Regional: Two children were in Carbondale apartment with body
Two children were in the Carbondale apartment where the body of Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya was discovered on Feb. 16, documents unsealed Wednesday in Garfield County District Court showed.
The children’s ages were not immediately available, nor was it clear how long they had been in the apartment, but the document said they were the children of a woman who checked the apartment for police at least nine hours after the slaying, which apparently was done with a machete.
The arrest affidavit said that officers found a machete leaning on a closet wall of the bedroom where Portillo-Amaya was found. The machete appeared to be covered with blood “and also had dark colored hair stuck to the blade.” The woman had suffered “several deep cuts to the face and chin area” several inches long, and also on her right arm.
Portillo-Amaya’s husband, Arturo Navarrete-Portillo, is charged with first-degree murder in his wife’s death, Carbondale’s first homicide in 12 years.
The affidavit authorities submitted to get a warrant for Navarrete-Portillo’s formal arrest was released Wednesday after the Ninth District Attorney’s Office and the Post Independent prevailed over public defenders’ efforts to keep the document secret. PI attorney Steve Zansberg told Judge James Boyd on Tuesday that such documents are “routinely released” and that “it is well-established that the public is entitled to understand the basis for such judicial action.”
Public defenders argued that “it would be incredibly prejudicial and harmful to this case if the affidavit is unsealed,” and would make it difficult to seat an impartial jury.
The body, according to the timeline in the arrest affidavit made public Wednesday, was in the apartment for at least nine hours before it was discovered. It was not immediately clear whether the children were in the apartment the entire time, but there is no indication they were not.
Navarrete-Portillo had been involved in a traffic accident just south of the Carbondale city limits at 7:15 a.m. After being treated at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, he was flown by helicopter to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
“While en-route he had spoken to one of the flight crew who spoke Spanish,” Carbondale Police Officer Luke Blue wrote in the affidavit. “He had made statements that he had murdered his wife, Maria, just before the accident.”
It was about 1:25 p.m. when Blue got that information and learned that Grand Junction Police Officer Geraldine Earthman was talking to Navarrete-Portillo.
However, “Officer Earthman was unsure of the exact location of the residence of where the homicide was believed to have occurred, based upon the suspect’s description.”
The affidavit provides more detail than previously known about the search that afternoon in an area less than 2 miles from the morning accident scene.
“The directions given by Mr. Navarrete-Portillo were that the residence of where the homicide had occurred was behind a Phillips 66 station and that it was apartment #16,” the affidavit says. “We checked several residences in Carbondale and he checked several more out in the county but were unable to locate a matching residence.”
As police previously said, a woman arrived at a residence where a records search indicted that Navarrete-Portillo lived and agreed to check the apartment for officers.
“A few minutes later she ran back to the door in obvious distress along with two of her children who had been in the residence,” Blue wrote in the affidavit. “She said, ‘She’s dead’ and ‘She’s not breathing’ and then told me that I could enter the residence.
“I then entered the residence and was directed to a bedroom at the bottom of the stairs and immediately to the left. The door was shut, and upon opening it I observed a female lying on a bed in the right portion of the room. Upon initial observation she appeared to be deceased and had obvious injuries to her lower face and neck area.”
Garfield County Coroner Rob Glassmire was called and pronounced Portillo-Amaya dead at 4:45 p.m.
The next day, a Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent told Blue that she and Grand Junction police officer had interviewed Navarrete-Portillo at St. Mary’s and he had admitted killing his wife.
“He doesn’t know how it happened, but he left in his car because he was crazy at that time, not in his right mind and left because he’d done that,” the document says. “Said he killed her with a large knife. The knife is in the house where they live. No one else was hurt but Maria. There was nobody else there.
“It happened early that morning before the car wreck, but he didn’t know how long before car wreck. It happened very early in the morning and it was light outside,” the affidavit says.
“They were arguing about something but he couldn’t remember what it was, he kind of went crazy,” it adds.
He said his wife “didn’t do anything to him,” neither was drunk and neither uses drugs other than alcohol.
Navarrete-Portillo told the officers the knife is one he used for work to trim trees.
“When asked about the accident, again said he didn’t remember what car he hit,” the document says. “He doesn’t remember drinking between killing wife and wreck. He went out into the street and wanted to kill himself.”
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