The attorney of a Tucumcari man accused of fatally shooting another after a graduation-party spat said during a hearing she may have found “exculpatory” evidence for her client.
Public defender Anna Aragon of Las Vegas said during a June 13 status hearing that recent legal depositions brought up “new issues” that may delay the early September trial for murder suspect Tyje Garrett.
Aragon said the victim’s cellphone may contain “critical evidence” in the case. She said a search warrant was obtained for the phone, but law-enforcement agencies were having difficulty accessing its contents.
“We’re working to get it done as soon as possible,” she said, adding the phone may contain “exculpatory evidence” for Garrett. She did not elaborate.
A phone message left to Aragon requesting more information was not returned.
District Judge Albert Mitchell Jr. said he would be “uncomfortable” letting the trial begin on Sept. 1 if all the evidence wasn’t available 30 days before that time.
The next status hearing for the case was tentatively set for July 24.
Garrett, appearing by a video link from the De Baca County Jail, did not speak during the hearing.
Garrett, now 43, is accused of shooting and killing Michael Arellano, 46, in the middle of Quay Road 63 of west Tucumcari on May 28, 2022, after an argument at a graduation party for Arellano’s son. Garrett is the teen’s stepfather.
Garrett is charged with first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and illegal receipt and transportation or possession of a firearm by a person convicted of battery against a household member.
Garrett faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted of the murder charge.
According to an affidavit filed by New Mexico State Police, Arellano and Garrett began arguing at the party. Witnesses said both men had been drinking alcohol. One person separated the two men when they threatened to fight, and the teen’s mother asked they leave the party.
Arellano left the gathering and began walking down the road. A witness said he saw Garrett get into his pickup, drive past Arellano, turn around, park the truck in front of him and exit the vehicle.
Several witnesses said they heard several gunshots and saw Arellano fall to the ground. One witness said she heard two to three gunshots and turned to see Garrett holding a rifle in his hands and fire more shots at Arellano where he stood. She said she saw Arellano fall to the ground and Garrett fire more shots at him.
Garrett walked back to his truck and drove away. He later was apprehended without incident in Logan.
State police later found 12 empty shell casings at the scene. State police officers stated they found nine gunshot wounds in Arellano’s body.