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Judge lowers suspect's bond

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By David Giuliani

A state district judge last week lowered the bond for a man accused of killing another in an apparent road-rage incident in central Las Vegas.

Richard Baca, 21, who is charged with voluntary manslaughter, had been in jail on a $1 million bond. But after arguments from both the state and defense, District Judge Eugenio Mathis reduced that amount to $100,000.

Baca is also barred from entering San Miguel County, except for court appearances, the judge ruled. Baca is to stay with his grandmother in Los Lunas, which is south of Albuquerque.

Baca, a member of the 720th Transportation Company of the New Mexico National Guard, is accused in the killing of Benito Lemos, 22, at National Avenue and 12th Street around 5:30 p.m. Nov. 9.

The state recommended that Baca’s bond be reduced to $200,000, while the state pushed for a $50,000 appearance bond.

Prosecutor Tom Clayton told the judge that Baca shot Lemos three times in the chest and that Baca posted on MySpace the very day of the killing that he wanted to finish off rounds of ammunition in his gun.

In making the case for a $200,000 bond, Clayton also cited allegations of threats to Lemos’ family since the killing.

Baca’s attorney, Jeff Buckels, said his client had no criminal record before and that a Guard supervisor had commended Baca for an “excellent” record of service. The attorney described his client as gentlemanly, cooperative and disciplined.

Buckels noted that the state had reduced the charge from an open count of murder to voluntary manslaughter.

“My client was pummeled in the face (by Lemos), while (Baca) was trapped in his car. This is a self-defense case,”  Buckels said.

As for the MySpace account, Buckels said his client has been planning to go target shooting, but found out that the range was closed that day. He said eyewitnesses would back his client’s story.

“If that showed a proclivity for shooting, why is he only charged with manslaughter?” the attorney said.

Judge Mathis ruled that a $100,000 bond (with 10 percent down) was appropriate and that Baca was to live in Los Lunas. Baca already has employment arranged, Buckels said.

In a later phone interview, Lucy Lemos, mother of Benito Lemos, said she didn’t have faith in the district attorney’s office and that the family figured the bond would be lowered.

“What has been done has been done. My son is gone. There’s nothing that’s going to bring him back,” she said, adding that Baca’s bruises are gone while her son remains buried.  

She said she didn’t expect a “decent” trial.

District Attorney Richard Flores said the family was unhappy that a murder charge wasn’t filed, yet others saw it as a case of self-defense and that prosecutors shouldn’t have filed any charges.

He said not everyone is going to approve of his charging decisions.

“I can never make everybody happy,” Flores said in a statement. “However, my job as district attorney is to not seek to make everyone happy. It is to do what is right and just, and in my job, making the right, just and ethical decisions is often not the popular decisions to some.”

According to police reports, Lemos, a local postal carrier, died almost instantly after Baca shot him. Lemos had been with his fiancee, Germaine Lovato, and their two children.

Police said Baca had seen Lemos’ car near Seventh Street and Mills Avenue and then again at National Avenue and 12th Street. At that intersection, Lemos allegedly got out of his car, walked toward Baca’s car and said Baca had almost hit Lemos’ car.

After Lemos started punching him, Baca told Lemos that he had a gun, according to police reports. When Lemos wouldn’t stop, Baca fired his gun, reports state.

A trial date has not been set.