Stand Trial

Judge finds 20-year-old Santa Fe woman accused of murder competent for the courtroom after months of psychiatric care

A state District Court judge has found a Santa Fe woman accused in a grisly October murder competent to stand trial after nearly three months in state psychiatric care, according to court records.

Kiara McCulley, 20, was arrested in October on suspicion of killing Grace Jennings, 21, with a 2-to-3-foot sword at a Southside Santa Fe home. The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office alleges McCulley killed Jennings at the behest of McCulley’s boyfriend, Isaac Apodaca. Santa Fe Police say after officers read McCulley her Miranda rights, she told investigators she has an undiagnosed multiple personality disorder, but court records do not confirm such a diagnosis. According to jail records, McCulley was booked back into the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility on Jan. 10.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer in November deemed McCulley incompetent to stand trial and ordered her transferred to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas. Court records do not disclose specifics of why McCulley could not stand trial or why she’s been cleared to do so now.

“The Court is in receipt of an evaluation report from the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute (NMBHI) dated 12/21/2022 in which NMBHI states that the Defendant is now COMPETENT to stand trial in the above-captioned cause number,” reads a court order filed Monday and signed by Marlowe.

McCulley is facing one count each of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and evidence tampering.

Apodaca, who’s accused of badgering McCulley into killing Jennings, was in court earlier this month for a preliminary hearing, during which Marlowe Sommer found there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial against him. Apodaca is facing one count of conspiracy to commit murder and another of accessory to murder. McCulley’s preliminary hearing, where Marlowe Sommer will again decide whether there’s enough evidence to move forward, is scheduled for next week. A trial date has not been set for Apodaca.

Initial reports about Jennings’ homicide incorrectly indicated that she, McCulley and Apodaca were all romantically involved. Further information, including testimony during Apodaca’s preliminary hearing, suggest McCulley and Jennings had been acquaintances in their childhood, but had not been in contact for years.

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