By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Tenth Judicial District Judge Albert Mitchell on Monday ordered that an apparent confession made by double-murder suspect Muziwokuthula Madonda be removed from evidence in the case.
Madonda, a native of South Africa, is accused of the March 2011 slayings of Gabriel Baca, 37, and Bobby Gonzales, 57, both of Tucumcari. The bodies of both men were found shot to death in the bathroom of a unit at the Tucumcari Inn motel. Baca and Gonzales had been occupying the room next to Madonda’s.
Mitchell said his order suppressing Madonda’s confession was “based on clear and unequivocal exercise of the right to remain silent under both the state and federal constitutions.” The video record of the Madonda’s interview with Texas Rangers after his arrest in Texas shows Madonda asking for an attorney, Mitchell’s order says. After Madonda requested a lawyer, his interview with the Texas officers continued, even though it should have ended until an attorney was present, Mitchell said.
In that same order, however, Mitchell said a Holy Bible taken in a warranted search from the vehicle Madonda was driving when he was arrested can be used as evidence in the case. Mitchell said the Bible was part of evidence that was taken within the scope of the search warrant. It was a document that could reasonably contain information useful in the case, as the search warrant authorized, Mitchell ruled.
Mitchell also said in a separate filing entered Monday that both sides would be allowed to challenge his decision immediately before the New Mexico Supreme Court, rather than awaiting the end of Madonda’s trial to make any appeals.
At a hearing on Rose’s motion to expedite a decision on Madonda’s apparent confession held April 8, Mitchell asked for drafts of opinions from both Tenth Judicial District Attorney Tim Rose and from Madonda’s defense attorney, Roger Bargas of Tucumcari. Both admitted their drafts on Friday, as requested, Mitchell said.
In August, Madonda backed out of a plea agreement he had previously signed, choosing instead to face a jury.
Madonda made his apparent confession to Texas Rangers after he was arrested in April 2011. According to Bargas’s motion to suppress the confession, Madonda confessed after requesting an attorney but apparently continuing to talk with the Rangers, who, according to their records, advised Madonda several times that he had the right to remain silent.
The Rangers used a Holy Bible that they had found in the glove compartment of the vehicle Madonda was driving when he was arrested, and learned that Madonda apparently had been a divinity student, according to court documents. Using biblical commandments and scripture, the rangers persuaded Madonda to confess to the murders in Tucumcari, as well as to several slayings in Ohio, the documents show.
The confession made news in New Mexico and Ohio, media accounts show, as well as in Madonda’s native South Africa.
The motion to suppress the confession is based on both the taking of the Bible as evidence, which Bargas said was beyond the scope of the search warrant that Rangers obtained, and the fact that there was no attorney present when Madonda made his confession, even though he had asked for one.
Rose’s motion to expedite the court’s decision on the motion to suppress said that the delay in proceedings could degrade testimony in Madonda’s trial, due to fading memories, and other complications due to delay. Madonda, meanwhile remains incarcerated in the Roosevelt County Detention Center, where he has been held for nearly two months. Before that he had been incarcerated at the Quay County Detention Center. No reason was given for the transfer.