News

Teenage Murder Suspect Makes First Court Appearance

Elijah Judah Trujillo, 16-year-old charged with murder and tampering evidence, will likely be charged as a juvenile

Elijah Judah Trujillo made his first in District Court, via video for first a first-degree murder charge. (Andy Lyman)

Prosecutors say the Santa Fe teenager accused of killing a 60-year-old man at Ragle Park in August will “likely” be charged as a serious youthful offender, meaning he would not face adult penalties if he is convicted.

Elijah Judah Trujillo, 16, faces one count of murder in the death of Samuel Cordero and one charge of evidence tampering for allegedly trying to dispose of Cordero’s phone.

During a hearing in state District Court in Santa Fe on Monday, Assistant Trial Attorney Jeanine Salustri told Judge T. Glen Ellington the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office is set to proceed against Trujillo, but the decision about which type of case it will pursue has not been finalized. If charged and convicted as an adult, Trujillo could face a life sentence and not be eligible for parole for 30 years. If he is charged and convicted as a juvenile, Trujillo could face incarceration through the state Children, Youth and Families Department for two years, but could be kept in custody until he turns 21. If Trujillo is charged as a serious youthful offender, Ellington would have the discretion to sentence him as an adult.

District Attorney Mary Carmack-Alwies tells SFR “it is likely” Trujillo would be charged as a juvenile.

“The decision hasn’t been made yet,” Carmack-Altwies says. “We’re still waiting on some pieces of evidence that will help us and that will help guide us in that decision.”

Carmack-Altwies declines to elaborate.

Meanwhile, Ellington ordered Trujillo to remain at a juvenile detention center in San Juan County, where the teen has been held since his arrest last week. Salustri told Ellington that Trujillo was placed on suicide watch at the youth lockup. A spokesman for the detention center tells SFR he cannot share specifics about Trujillo’s medical status. Public defender Mark Dickson, who appeared on behalf of Trujillo, urged Ellington to release the boy to his parents in Santa Fe, arguing he would be safest at home.

Ellington told Trujillo the motion from prosecutors asked that Trujillo be held in custody until the “case goes forward,” but Ellington did not specify how long Trujillo would remain in custody.

Trujillo was arrested last week in connection with Cordero’s death, which Santa Fe police say happened during the early hours of Aug. 10. Last week, Carmack-Altwies confirmed with SFR that her office helped police execute a wide-spread search warrant to determine whether there were any mobile devices around Ragle Park during the time police say Cordero was shot and killed. Police say they determined that the only two mobile devices found in the area at the time of the shooting were Trujillo’s and Cordero’s—the latter whose phone was found outside the park after the killing.

Most of Monday’s hearing was devoted to Ellington notifying Trujillo of his right to an attorney and the possibility of the teenager, who Salustri says turned 16 five days after Cordero was killed, being charged as an adult. Trujillo repeatedly responded to Ellington with “Yes, sir,” and “Copy that,” but said little else.

Dickson represented Trujillo during the hearing, but added that it was his understanding Trujillo’s father plans to hire a private attorney.

Much of the case, including court records and police reports, are unavailable online and Carmack-Altwies tells SFR she will not release any documents because the case involves a juvenile.

SFPD also has not released any records related to the case.

Editor’s note: This story has been clarified to include context about the state’s serious youthful offender designation.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.