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Murder suspect seeks lower charges

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By David Giuliani

The attorney for a woman accused in the dragging death of an 86-year-old man is asking District Court to lower her charges.

Jessie Livingston, 23, of Las Vegas and Dolores Salazar, 18, of Albuquerque and formerly of Las Vegas, were charged in the June killing of Jose Apodaca, a former postmaster and veteran of three wars. He died June 24 after three days in intensive care at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

The women were charged with first-degree murder, vehicular homicide and robbery in connection with Apodaca’s death.

According to police, Apodaca was dragged several feet after Livingston and Salazar asked him for money in the 1900 block of North Gonzales. When Apodaca pulled out his wallet, the women allegedly grabbed the wallet and dragged Apodaca back to a parked car.

As the struggle continued, the women got into the car and drove away, with Apodaca somehow getting caught or holding on to the car, police said.

However, Jeffrey Buckels, the attorney for Livingston, said the offense doesn’t rise to the level of first-degree murder. But he states in a court pleading earlier this month that his client could be tried for robbery and a lesser degree of homicide. In fact, he wrote that the defense makes no argument in regard to the vehicular homicide charge. He called it an “unintentional killing.”

Buckels argued that the state Supreme Court has “strictly limited” the parameters of felony murder, adding that there was no way Livingston knew her actions “created a strong probability of murder.”

“The car was set back away from Mr. Apodaca. He was in no apparent zone of danger,” Buckels states in the pleading.

He contends that the police and witnesses have not reconstructed how Apodaca went from his wallet being snatched to lying injured in the street.

Buckels states that he checked a state legal database and searched for the words “felony murder” and found them 139 times, but none involved a motor vehicle.

“A car is not inherently a weapon. It is inherently a mode of transportation,” he states.

In the criminal complaint, police state that Livingston admitted she was a heroin addict. She is set to go on non-jury trial in August.

Salazar’s case file was in a judge’s office last week and not available for the public. She had a hearing last week, according to the New Mexico courts Web site.