A jury found Judah Trujillo guilty of murder in the first degree and evidence tampering Tuesday afternoon after a three-day trial in First District Court in Santa Fe.
Jurors entered deliberations around 1:30 pm Monday, then broke for the evening and reconvened Tuesday morning. They returned the verdict at approximately 1:40 pm that afternoon as Trujillo stood behind a table in the court room and made no visible reaction.
Trujillo, 17, was 15 when he agreed to meet Samuel Cordero at Ragle Park and then fatally shot him. He took the stand Monday to testify that the two planned to meet for a sexual encounter that took a turn when Trujillo changed his mind.
Prosecutors argued that Trujillo arranged the meeting via the Grindr app, then took a gun to the rendezvous and acted with intent. Cordero, 60, was shot in the back of the head. Investigators connected Trujillo to Cordero’s murder by using cellphone data that placed both parties at the crime scene, as well as surveillance videos that demonstrate an audible gunshot and show Trujillo return to the house after the incident. Furthermore, both investigators linked the bullet casing at the scene to the gun found at the home and also recovered Cordero’s phone, which Trujillo admits he removed from the crime scene and tossed along Rodeo Road.
“We find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder, willful and deliberate, as charged in count 1. We find the defendant guilty of tampering with evidence as charged in count 2,” the jury foreman told Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer. “We unanimously find that beyond a reasonable doubt that Judah Elijah Trujillo committed tampering with evidence related to first degree murder.”
Marlowe-Sommer polled the 12-member jury, whose members all confirmed the verdict.
Trujillo was charged as a “serious youthful offender,” which means he could be sentenced to adult prison time, but a judge would have some discretion in sentencing guidelines for a first-degree guilty verdict that otherwise call for 30 years to life. Judge Mary Marlowe-Sommer scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 8. The evidence tampering charge carries a sentence of up to three years.
At the time of his death, Cordero lived with his mother in Pojoaque. He worked as a caregiver at MorningStar Assisted Living.
“Today, Samuel Cordero and his family have been given justice,” reads a statement issued by First Judicial District spokesman Nathan Lederman. “The FJDA is incredibly proud of attorneys Ramon Carrillo and Jeanine Salustri—as well as the rest of our team—for their dedication to justice and tremendous efforts to see this case brought to its resolution We would like to thank Detective Rebecca Hildebrandt of the Santa Fe Police Department and all of her colleagues who investigated this homicide and testified in the case. Their tenacity and perseverance led to Mr. Trujillo’s arrest and paved the way for today’s conviction. The FJDA is also grateful to the jury who convicted Mr. Trujillo for their service.”