Defense seeks bench trial in Glenwood Springs double-murder case in which mom was deemed legally insane |

Defense seeks bench trial in Glenwood Springs double-murder case in which mom was deemed legally insane

Stuffed animals, flowers and candles sit as a makeshift memorial at a West Glenwood apartment complex for the 11- and 18-year-old homicide victims allegedly slain by their mother, Claudia Camacho-Duenas, on Dec. 30, 2021.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The double-murder case against Claudia Camacho-Duenas, who is accused of stabbing her two children to death at their West Glenwood apartment on Dec. 30, 2021, could be decided by a judge instead of a jury of her peers.

Public defender Elise Myer said during a Thursday court hearing that Camacho-Duenas has agreed to waive her right to a speedy trial. A trial that was scheduled to take place over three weeks in June will be rescheduled in order to consider a defense request to also waive the right to a jury trial in favor of a bench trial, meaning evidence would be heard and a verdict rendered by a Ninth Judicial District judge.

Presiding Judge Denise Lynch said that will likely push the trial to late fall or early winter 2023-24, and that she would consider the request for a bench trial against whatever objections the prosecution might have.

Myer said she would file her formal request by Monday, and the District Attorney’s Office would have until May 1 to respond.

Claudia Camacho-Duenas
Garfield County Detention Center photo

Camacho-Duenas, 38, faces two counts of first-degree murder for the stabbing deaths of her two children, an 11-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son, the afternoon of Dec. 30, 2021 at the Machebeuf Apartments on Soccer Field Road, near Glenwood Springs Middle School.

According to court documents, numerous witnesses described watching and attempting to help as both victims ran out of the apartment after suffering multiple stab wounds, and with Camacho-Duenas allegedly still in pursuit wielding a knife and continuing to stab them. First responders rendered emergency aid and the victims were taken to Valley View Hospital, but did not survive.

Camacho-Duenas was arrested at the scene without further incident. She was eventually taken to the Pueblo detention facility after her July 2022 plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and was evaluated at the Colorado Mental Health Hospital. A report received just before the end of the year found her to be legally insane at the time of the murders, but competent to stand trial.

The report itself, along with other filings related to the state of Camacho-Duenas’ mental health, have been suppressed by the court and are not being released to the media or the public. 

Camacho-Duenas remains in the Garfield County Jail on $1 million bond; the same amount set in early January 2022 shortly after her arrest for the crimes.

Myer noted that, if the request for a bench trial is granted, the duration of the trial would likely be much less than the original three weeks planned. Prosecutors noted at the Thursday hearing that it would likely take five days just to seat a jury. Judge Lynch said a bench trial is highly unusual in a felony criminal case, but agreed to consider the request.

Several defense motions in the case are expected to be filed in the coming weeks, and another pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June.

Other criminal cases heard

Several other major felony cases were also before Judge Lynch on Thursday.

• In the first-degree murder case against D’Antiago Dominguez-Lopez, accused of shooting and killing an 18-year-old male at a quinceañera birthday party in Rifle in April 2022, defense counsel indicated the case is ready to be set for trial. An October 2022 preliminary hearing determined enough evidence exists to take the case to trial.

Dominguez-Lopez, now 18, was 17 at the time of the shooting but is being tried as an adult. A status conference is set for May 18, followed by a pre-trial motions hearing on July 3. A trial date has not yet been set.

• The felony child abuse case against Desirae Jones, 29, of Silt was also continued to May 18, with a request for her to be able to have video visits with her children, including the primary victim, to be considered by Judge Lynch.

Jones and her boyfriend at the time of the Oct. 22, 2022 incident, Kurtis Kumar, 31, both face charges of first-degree assault and child abuse involving a then 2-year-old child who was in their care.

The couple, along with the child, were found inside a car in the Silt area following a search. Kumar and Jones were immediately arrested, and the child and an older sibling were taken into emergency custody.

Social workers on the case said in court Thursday that the older child in particular would benefit from being able to have “therapeutic” video visits with her mother. Judge Lynch said she would want to carefully weigh the request, and didn’t want to risk further traumatizing the children.

Kumar’s case, which is being heard separately, was continued from a Wednesday hearing until June 1 when he is expected to enter a plea.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.