The murder took place at the San Miguel County Detention Center on Nov. 1, 2021.

One man pleads guilty, six others await trial in 2023

Almost exactly one year ago, the San Miguel County Detention Center was rocked by one of its most deadly incidents ever. According to court documents, seven men attacked 40-year-old inmate Eric Vigil, beating him to death in a cell with no correctional officers in sight. 

In the aftermath of the incident, all seven of the men involved were charged with first-degree murder. Six of those men are currently scheduled to go on trial for their alleged involvement sometime in 2023. However, just last week, one of the men involved, Nathan Pacheco, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder, and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. He will serve somewhere between 12 and 18 years in prison for his involvement, far less than what his co-conspirators will face if convicted at trial. 

It is unclear at this time if any of the other men involved plan on taking a plea deal, or if that possibility has been offered to them. All six of the men with pending charges face a capital felony charge of first-degree murder, a charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and a charge of tampering with evidence. 


Plea Deal


More than 11 months after Vigil was pronounced dead at Alta Vista Regional Hospital in Las Vegas, Pacheco entered the Fourth Judicial District Court and admitted guilt in his role in the attack. 

During the hearing, the court read the details of the incident into the record, including that Pacheco can be seen on cameras in the facility running between various cells as the incident began and that he took part in beating Vigil to death. 

As part of the plea deal, the first-degree murder charge was dropped in favor of the less severe second-degree murder charge, as well as a charge of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. 

He will serve up to 15 years for the murder conviction, and up to an additional three years for the conspiracy charge, at the discretion of the court at a later sentencing hearing. An additional charge, of tampering with evidence, was dropped as part of the plea deal. 


Updates on the others involved


All six of the other men involved face a capital murder charge of first-degree murder and have individual trial dates set in 2023. If convicted of capital murder, the men could face life sentences, which in New Mexico means at least 30 years in prison before the possibility of parole, of that possibility is offered at sentencing. New Mexico does not have the death penalty, so life in prison without the possibility of parole is the most severe sentence available in the state. 

Conrad Atencio faces an additional charge of conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence, along with the matching charges with the rest of the men alleged to be involved. He is currently scheduled to go on trial in March 2023.

Pierre Lovato, like Atencio, faces an additional charge of conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence. He is currently scheduled for the earliest trial among all the men alleged to be involved, in February 2023.

Daniel Magallanes is scheduled for a trial for his role in the murder in March 2023. In the year since the murder, he was charged with attempting to escape from prison, and ultimately took a plea deal, pleading guilty to charges of possession of a weapon or explosive device, and criminal damage to property. For those crimes, he was given concurrent prison sentences of 4 years and 18 months. 

Devin Morales is scheduled to go on trial in March 2023 for his role in the murder.

Joaquin Richardson is scheduled to go on trial in July 2023 for his role in the murder.

Dathian Lucero is also scheduled to go on trial for his role in the murder in July 2023. 

Background on the murder


As previously reported by the Optic, the affidavits of the incident include a detailed description of what the jail’s cameras captured that day.

According to the affidavits, video recordings showed Atencio, Pacheco, Magallanes and Lucero “pacing back and forth” as Vigil sat on a table in the middle of the room. Meanwhile, Pacheco was going in and out of various cells, “staying a short period in each cell he entered.”

After SMCDC staff collected the food trays, Vigil walked over to Atencio and Magallanes and exchanged some words with them.

Atencio, Magallanes, Morales, Lucero, Pacheco, and Richardson surrounded Vigil, while Lovato and the man who is not facing charges stood at the top of the stairs, looking down, like they were “waiting for something to happen.”

Vigil walked up the stairs and entered cell 232. Vigil talked to Atencio, then approached Magallanes who “suddenly” hit Vigil in the face with his right hand.

Vigil fell to the ground as the other men rushed inside the cell. They dragged Vigil to the middle of the cell and “multiple individuals” punched and kicked him.

The fight lasted just 62 seconds before everyone, except Vigil, exited the cell. Minutes later, Magallanes contacted master control and said an inmate had fallen.

According to the audio log of Pacheco’s plea hearing, the men involved were seen shaking hands and hugging after they left the cell. 

Results of an autopsy conducted later showed Vigil died of blunt force trauma to the face and head, which caused “massive bleeding” in Vigil’s brain, according to the affidavits.

Several of those charged in Vigil’s death told investigators that, the day of his death, Vigil had been “acting aggressive” toward others in the pod.

Inmates told investigators that Vigil was “a bully” who would try to start fights. One man said others in the pod considered Vigil to be a dangerous man.

At the time of the incident, Pacheco told investigators that he believed the only way anyone was going to come out of the cell alive was to have everyone jump Vigil, comparing the fight to the biblical story of David and Goliath, according to the affidavits. He refused to tell investigators which of the men involved threw punches or who delivered the fatal blow or blows.

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