State tries suspect as adult

William Thompson

Norman Tyrell Cates, 17, will be tried as an adult in the homicide of Lena Aragon Barrett, 75. Barrett was found dead inside her Roy home Dec. 20. According to Lina Weisdorfer, district court clerk for Harding County, Cates’ attorney has filed a new motion.

“Abigail Aragon, the defendant’s attorney, has filed a motion to determine competency,” said Weisdorfer. “I will fax District Judge Ricky Purcell the motion and it will be up to him whether or not he will sign it.”
Aragon said it was a routine matter for her to raise the issue of competency.

“Because of the nature of the allegations and his (Cates’) age, I raised the issue of competency which means he will have to be evaluated,” said Aragon. “That could take one to two months.”

Deputy Chief Richard Newman of New Mexico State Police said that Barrett appeared to have been beaten, strangled and stabbed.

Chief deputy district attorney Donald Schutte said there is still evidence to be examined. “There are a number of forensic items that still need to be examined,” said Schutte. “I’m willing to say there is probable cause to believe that he (Cates) is the one who committed the crime.”

Aragon, a Las Vegas-based attorney and public defender, said she has experience in homicide cases.
“I’ve handled these kinds of cases statewide,” she said. “These cases are very energy intensive and time consuming. He (Cates) is charged with first-degree murder. He is innocent until the state proves he’s guilty.”
Weisdorfer said the case is being processed through Harding County District Court.

Weisdorfer said no hearing has been scheduled yet and no court date has been set. Aragon said the trial could take place in Harding County or Quay County and that all members of a potential jury pool would have to be citizens of Harding County.

Schutte said it will be difficult to find jury members who are not already aware of the case.
“Just because it will be hard to find a jury that is not aware of the case does not mean that we can’t get a fair trial in Harding County,” he said. “The trial will take place in Harding County unless a motion for change of venue is filed.”

Aragon said if found guilty, Cates could face 30 years to life in prison. Cates is currently an inmate at the Quay County Detention Center’s juvenile facility.