Machete slaying trial begins
Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of Arturo Navarrete-Portillo, a 47-year-old man facing a first-degree murder charge in the machete slaying of his 30-year-old wife, Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya.
Investigators say that sometime late Feb. 15 or in the early morning of Feb. 16, 2015, Navarrete-Portillo killed his wife with a machete in their Carbondale apartment. It was Carbondale’s first homicide in a decade. At about 7:15 a.m. Feb. 16 he crashed his Toyota 4Runner into the back of a cattle truck in what he later told police was a suicide attempt.
During his transport via life flight to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, investigators say he told a flight crew member he had killed his wife, setting off a search in Carbondale. Portillo-Amaya’s body was found late that afternoon.
In the weeks leading up to the trial, Judge James Boyd denied numerous defense motions to keep evidence from being included in the trial.
The defense team has been busy for the last year finding fault with law enforcement’s handling of nearly all the evidence.
Navarrete-Portillo’s attorneys have filed motions to suppress evidence found at the crime scene, evidence in his crashed SUV, photos on cellphones recovered from his apartment, statements he made during his medical transport and statements he made to investigators.
However, Boyd is allowing nearly all of this evidence to be presented in trial. The exception is a small segment of his statements to investigators at St. Mary’s Hospital prior to him signing a Miranda waiver.
The defense also argued against some hearsay statements the prosecution wants to introduce.
“In September and October of 2014 the defendant allegedly made statements to the victim threatening to kill her and to kill himself by crashing his vehicle,” Boyd wrote in his order.
Portillo-Amaya’s sister told investigators that her sister told her about these threats and showed her threatening text messages from the defendant.
Boyd is going to allow these statements to be introduced through the testimony of the victim’s sister.
The judge granted a motion to suppress evidence from a bag of Navarrete-Portillo’s personal belongings, which a Grand Junction police officer seized without a warrant while the defendant was at St. Mary’s.
The prosecution also sought to have Navarrete-Portillo’s 7-year-old son testify in the trial. But in early May Boyd ruled that the boy is not competent to testify.
Prosecutors have said the boy, 6 years old at the time, was in the room at the time of the murder.
In addition to first-degree murder, the defendant faces a child abuse charge.
Navarrete-Portillo’s defense attorneys also sought to keep prosecutors from introducing photos and video of the crime scene and photos of the victim’s autopsy, arguing that these gruesome images would prejudice the jury.
Boyd is allowing these images to be shown, but the prosecution cannot show repetitive images of overlapping content that would inundate the jury with similar gruesome images.
The defense also sought to have the case dismissed outright after the Colorado Bureau of Investigation lost digital photos that had been taken of the 4Runner. That motion, too, was denied.
The trial is scheduled for 10 days. Because Navarrete-Portillo’s trial was scheduled simultaneously with another jury trial, the court sent out about 600 jury summonses in the hopes of getting enough potential jurors for both cases.
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