Navarrete-Portillo claims murder-suicide pact
About nine days after killing his wife and attempting suicide in a car crash, Arturo Navarrete-Portillo told investigators that he was carrying out a murder-suicide pact.
Thursday was the eighth day of Navarette-Portillo’s first-degree murder trial stemming from the February 2015 killing of his wife with a machete in their Carbondale residence.
The case first came to police attention when Navarrete-Portillo crashed his Toyota 4Runner into a cattle truck, in what he later told police was a suicide attempt, and after he made incriminating statements to medical workers.
The jury on Thursday heard testimony from special agent Paul Anderson, who interviewed Navarrete-Portillo twice in the days following the killing and crash.
Both interviews were at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, where the defendant was being treated for his injuries from the crash.
During these interviews, Anderson was trying to uncover the reason Navarrete-Portillo killed his wife, Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya. Anderson testified that he never got a definitive answer.
His first interview was on Feb. 17, the day after these incidents. The defendant told Anderson that “he made a terrible mistake.”
Navarrete-Portillo told the investigator he’d struck his wife two times with a machete in their apartment, and he denied that he was intoxicated.
The federal agent asked whether they’d had an argument, whether they were having trouble over money, drugs or another man. But the defendant said it wasn’t any of these things.
According to Anderson, Navarrete-Portillo said that when someone does something like this, one just doesn’t know why they did it.
But during their next interview on Feb. 25, Navarrete-Portillo substantially changed his story, said Anderson.
He and his wife, who worked at the same hotel, were having trouble at work.
His wife was being treated poorly by a new supervisor, and at one point she’d lost her job, though she got it back at reduced hours, the defendant told Anderson.
For days, possibly even a couple of weeks, Navarrete-Portillo and his wife were “chatting” with each other about killing themselves, Anderson said the defendant told him.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Barrett played an audio recording of this interview for the jury. At several places in the recording Navarrete-Portillo can be heard sobbing, and at least once in the courtroom Navarrete-Portillo was visibly weeping while listening to the recording.
They initially planned to commit suicide in a car crash, but his wife worried that at least one of them would survive, he told the interviewer. The defendant said his wife wanted him to kill her with the machete, and she’d agreed that he could kill himself afterward in the car crash.
Investigators estimate that Navarrete-Portillo killed his wife at about 3:40 a.m. Feb. 16, 2015. Navarrete-Portillo said they’d been drinking since midday the day before. His wife took her position on the bed and asked him to get it over with, he said. They both closed their eyes. And with his eyes still closed he gripped the machete with both hands and struck her twice.
Meanwhile, the defense has been arguing that Navarrete-Portillo had acted in a “sudden heat of passion” when he killed his wife. The public defenders are trying to convince the jury that he’s guilty of second-degree murder rather than first-degree.
This latter interview was also the first time that Navarrete-Portillo told investigators that also in the room at the time of the killing was his 6-year-old son from a different relationship.
Alongside first-degree murder, he faces a child abuse charge.
He’d previously told law enforcement that he couldn’t remember anything between the killing and the crash, but during this interview he gave details about having taken the boy to his mother’s house.
The trial is scheduled to end Monday.
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