazar and Contreras apparently argued with each other shortly before Salazar stabbed Contreras at least once in the upper torso with a large knife at a residence in the 7500 block of El Centro Boulevard, according to court documents. The party began Friday night and ended early Saturday.
Contreras was airlifted to University Medical Center in El Paso, where he died.
Saturday, investigators found two knifes at the scene, one with an approximately 7-inch blade, and a smaller knife with a blue handle. The larger knife had two separate areas “where a dried, red or rust colored material was seen,” according to the court documents. The smaller knife was found a short distance from the other.
One witness told investigators that Salazar allegedly “lifted up his shirt and showed him the knife,” before the stabbing, according to the Statement of Facts filed with the court. Another witness also claimed to have seen Salazar lift his shirt to show the knife.
A third witness told investigators that as the argument became increasingly heated — he heard Salazar threaten to cut Contreras’ throat. Salazar and Contreras continued yelling at each other, and two men with Salazar held Contreras in an apparent attempt to keep him from physically fighting with Salazar, the witness said.
According to witnesses, Contreras broke free from the two men, and began to stumble toward Salazar, according to the court documents. Another witness told investigators Salazar charged at Contreras “and struck straight outward with one hand.” Contreras fell to the ground and Salazar ran away.
One of the two men who had been trying to hold Contreras back before the stabbing allegedly ran to the prone Contreras, said “I got Junior’s back,” and then allegedly kicked Contreras once in the head before fleeing.
At least two other people at the party also later identified Salazar as the alleged attacker through a photo lineup.
“It was a private party,” said Joshua Ziehl, who hosted the event at his home. “These guys (Salazar and the two other men) who showed up were uninvited.”
Ziehl said sheriff’s deputies went to the party two times earlier in the evening and did not find any problems. The stabbing happened as the party was about to end, he said.
Ziehl said a fund to help pay for Contreras’ funeral expenses has been started online at www.gofundme.com/carlosadrian. As of Tuesday afternoon, $3,327 of a $6,000 goal had been pledged.
Tuesday, Magistrate Judge Conrad Perea ordered Salazar to remain in jail, without bond, at the Doña Ana County Detention Center. Perea found probable cause for the first-degree murder charge, and the case will now be sent to state District Court, in Las Cruces, for prosecution, according to a press release from District Attorney Mark D’Antonio.
According to the release, Salazar is considered a “serious youthful offender” under New Mexico law and will face charges as an adult. The Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office will seek indictment by a grand jury. The grand jury will convene Thursday, and could issue an indictment then.
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