LAS CRUCES – Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday against a 19-year-old Las Cruces man charged with murder in the June 2015 stabbing death of a 20-year-old man.
Prosecutors called 12 witnesses to testify against Jose Luis Salazar Jr. before wrapping up their case late Tuesday evening. Salazar is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Carlos Adrian Contreras Jr. on June 6, 2015.
Salazar’s trial got underway Monday before District Judge Fernando R. Macias in 3rd Judicial District Court in Las Cruces.
Prosecutors argue Salazar willfully and deliberately killed Contreras by stabbing him in the chest during an argument at a party in the 7500 block of El Centro Boulevard.
Two of the Doña Ana County sheriff’s deputies who responded to stabbing testified on Tuesday afternoon.
Both deputies, David Dominguez and Adam Len, described a chaotic scene with as many as 100 people at the residence, which Dominguez described as “an intense crowd.”
When Len arrived on scene and found Contreras, he told the jury that he “immediately observed a stab wound to (Contreras’) chest.” Contreras had at least one stab wound to his chest and multiple lacerations on his left arms, according to testimony on Tuesday.
Dominguez said he administered CPR and was able to revive Contreras before his was airlifted to University Medical Center in El Paso. But he later was pronounced dead.
Salazar, then 17, was arrested about three days after the stabbing.
Early Tuesday, a witness, Jefferson Taborda, testified that he heard Salazar threaten Contreras by saying, “I’ll slit your throat.”
According to court documents, one witness who spoke with investigators, said Salazar lifted up his shirt and revealed a knife before the stabbing.
Another witness told investigators that the argument between Salazar and Contreras escalated to the point that two men had to separate the two. But, according to the court documents, Contreras broke free and stumbled toward Salazar.
That’s when Salazar allegedly charged at Contreras, the court documents allege. Contreras fell to the ground, and Salazar reportedly ran away.
It is unclear what prompted the argument between Salazar and Contreras.
Before the stabbing was reported, deputies, including Dominguez, had been dispatched to the residence twice that night in reference to loud complaints.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Salazar’s defense attorney, Stephen Taylor of Albuquerque, pointed out that the stabbing could have been prevented if the deputies had disbanded the party.
The defense is expected to open its case Wednesday morning.
Salazar is currently serving a prison sentence for shooting at or from a motor vehicle, according to the Department of Corrections.
Carlos Andres López can be reached 575-541-5453, firstname.lastname@example.org or @carlopez_los on Twitter.
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