The jury trial began this week for Alex Rios, one of three youths charged in the beating deaths of Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson last year.
Gorman and Thompson, both members of the Navajo Nation, were bludgeoned to death while they slept in an open field in Northwest Albuquerque in the early morning hours of July 19, 2014. The men, believed to be homeless, were beaten so brutally with cinder blocks and other objects that they were unrecognizable, the criminal complaint states.
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Three teenagers were charged in the deaths, which Albuquerque Police spokesman Simon Drobik described as “kids killing transients.” Rios, then 18; Nathaniel Carrillo, then 16; and Gilbert Tafoya, then 15, each were charged with two open counts of murder, tampering with evidence, three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and robbery.
Rios, now 20, is the first to go to trial. His hearing started Wednesday in the Second Judicial Court of New Mexico. During opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Vincent Martinez told the jury it would hear testimony about “two grisly murders…. Three boys went to a party, drank a lot and decided among themselves to mob and rob individuals on a mattress,” he said. The victims “may or may not have been homeless … but they didn’t cause any trouble.”
The state’s first witness was a medical investigator who showed jurors graphic autopsy photos revealing bruises and cuts that exposed the skull of one victim. The medical investigator testified that Gorman died from stab wounds to his torso and severe blunt force trauma to his head.
Daniel Salazar, Rios’ defense attorney, told the jury the case is about “making a deal with the devil.”
“We say this because the other two boys are literally covered in blood from head to toe. Alex Rios wasn’t,” he said. “The only thing we know for sure about Alex Rios is that he was drunk and that when the police interviewed him he had no blood on him.”
Tafoya, now 17, already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He will testify against Rios, but Salazar hopes to show that while Rios was there, he did not participate in the murders.
The case has garnered national attention because of the ages of the suspects and because the Albuquerque Police Department already was under review by the federal Justice Department because of its high number of officer-related shootings – including a March 2014 incident during which an officer shot and killed a homeless Native man.
Rios’ trial is expected to continue until the middle of next week. ICTMN will provide regular updates as the trial proceeds.