Suspect sent to state hospital

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By David Giuliani

The trial for a woman accused of killing an 83-year-old man has been further delayed because she has been sent to the state hospital to determine her competency.

Jessica Livingston, 24, is charged with an open count of murder in the June 2007 death of Jose Apodaca. She and Dolores Salazar, 19, allegedly robbed Apodaca and then dragged him with their car.

Livingston had been scheduled to attend a status hearing on her case on Nov. 17, but four days before, she tried to kill herself in the San Miguel County jail, according to court documents.

Her defense attorney, Jeffrey Buckels, immediately requested that District Court send her to the state hospital in Las Vegas to evaluate whether she is competent to stand trial.

Livingston’s trial had originally been set for mid-August.

During the summer, District Judge Eugenio Mathis delayed the trial for Livingston at the request of Buckels, who contended that pretrial publicity may prevent his client from getting a fair trial in Las Vegas.

In particular, Buckels argued that an Optic headline, “Suspect’s transcript: ‘I did it. I did it,’” would make it nearly impossible for District Court to find jurors uninfluenced by the publicity.

Buckels was referring to an Optic story that reported on a prosecutor’s pleading, which included portions of a transcript from Livington’s phone conversations with her grandmother while she was in the San Miguel County jail.

According to the transcript, Livingston’s grandmother asked, “You’re taking the rap?”

“I just ... I just, it’s my fault, it’s all me,” Livingston responded. “I stole, I did it. I did it. I did it. I hurt the old man. I stole from him.”

In another conversation, according to the transcript, Livingston seemed to take all the blame, minimizing Salazar’s role.

“She didn’t get me in trouble,” Livingston reportedly said. “I made my decision all on my own.”

She said she did the crime because she wanted to get high.

Buckels asked Mathis to bar the jail conversations from being used during his client’s trial because the prosecutors brought them up late in the process and hadn’t pinpointed which parts they planned to use.

Mathis granted Buckels’ request, but he allowed prosecutors to use the conversations if they could call into question Livingtston’s testimony.

During the summer, Buckels asked the court to allow him to hire Albuquerque-based Research and Polling Inc. to gauge the awareness and prejudgment of area residents. The company agreed to perform the survey, but the court’s documents don’t indicate that any results have come in yet.

Salazar has already pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the case.