Serving the High Plains

Second dog-attack suspect pleads not guilty

The second suspect in a fatal dog-mauling case in Tucumcari pleaded not guilty to two felony charges in district court.

Kristopher Jaquaris Morris, 27, of Tucumcari, appeared by phone Wednesday in front of District Judge Albert Mitchell Jr. during an arraignment by videoconference.

Morris’ public defender, Brett Phelps of Las Vegas, waived the formal reading of charges and entered a plea of not guilty on all counts on Morris’ behalf.

Phelps also asked that Morris remain freed on similar conditions set by the court shortly after his arrest. District Attorney Timothy Rose did not object to that request.

The other suspect in the case, Mary Olimpia Montoya, 51, who is Morris’ mother, also made not-guilty pleas in district court last month and is free on an appearance bond.

When asked by Mitchell how far along the investigation was, Phelps said some reports still were outstanding and “a lot of discovery is out of our hands.”

Morris spoke little during the hearing, though Mitchell advised him he would have to appear by video during his next court appearance or appear in the courtroom.

Morris and Montoya each are charged with prohibited acts (dangerous dog; death of a person) and involuntary manslaughter (negligent act), both felonies.

The dangerous-dog charge, the most serious, is a third-degree felony that could lead up to six years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.

They were charged in the Feb. 1 death of Stanley Hartt, 64, of Tucumcari, who was attacked and killed by five dogs while walking near Gamble Avenue and South 11th Street.

Hartt’s body was found with bite marks, and the animals appeared to have eaten away parts of his legs. A preliminary autopsy stated Hartt bled to death from his wounds.

One of the dogs was euthanized by officers near the scene. The other dogs remain impounded at the city animal shelter as evidence.

Montoya and Morris were freed a few days after their arrests on a $10,000 unsecured appearance bond, which means they must pay that amount if they don’t meet the terms of their release.

Morris’ next court hearings are scheduled for July 26 and Aug. 23. Montoya’s next hearings are set for July 25 and Aug. 22.

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