Estevan Montoya told detectives that he hadn’t shot anyone roughly 12 hours after he had, in fact, fired at least one shot that struck Santa Fe basketball prospect Fedonta “JB” White, killing him, according to police testimony in court on Tuesday.
Jeremy Duran was a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s detective assigned to the investigation in August 2020, he told the jury. (He’s now with the Santa Fe Police Department.) He told Montoya that several witnesses placed him at the scene of the shooting, holding a gun. According to Duran, Montoya said, “I didn’t shoot nobody.”
In cross examination, defense attorney Dan Marlowe asked whether the detective informed his client that White had died.
“I do not believe I did,” Duran answered.
“So when he said, ‘I didn’t shoot no one,’ he didn’t know that he had shot anybody?” Marlowe asked.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett Macias objected, telling Judge T. Glenn Ellington it wasn’t accurate to imply Montoya didn’t know White had died. She said Montoya was told prior to his interview with detectives that he was being charged with murder and clarified for the jury that he was already aware he was under investgation.
Montoya no longer denies that he fired the gun; but he claims it was in self defense.
Further testimony on the trial’s fifth day shed light on a primary point of contention in the case: how the two teenagers were positioned as the shooting took place. According to witnesses, it happened in a matter of seconds as the two squared off in the front yard of a home in Chupadero. The defense claims Montoya was attempting to escape the confrontation and fired as White chased him. Prosecutors, attempting to prove premeditated murder, argue Montoya turned, planted his feet and fired directly at White.
According to Dr. Lauren Decker, an expert in forensic pathology with the state Office of the Medical Investigator, the bullet went downward, striking White in the upper right chest, passing through the upper and lower lobes of his right lung and lodging itself in the eighth vertebrae of his spine. This indicates, she said, that the gun was fired from above, or that White was bent forward when he was shot—helping Marlowe make the argument White was running or lunging at the time.
However, Decker said the path of the bullet could show White was cowering, crouching or ducking.
“You would need witness statements, or something along those lines, to say the actual positioning of the body,” she said.
The proximity between Montoya and White when the shot was fired is another spot of disagreement between the state’s and defense’s theory of the case. When handguns are fired within 2 feet of a victim, soot or gunpowder stippling is often found on the skin around the wound. This wasn’t seen on White.
“However, because we did not have clothing to evaluate, I can’t be certain that it wasn’t closer,” Decker said. “If there were gunpowder particles, or soot, it could be caught on clothing and not made it to the actual skin.”
Postmortem photos of White didn’t show any other injuries to his hands or face. Meanwhile, two sets of photos were taken of Montoya, neither showing any injuries that could have surfaced from the night of the party.
Witnesses have testified that White demanded they take him to the hospital after he was shot. The house in Chupadero sits about 15 miles from Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. A group had loaded White into a vehicle and driven almost 5 miles before they were intercepted by an ambulance near the intersection of State Road 592 and County Road 73.
White was still alive when he arrived at the hospital, where doctors attempted life-saving measures, including a thoracotomy—a procedure used to try resuscitating the heart. It was there he was pronounced dead, succumbing to loss of blood.