A prosecution witness testified Wednesday that Joseph “Wicked” Montoya asked for help killing Angel Arroyo minutes before shooting the father of two in the head.
It was the early morning hours of May 18, and a number of people were at a party at a second-floor apartment on 12th Street and San Francisco, across the street from the New Mexico Highlands University daycare center. Those at the party were drinking and taking hits of meth, according to testimony presented Wednesday during Montoya’s preliminary hearing in San Miguel County Magistrate Court.
At one point, Arroyo called Montoya a b****, which upset Montoya, several witnesses testified.
Joshua Vigil, 26, who showed up at the apartment specifically to buy meth from Arroyo, testified that after paying Arroyo $90 for a few grams of meth, he went into the bathroom and was preparing to shoot up.
“Joseph went into the bathroom and asked me to help him kill Angel,” Vigil said. He testified that he thought Montoya was crazy and that he told him not to do it. According to Vigil, Montoya was “pissed off” that he wouldn’t help him.
A short while later, Vigil told the court, Montoya grabbed the gun from Arroyo’s waistband and shot Arroyo in the left side of the head.
“It wasn’t self-defense; he just shot him,” Vigil said.
After the murder, Vigil said, he paid for the gas used to set the apartment and Arroyo’s body on fire. He told the court that he drove back toward the apartment, parked down the street and waited for Montoya and others to torch the apartment. Later, Vigil testified, he and Montoya drove to the home where Arroyo had been staying, and Montoya took Arroyo’s rifle. Vigil said he drove Montoya to Santa Fe.
“I didn’t want him to shoot me in the head too,” Vigil told the court.
Defense attorney Anna Aragon hammered away at Vigil’s credibility during her cross-examination, getting him to admit that Arroyo was his drug dealer and suggesting that he had a motive to embellish his testimony.
Vigil — who showed up to testify handcuffed and in an orange jail jumpsuit — was charged with harboring or aiding a felon, conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to tamper with evidence in connection with the homicide case.
During cross-examination, Vigil reluctantly admitted that in exchange for his testimony, he was being released from jail and would receive three years of probation.
Aragon also argued that Vigil’s testimony wasn’t consistent with the testimony provided by the other witnesses.
But in the end, Magistrate Chris Najar sided with the prosecution, finding that sufficient evidence exists to bind Montoya over to District Court for trial on an open count of murder, arson, tampering with evidence, conspiracy, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Montoya, 32, remains in custody.
“Just going to hang out”
Among the first witnesses called to testify was Augusta Arellanes, a friend of Arroyo’s who admitted during cross examination that she would help Arroyo make drug deliveries and that she, too, had been smoking meth just before the shooting.
Arellanes picked up Arroyo on the evening of May 17 and drove him to the party after her shift at a local restaurant.
“We were just going to hang out,” she testified. She said everyone at the party was having fun, but the mood quickly became tense after Arroyo called Montoya a “b****.”
Arellanes testified that she thought things had been settled, but then as she was walking away from the kitchen to smoke more meth, she heard a gunshot and turned around as most of the others present at the party ran out of the building. She said Montoya and Arroyo were struggling for the gun, and when Montoya gained control of it, he hit Arroyo in the head with it, and Arroyo fell to the floor.
Arellanes said that she started yelling and told Montoya to stop. She said Montoya threatened her and then pistol whipped her in the back of the head.
“I literally flew into the wall and just collapsed,” she said. “I sat there and tried not to be loud when I cried.”
Arellanes said Montoya then began telling off Arroyo, asking him who the “b****” was now and pointing the gun at him. At some point, Arroyo was able to get back to his feet, and he went at Montoya, she said.
She added that Montoya overpowered Arroyo. When Arroyo went to the floor, Montoya began kicking Arroyo’s head, Arellanes testified.
Arellanes said that at one point, Montoya instructed Stephanie Jaramillo, the woman who was with him, to search Arroyo’s pockets. Jaramillo took Arroyo’s wallet and handed it to Montoya.
She said Montoya pointed the gun at Arroyo and tried to fire, but it jammed. A short time later, Montoya again pointed the gun at Arroyo’s head and pulled the trigger. That time the gun worked.
“I looked down and it was like a stream of blood pumping out of his head,” she said. Members of Arroyo’s family who were in the courtroom during the testimony began to cry at that point.
Arellanes testified that Montoya gave her an ultimatum. She could either go with him, or he would kill her, too. She agreed to go with him, and, she said, that’s when Montoya told her that he managed to get the gun that Arroyo had been carrying in his waistband. They drove to Lincoln Park, where Montoya ultimately allowed Arellanes to leave.
Decision to burn apartment
Jaramillo gave a similar account of the events leading up to the shooting.
After Arellanes was allowed to leave, Montoya and Jaramillo drove to the Holiday Inn, and Vigil picked them up, Jaramillo testified. Another man, Gary “Roach” Esquibel, who was renting the apartment where the shooting took place, was also there.
They were driving out of town, but around Villanueva they turned around, deciding that the apartment should be burned down, Jaramillo testified.
They purchased gas and drove back to the apartment.
“They poured gas all over the house,” Jaramillo said. “Joe asked me to check Angel’s pockets again. I checked his pockets and pulled out more money.”
Jaramillo said she was afraid and in shock. She said she heard a loud noise when the fire was set and then saw the flames.
Smoke filling the sky
New Mexico Highlands University security officer Christopher Romero testified that he and another Highlands officer heard a gunshot and scream at about 1:45 a.m. on May 18 as they were checking Wilson Complex. They headed toward the sound and were stopped by neighbors who told them the shot came from a house on 12th and San Francisco. He said the lights were off, and he didn’t notice anything else.
Later on, Romero noticed that smoke was filling the sky. He drove a couple of blocks and saw the same house at 12th and San Francisco on fire.
“I saw flames in the upstairs window,” he said.
Romero heard people coughing and was told that there was a woman inside another apartment in the building. Romero pulled an elderly lady out of the burning building. The woman told Romero that there were people in the upstairs apartment, but Romero wasn’t able to go up to check because of the flames.
Later, after the fire had been extinguished, Romero was among the officers who went into the upstairs apartment.
Inside, they found a male who was in the fetal position, he said. Beneath him was a bullet and a pool of blood, Romero testified.
After the hearing, the victim’s brother, Floribal Bachicha, said the graphic testimony “was awful to hear.” He said they’re hoping that Montoya will be convicted and receive a long prison sentence.
Esquibel, is also facing charges in the case.