Murder defendant in court in wheelchair; death penalty said unlikely
Arturo Navarrete-Portillo, the sole suspect in the stabbing death of his wife, Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya, appeared in court for the first time Wednesday after being officially arrested earlier in the day.
The district attorney told reporters she does not expect to seek the death penalty in the case, Carbondale’s first homicide in 12 years.
Navarrete-Portillo, 46, appeared for his advisement in a Glenwood Springs courtroom in a wheelchair and hospital gown after being released from St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, where he has been under protective custody since Feb. 16.
That was the day that a Toyota 4Runner driven by Navarrete-Portillo smashed into the back of an empty cattle truck that was about to make a left turn off of Highway 133 just south of Carbondale city limits.
He was first taken to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs in an ambulance trip described as “textbook” by Carbondale rescuers, who had no inkling of the slaying. After initial treatment, doctors at Valley View decided he should go to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
According to police, while being flown to Grand Junction, Navarrete-Portillo told a life flight crew he had killed his wife before the accident.
Carbondale police, after visiting several apartments, located the body of Portillo-Amaya, 30, in an apartment complex on Cooper Place, just west of downtown and less than 2 miles from the accident site.
Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire conducted an autopsy and determined that she had died from “multiple sharp force injuries.” Glassmire did not release the time of death, but in court, Judge James Boyd indicated that the slaying took place the same day as the accident.
Boyd also described the homicide as taking place “in the course of an altercation.”
Until official charges are filed, Navarrete-Portillo will be held without bond on first-degree murder, which carries penalties ranging from life in prison to execution.
District Attorney Sherry Caloia said she doesn’t think her office will seek the death penalty.
“Unless it’s a heinous crime or multiple offenses, my philosophy is that the death penalty is not something I could go after,” she said.
The public defender’s office will represent Navarrete-Portillo, and took a brief opportunity to confer with its new client via translator before the hearing.
“Up until this moment, pretty much all information related to this case has been suppressed from public view,” said deputy public defender Sara Steele. “We didn’t even have the case number until today.”
The arrest warrant and affidavit will be made available to the defense but remained sealed to the public.
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The Glenwood Springs Fire Department is battling a small blaze on a ridgeline west of Yampah Mountain High School.