Arson trial for former Tucumcari officer Lopez to begin on July 27

Staff Report

Trial has been set for July 27 to July 28 for ex-Tucumcari Police Officer Dustin “Dusty” Lopez and Robert Sandoval, Tucumcari, on arson charges stemming from fires that destroyed the Payless Motor Inn and an abandoned house on Sept. 3, court records show.

A trial date has not been set for a third defendant in the case, Dani J. Martinez.

Both entered “not guilty” please to the charges on Dec. 15 before  Tenth Judicial District Judge Albert Mitchell in Tucumcari.

Another co-defendant, Dani J. Martinez, has entered a not-guilty plea but no trial date has been set for the arson charges against her.

All three are free on bond.

As a condition of their bonds, both defendants were ordered to wear GPS ankle bracelets, honor a curfew of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and have no contact with any witnesses, first responders or co-defendants.

Chandler filed two additional charges of breaking and entering against Lopez and Sandoval on Dec. 3 in Quay County Magistrate Court before the cases were bound over to district court.

Court records show Martinez was freed on an unsecured appearance bond of $50,000.

Lopez, Martinez and Sandoval were charged on Oct. 28 with arson and conspiracy to commit arson.

The three buildings on the Payless Inn property, all of which were destroyed in the blaze, were valued at $155,155.

Lopez resigned from the Tucumcari Police Department on Oct. 2, the day after New Mexico State Police searched his home.

Lopez did not give a reason for his decision to resign, said Tucumcari Police Chief Jason Braziel.

State police received information there was evidence on Lopez’s cell phone connecting him and four others with a series of arson fires set in Tucumcari in September.

Only Lopez, Martinez and Sandoval, however, have been charged, Chandler said.

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